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Device namespaces are used to virtualize Android’s complicated power management framework, resulting in almost no extra power consumption for Cells compared to stock Android

Cells: a virtual mobile smartphone architecture

SOSP, pp.173-187, (2011)

Cited by: 278|Views263
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Abstract

Smartphones are increasingly ubiquitous, and many users carry multiple phones to accommodate work, personal, and geographic mobility needs. We present Cells, a virtualization architecture for enabling multiple virtual smartphones to run simultaneously on the same physical cellphone in an isolated, secure manner. Cells introduces a usage m...More

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Introduction
  • The preferred platform for a user’s everyday computing needs is shifting from traditional desktop and laptop computers toward mobile smartphone and tablet devices [4].
  • Smartphones are becoming an increasingly important work tool for professionals who rely on them for telephone, text messaging, email, Web browsing, contact and calendar management, news, and location-specific information.
  • The ease of downloading new software imposes a risk on users as malicious software can access sensitive data with the risk of corrupting it or even leaking it to third parties [35]
  • For this reason, smartphones given to employees for work use are often locked down resulting in many users having to carry separate work and personal phones.
  • Parents sometimes wish they had additional phones when their children use the parent’s smartphone for entertainment and end up with unexpected charges due to accidental phone calls or unintended in-app purchases
Highlights
  • The preferred platform for a user’s everyday computing needs is shifting from traditional desktop and laptop computers toward mobile smartphone and tablet devices [4]
  • We present Cells, a new, lightweight virtualization architecture for enabling multiple virtual phones (VPs) to run simultaneously on the same smartphone hardware with high performance
  • The prototype has been tested to work with multiple versions of Android, including the most recent open-source version, version 2.3.4
  • When one virtual phones modified a file in the readonly branch, the modification is stored in its own private write branch of the file system
  • Comparing to the Baseline configuration with an additional background workload, Cells overhead remains small in all cases. It incurs less than 1% overhead in all cases on the Nexus 1 except for Network and Quadrant I/O, and less than 4% overhead in all cases on the Nexus S except for Quadrant I/O, the majority of benchmark results on the Nexus S show nearly zero overhead
  • Device namespaces are used to virtualize Android’s complicated power management framework, resulting in almost no extra power consumption for Cells compared to stock Android
Methods
  • A single read-only branch of a union file system was used as the /system and /data partitions of each VP
  • This saves megabytes of file system cache while maintaining isolation between VPs through separate writable branches.
  • To maximize the benefit of KSM, CellD uses a custom system call which adds all memory pages from all processes to the set of pages KSM attempts to merge.
  • CellD monitors the KSM statistics through the procfs interface and disables shared page merging after the merge rate drops below a pre-determined threshold
Results
  • The authors have implemented a Cells prototype using Android and demonstrated its complete functionality across different Android devices, including the Google Nexus 1 [8] and Nexus S [9] phones.
  • The prototype has been tested to work with multiple versions of Android, including the most recent opensource version, version 2.3.4.
  • In UI testing while running multiple VPs on a phone, there is no user noticeable performance difference between running in a VP and running natively on the phone.
  • Using Cells the authors were able to deliver native 3D acceleration to both game instances while seamlessly switching between and interacting with all four running VPs
Conclusion
  • The authors have designed, implemented, and evaluated Cells, the first OS virtualization solution for mobile devices.
  • Mobile devices have a different usage model than traditional computers
  • The authors use this observation to provide new device virtualization mechanisms, device namespaces and device namespace proxies, that leverage a foreground-background usage model to isolate and multiplex phone devices with near zero overhead.
  • Cells proxy libraries provide a userlevel mechanism to virtualize closed and proprietary device infrastructure, such as the telephony radio stack, with only minimal configuration changes to the Android user space environment.
  • Cells further provides each virtual phone complete use of the standard cellular phone network with its own phone number and incoming and outgoing caller ID support through the use of a VoIP cloud service
Tables
  • Table1: Android devices
  • Table2: Filtered RIL commands
Download tables as Excel
Related work
  • Virtualization on embedded and mobile devices is a relatively new area. Bare-metal hypervisors such as OKL4 Microvisor [22] and Red Bend’s VLX [25] offer the potential benefit of a smaller trusted computing base, but the disadvantage of having to provide device support and emulation, an onerous requirement for smartphones which provide increasingly diverse hardware devices. For example, we are not aware of any OKL4 implementations that run Android on any phones other than the dated HTC G1. A hosted virtualization solution such as VMware MVP [2] can leverage Android device support to more easily run on recent hardware, but its trusted computing base is larger as it includes both the Android user space environment and host Linux OS. Xen for ARM [13] and KVM/ARM [5] are open-source virtualization solutions for ARM, but are both incomplete with respect to device support. All of these approaches require paravirtualization and require an entire OS instance in each VM adding to both memory and CPU overhead. This can significantly limit scalability and performance on resource constrained phones. For example, VMware MVP is targeted to run just one VM to encapsulate an Android virtual work phone on an Android host personal phone.
Funding
  • This work was supported in part by NSF grants CNS-1018355, CNS-0914845, CNS-0905246, AFOSR MURI grant FA9550-07-1-0527, and a Google Research Award
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