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How to enable nested virtualization

Nested virtualization is enabled by default on Ubuntu. If you are using Ubuntu, it’s unlikely that you will need to manually enable the feature. If you check (using the steps below) and discover that nested virtualization is enabled, then you will not need to do anything further.

There may be use cases where you need to enable nested virtualization so that you can deploy instances inside other instances. The sections below explain how to check if nested virtualization is enabled/available and how to enable it if that is not the case. Bear in mind that currently nested virtualization is only supported in Ubuntu on x86 machine architecture.

Check if nested virtualization is enabled

Check if the required kernel module for your CPU is already loaded. Hosts with Intel CPUs require the kvm_intel module while AMD hosts require kvm_amd instead:

$ lsmod | grep -i kvm
kvm_intel               204800  0
kvm                  1347584  1 kvm_intel

If the module is loaded

If the module is already loaded, you can check if nested virtualization is enabled by running the following command:

cat /sys/module/<module>/parameters/nested

As an example for AMD hosts:

$ cat /sys/module/kvm_amd/parameters/nested

If the output is either 1 or Y then nested virtualization is enabled and you will not need to manually enable the feature (this should be the case for Ubuntu users).

If the module is not loaded

If the module your host requires is not loaded you can load it using modprobe and add the property nested=1 to enable nested virtualization as shown below for Intel hosts:

modprobe kvm-intel nested=1

Or as follows for AMD hosts:

modprobe kvm-amd nested=1

Enable nested virtualization

If the above checks indicate that nested virtualization is not enabled, you can follow the below steps to enable it.

  • Create a file in /etc/modprobe.d -e.g., /etc/modprobe.d/kvm.conf- and add the line options kvm-intel nested=1 to that file (replace kvm-intel with kvm-amd for AMD hosts).

  • Reload the kernel module to apply the changes:

  sudo modprobe -r <module>

Example for Intel hosts:

  sudo modprobe -r kvm-intel
  • You should now be able to see nested virtualization enabled:

Example for Intel hosts:

  $ cat /sys/module/kvm_intel/parameters/nested

Check and enable nested virtualization inside an instance

Once the host is ready to use nested virtualization it is time to check if the guest instance where the other instance(s) are going to run is able to host these nested VMs.

To determine if an instance can host another instance on top, run the below command within the instance:

egrep "svm|vmx" /proc/cpuinfo

If any of these are present in the output (depending on whether the host is AMD or Intel respectively), then virtualization is available in that instance. If this is not the case you will need to edit the instance CPU settings:

  • Shut down the instance

  • Edit the instance XML definition file executing: virsh edit <instance>

  • Search the cpu mode parameter in and set its value to either host-model or host-passthrough (details about these modes can be found here).

    Sample cpu mode parameter in XML with nested virtualization:

      <cpu mode='host-model' check='partial'/>
  • Save the modifications and start the instance

Limitations of nested virtualization

Nested virtualization has some key limitations you’d need to consider. Namely, not all KVM features will be available for instances running nested VMs and actions such as migrating or saving the parent instance will not be possible until the nested instance is stopped.

This page was last modified 4 months ago. Help improve this document in the forum.