#virtual Bringing Virtualization to the x86 Architecture with the Original VMware Workstation, Edouard Bugnion et. al. 2012


This article describes the historical context, technical challenges, and main implementation techniques used by VMware Workstation to bring virtualization to the x86 architecture in 1999. Virtual machine monitors (VMMs) had been around for decades. They were traditionally designed as part of monolithic, single-vendor architectures with explicit support for virtualization. In contrast, the x86 architecture lacked virtualization support. The industry around it had disaggregated into an ecosystem, with different vendors controlling the computers, CPUs, peripherals, operating systems, and applications, none of them asking for virtualization. […]

VMware Workstation combined a hosted architecture with a VMM. The hosted architecture enabled a simple user experience and offered broad hardware compatibility. Rather than exposing I/O diversity to the virtual machines, VMware Workstation also relied on software emulation of I/O devices. The VMM combined a trap-and-emulate direct execution engine with a system-level dynamic binary translator. So it efficiently virtualizes the x86 architecture and support most commodity operating systems (Abstract, modified).