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.. _amd-sev:
AMD SEV (Secure Encrypted Virtualization)
.. versionadded:: 20.0.0 (Train)
`Secure Encrypted Virtualization (SEV)`__ is a technology from AMD which
enables the memory for a VM to be encrypted with a key unique to the VM.
SEV is particularly applicable to cloud computing since it can reduce the
amount of trust VMs need to place in the hypervisor and administrator of
their host system.
.. __:
.. _deploying-sev-capable-infrastructure:
Enabling SEV
First the operator will need to ensure the following prerequisites are met:
- Currently SEV is only supported when using the libvirt compute driver with a
:oslo.config:option:`libvirt.virt_type` of ``kvm`` or ``qemu``.
- At least one of the Nova compute hosts must be AMD hardware capable
of supporting SEV. It is entirely possible for the compute plane to
be a mix of hardware which can and cannot support SEV, although as
per the section on `Permanent limitations`_ below, the maximum
number of simultaneously running guests with SEV will be limited by
the quantity and quality of SEV-capable hardware available.
In order for users to be able to use SEV, the operator will need to
perform the following steps:
- Ensure that sufficient memory is reserved on the SEV compute hosts
for host-level services to function correctly at all times. This is
particularly important when hosting SEV-enabled guests, since they
pin pages in RAM, preventing any memory overcommit which may be in
normal operation on other compute hosts.
It is `recommended`__ to achieve this by configuring an ``rlimit`` at
the ``/machine.slice`` top-level ``cgroup`` on the host, with all VMs
placed inside that. (For extreme detail, see `this discussion on the
An alternative approach is to configure the
:oslo.config:option:`reserved_host_memory_mb` option in the
``[DEFAULT]`` section of :file:`nova.conf`, based on the expected
maximum number of SEV guests simultaneously running on the host, and
the details provided in `an earlier version of the AMD SEV spec`__
regarding memory region sizes, which cover how to calculate it
See `the Memory Locking and Accounting section of the AMD SEV spec`__
and `previous discussion for further details`__.
- A cloud administrator will need to define one or more SEV-enabled
flavors :ref:`as described below <extra-specs-memory-encryption>`, unless it
is sufficient for users to define SEV-enabled images.
Additionally the cloud operator should consider the following optional
.. _num_memory_encrypted_guests:
- Configure the :oslo.config:option:`libvirt.num_memory_encrypted_guests`
option in :file:`nova.conf` to represent the number of guests an SEV
compute node can host concurrently with memory encrypted at the
hardware level. For example:
.. code-block:: ini
num_memory_encrypted_guests = 15
This option exists because on AMD SEV-capable hardware, the memory
controller has a fixed number of slots for holding encryption keys,
one per guest. For example, at the time of writing, earlier
generations of hardware only have 15 slots, thereby limiting the
number of SEV guests which can be run concurrently to 15. Nova
needs to track how many slots are available and used in order to
avoid attempting to exceed that limit in the hardware.
At the time of writing (September 2019), work is in progress to
allow QEMU and libvirt to expose the number of slots available on
SEV hardware; however until this is finished and released, it will
not be possible for Nova to programmatically detect the correct
So this configuration option serves as a stop-gap, allowing the
cloud operator the option of providing this value manually. It may
later be demoted to a fallback value for cases where the limit
cannot be detected programmatically, or even removed altogether when
Nova's minimum QEMU version guarantees that it can always be
.. note::
When deciding whether to use the default of ``None`` or manually
impose a limit, operators should carefully weigh the benefits
vs. the risk. The benefits of using the default are a) immediate
convenience since nothing needs to be done now, and b) convenience
later when upgrading compute hosts to future versions of Nova,
since again nothing will need to be done for the correct limit to
be automatically imposed. However the risk is that until
auto-detection is implemented, users may be able to attempt to
launch guests with encrypted memory on hosts which have already
reached the maximum number of guests simultaneously running with
encrypted memory. This risk may be mitigated by other limitations
which operators can impose, for example if the smallest RAM
footprint of any flavor imposes a maximum number of simultaneously
running guests which is less than or equal to the SEV limit.
- Configure :oslo.config:option:`libvirt.hw_machine_type` on all
SEV-capable compute hosts to include ``x86_64=q35``, so that all
x86_64 images use the ``q35`` machine type by default. (Currently
Nova defaults to the ``pc`` machine type for the ``x86_64``
architecture, although `it is expected that this will change in the
Changing the default from ``pc`` to ``q35`` makes the creation and
configuration of images by users more convenient by removing the
need for the ``hw_machine_type`` property to be set to ``q35`` on
every image for which SEV booting is desired.
.. caution::
Consider carefully whether to set this option. It is
particularly important since a limitation of the implementation
prevents the user from receiving an error message with a helpful
explanation if they try to boot an SEV guest when neither this
configuration option nor the image property are set to select
a ``q35`` machine type.
On the other hand, setting it to ``q35`` may have other
undesirable side-effects on other images which were expecting to
be booted with ``pc``, so it is suggested to set it on a single
compute node or aggregate, and perform careful testing of typical
images before rolling out the setting to all SEV-capable compute
.. _extra-specs-memory-encryption:
Configuring a flavor or image
Once an operator has covered the above steps, users can launch SEV
instances either by requesting a flavor for which the operator set the
:nova:extra-spec:`hw:mem_encryption` extra spec to ``True``, or by using an
image with the ``hw_mem_encryption`` property set to ``True``. For example, to
enable SEV for a flavor:
.. code-block:: console
$ openstack flavor set FLAVOR-NAME \
--property hw:mem_encryption=true
These do not inherently cause a preference for SEV-capable hardware,
but for now SEV is the only way of fulfilling the requirement for
memory encryption. However in the future, support for other
hardware-level guest memory encryption technology such as Intel MKTME
may be added. If a guest specifically needs to be booted using SEV
rather than any other memory encryption technology, it is possible to
ensure this by setting the :nova:extra-spec:`trait{group}:HW_CPU_X86_AMD_SEV`
extra spec or equivalent image metadata property to ``required``.
In all cases, SEV instances can only be booted from images which have
the ``hw_firmware_type`` property set to ``uefi``, and only when the
machine type is set to ``q35``. This can be set per image by setting
the image property ``hw_machine_type=q35``, or per compute node by
the operator via :oslo.config:option:`libvirt.hw_machine_type` as
explained above.
Impermanent limitations
The following limitations may be removed in the future as the
hardware, firmware, and various layers of software receive new
- SEV-encrypted VMs cannot yet be live-migrated or suspended,
therefore they will need to be fully shut down before migrating off
an SEV host, e.g. if maintenance is required on the host.
- SEV-encrypted VMs cannot contain directly accessible host devices
(PCI passthrough). So for example mdev vGPU support will not
currently work. However technologies based on `vhost-user`__ should
work fine.
- The boot disk of SEV-encrypted VMs can only be ``virtio``.
(``virtio-blk`` is typically the default for libvirt disks on x86,
but can also be explicitly set e.g. via the image property
``hw_disk_bus=virtio``). Valid alternatives for the disk
include using ``hw_disk_bus=scsi`` with
``hw_scsi_model=virtio-scsi`` , or ``hw_disk_bus=sata``.
- QEMU and libvirt cannot yet expose the number of slots available for
encrypted guests in the memory controller on SEV hardware. Until
this is implemented, it is not possible for Nova to programmatically
detect the correct value. As a short-term workaround, operators can
optionally manually specify the upper limit of SEV guests for each
compute host, via the new
configuration option :ref:`described above
Permanent limitations
The following limitations are expected long-term:
- The number of SEV guests allowed to run concurrently will always be
limited. `On the first generation of EPYC machines it will be
limited to 15 guests`__; however this limit becomes much higher with
the second generation (Rome).
- The operating system running in an encrypted virtual machine must
contain SEV support.
For the sake of eliminating any doubt, the following actions are *not*
expected to be limited when SEV encryption is used:
- Cold migration or shelve, since they power off the VM before the
operation at which point there is no encrypted memory (although this
could change since there is work underway to add support for `PMEM
- Snapshot, since it only snapshots the disk
- ``nova evacuate`` (despite the name, more akin to resurrection than
evacuation), since this is only initiated when the VM is no longer
- Attaching any volumes, as long as they do not require attaching via
an IDE bus
- Use of spice / VNC / serial / RDP consoles
- `VM guest virtual NUMA (a.k.a. vNUMA)
- `libvirt driver launching AMD SEV-encrypted instances (spec)`__
.. __: