Some CPUs, such as AMD SVM-V and the Intel Xeon 5500 series, provide hardware support for memory virtualization by using two layers of page tables.
The first layer of page tables stores guest virtual-to-physical translations, while the second layer of page tables stores guest physical-to-machine translation. The TLB (translation look-aside buffer) is a cache of translations maintained by the processor's memory management unit (MMU) hardware. A TLB miss is a miss in this cache and the hardware needs to go to memory (possibly many times) to find the required translation. For a TLB miss to a certain guest virtual address, the hardware looks at both page tables to translate guest virtual address to machine address. The first layer of page tables is maintained by the guest operating system. The VMM only maintains the second layer of page tables.
When you use hardware assistance, you eliminate the overhead for software memory virtualization. In particular, hardware assistance eliminates the overhead required to keep shadow page tables in synchronization with guest page tables. However, the TLB miss latency when using hardware assistance is significantly higher. By default the hypervisor uses large pages in hardware assisted modes to reduce the cost of TLB misses. As a result, whether or not a workload benefits by using hardware assistance primarily depends on the overhead the memory virtualization causes when using software memory virtualization. If a workload involves a small amount of page table activity (such as process creation, mapping the memory, or context switches), software virtualization does not cause significant overhead. Conversely, workloads with a large amount of page table activity are likely to benefit from hardware assistance.
The performance of hardware MMU has improved since it was first introduced with extensive caching implemented in hardware. Using software memory virtualization techniques, the frequency of context switches in a typical guest may happen from 100 to 1000 times per second. Each context switch will trap the VMM in software MMU. Hardware MMU approaches avoid this issue.
By default the hypervisor uses large pages in hardware assisted modes to reduce the cost of TLB misses. The best performance is achieved by using large pages in both guest virtual to guest physical and guest physical to machine address translations.
The option LPage.LPageAlwaysTryForNPT can change the policy for using large pages in guest physical to machine address translations. For more information, see Advanced Memory Attributes.
Binary translation only works with software-based memory virtualization.