Discover CXL devices in Linux with Qemu

This document aims to list out steps to discover CXL type 3 devices inside the Linux kernel. Since there is no hardware available, the only way to achieve that is through Qemu emulation. Unfortunately, even the Qemu mainstream branch does not support these devices, so the tutorial uses a custom version of Qemu that supports CXL type 3 devices.

Build custom Qemu version

First, download and build the custom Qemu version on your machine.

sudo apt install build-essential libpmem-dev libdaxctl-dev ninja-build
cd ~/cxl
git clone
cd qemu
git checkout cxl-2.0v4
./configure --enable-libpmem
make -j 16

Check the version:

./build/qemu-system-x86_64 --version
QEMU emulator version 6.0.50 (v6.0.0-930-g18395653c3)
Copyright (c) 2003-2021 Fabrice Bellard and the QEMU Project developers

Build custom Linux Kernel

Next, download the latest kernel version and build an image from the source.

cd ~/cxl
git clone
cd linux
make defconfig

defconfig generates default configuration values and stores them in the .config file. The kernel requires some special configuration changes to handle these devices. Only a few of these configuration flags are present in the .config file, so do not worry if you cannot find all these flags.


Once the configuration related changes are done, compile the kernel code to the generate the image file.

make -j 16
cd ~/cxl

The image file should be in linux/arch/x86_64/boot/bzImage.

Qemu provides -kernel parameter to use the kernel image directly. Let's try to use that -

qemu/build/qemu-system-x86_64 -kernel linux/arch/x86_64/boot/bzImage \
	-nographic -append "console=ttyS0" -m 1024 --enable-kvm

The kernel runs until it tries to find the root fs; then it crashes. One easy way to resolve this is to create a ramdisk.

mkinitramfs -o ramdisk.img

Press Ctrl+a and c to exit kernel and then press q to exit Qemu.

Now, run qemu with the newly created ramdisk:

qemu/build/qemu-system-x86_64 -kernel linux/arch/x86_64/boot/bzImage -nographic \
    -append "console=ttyS0" -m 1024 -initrd ramdisk.img --enable-kvm

The kernel runs properly this time. Now, it is time to add CXL related parameters before running Qemu:

qemu/build/qemu-system-x86_64 -kernel linux/arch/x86_64/boot/bzImage -nographic \
    -append "console=ttyS0" -initrd ramdisk.img -enable-kvm \
    -m 1024,slots=12,maxmem=16G -M q35,accel=kvm,cxl=on \
    -object memory-backend-file,id=cxl-mem1,share=on,mem-path=cxl-window1,size=512M \
	-object memory-backend-file,id=cxl-label1,share=on,mem-path=cxl-label1,size=1K \
	-object memory-backend-file,id=cxl-label2,share=on,mem-path=cxl-label2,size=1K \
	-device pxb-cxl,id=cxl.0,bus=pcie.0,bus_nr=52,uid=0,len-window-base=1,window-base[0]=0x4c00000000,memdev[0]=cxl-mem1 \
	-device cxl-rp,id=rp0,bus=cxl.0,addr=0.0,chassis=0,slot=0,port=0 \
	-device cxl-rp,id=rp1,bus=cxl.0,addr=1.0,chassis=0,slot=1,port=1 \
	-device cxl-type3,bus=rp0,memdev=cxl-mem1,id=cxl-pmem0,size=256M,lsa=cxl-label1 \
	-device cxl-type3,bus=rp1,memdev=cxl-mem1,id=cxl-pmem1,size=256M,lsa=cxl-label2

Qemu exposes the CXL devices to the kernel and the kernel discovers these devices. Verify the devices by running:

ls /sys/bus/cxl/devices/


dmesg | grep '3[45]:00'