vSphere 6.5 and later releases support remote direct memory access (RDMA) communication between virtual machines that have paravirtualized RDMA (PVRDMA) network adapters .

Overview of RDMA

RDMA allows direct memory access from the memory of one computer to the memory of another computer without involving the operating system or CPU . The transfer of memory is offloaded to the RDMA-capable Host Channel Adapters (HCA) . A PVRDMA network adapter provides remote direct memory access in a virtual environment.

Using RDMA in vSphere

In vSphere, a virtual machine can use a PVRDMA network adapter to communicate with other virtual machines that have PVRDMA devices . The virtual machines must be connected to the same vSphere Distributed Switch.

The PVRDMA device automatically selects the method of communication between the virtual machines . For virtual machines that run on the same ESXi host with or without a physical RDMA device, the data transfer is a memcpy between the two virtual machines . The physical RDMA hardware is not used in this case .

For virtual machines that reside on different ESXi hosts and that have a physical RDMA connection, the physical RDMA devices must be uplinks on the distributed switch. In this case, the communication between the virtual machines by way of PVRDMA uses the underlying physical RDMA devices.

For two virtual machines that run on different ESXi hosts, when at least one of the hosts does not have a physical RDMA device, the communication falls back to a TCP-based channel and the performance is reduced.