Inter-VM Communication using Shared memory

tldr: Use the --qemu-ivshmem and --qemu-shmem-path option in to enable cross-VM shared-memory support in QEMU.

This section describes how to use shared memory to communicate between two Qemu VMs. First, create a shared memory file (with hugepages):

echo 1024 > /sys/kernel/mm/hugepages/hugepages-2048kB/nr_hugepages
sudo mkdir -p /mnt/hugepages
sudo mount -t hugetlbfs pagesize=2GB /mnt/huge
sudo chmod 777 /mnt/hugepages

Now, use a file on this mount point to create a shared memory file across two Qemu VMs. For shared memory, Qemu allows two types of configurations:

  • Just the shared memory file: ivshmem-plain.
  • Shared memory plus interrupts: ivshmem-doorbell.

We use the plain shared memory configuration as the goal is to share memory across machines. Add the following parameters to the Qemu command line:

-object memory-backend-file,size=2G,mem-path=/mnt/hugepages/shmem-file,share=on,id=HMB \
-device ivshmem-plain,memdev=HMB

Discover the shared memory file inside Qemu

Qemu exposes the shared memory file to the kernel by creating a PCI device. Inside the VM, run the following command to discover to check if the PCI device is created or not.

lspci | grep "shared memory"

Running lspci should show something like:

00:04.0 RAM memory: Red Hat, Inc. Inter-VM shared memory (rev 01)

Use the lspci command to know more about the PCI device and BAR registers.

lspci -s 00:04.0 -nvv

This should print the BAR registers related information. The ivshmem PCI device has two to three BARs (depending on shared memory or interrupt device):

  • BAR0 holds device registers (256 Byte MMIO)
  • BAR1 holds MSI-X table and PBA (only ivshmem-doorbell)
  • BAR2 maps the shared memory object

Since we are using the plain shared memory configuration, the BAR1 is not used. We only see the BAR0 and BAR2 as Region 0 and Region 1.

00:04.0 0500: 1af4:1110 (rev 01)
	Subsystem: 1af4:1100
	Physical Slot: 4
	Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster- SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR+ FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap- 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast >TAbort- <TAbort- <MAbort- >SERR- <PERR- INTx-
	Region 0: Memory at febf1000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=256]
	Region 2: Memory at 280000000 (64-bit, prefetchable) [size=2G]

Use the shared memory file inside Qemu

If you only need the shared memory part, BAR2 suffices. This way, you have access to the shared memory in the guest and can use it as you see fit. Region 2 in lspci output tells us that the shared memory is at 280000000 with the size of 2G.

Here is a sample C program that writes to the shared memory file.


int main() {
	void *baseaddr = (void *) 0x280000000; // BAR2 address
	uint64_t size = 2147483648; // BAR2 size

	int fd = open("/sys/bus/pci/devices/0000:00:04.0/resource2", O_RDWR | O_SYNC);
	void *retaddr = mmap(baseaddr, size, PROT_READ | PROT_WRITE, MAP_SHARED, fd, 0);
	if (addr == MAP_FAILED) {
		printf("mmap failed");
		return 0;

	uint8_t *addr = (uint8_t *)retaddr;
	addr[0] = 0xa;

	munmap(retaddr, size);

Compile and run the program (use sudo to run).

Perform the similar steps to read the shared memory file in another Qemu VM.