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Virtualization technology has been used in high-end servers for quite some time. The evolution of virtualization has brought with it the desire to reduce the software (S/W) overhead portion of virtualization, particularly for I/O devices. This paper will begin with an introduction to the general concepts of virtualization and I/O virtualization. It will then discuss how I/O virtualization is addressed within the PCI Express specification and the changes required to add I/O virtualization support to an existing PCI Express interface. Additional PCI Express topics covered include: Single-Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV), Function Level Reset (FLR), Alternative Routing ID (ARI) and Address Translation Services (ATS).
Many embedded system designers are considering adopting virtualization technology in their applications, and for good reason. Benefits such as hardware cost savings, isolation and footprint reduction make virtualization an attractive option. This article attempts to ease the process by posing 10 important questions that any embedded engineer or manager considering should weigh carefully.