vhost-user back ends

vhost-user back ends are way to service the request of VirtIO devices outside of QEMU itself. To do this there are a number of things required.

vhost-user device

These are simple stub devices that ensure the VirtIO device is visible to the guest. The code is mostly boilerplate although each device has a chardev option which specifies the ID of the --chardev device that connects via a socket to the vhost-user daemon.

Each device will have an virtio-mmio and virtio-pci variant. See your platform details for what sort of virtio bus to use.

vhost-user devices





Block storage

See contrib/vhost-user-blk


File based storage driver

See https://gitlab.com/virtio-fs/virtiofsd


Proxy gpio pins to host

See https://github.com/rust-vmm/vhost-device


GPU driver

See contrib/vhost-user-gpu


Proxy i2c devices to host

See https://github.com/rust-vmm/vhost-device


Generic input driver

QEMU vhost-user-input - Input emulation


Entropy driver

QEMU vhost-user-rng - RNG emulation


System Control and Management Interface

See https://github.com/rust-vmm/vhost-device


Audio device

See https://github.com/rust-vmm/vhost-device/staging


SCSI based storage

See contrib/vhost-user-scsi


Socket based communication

See https://github.com/rust-vmm/vhost-device

The referenced daemons are not exhaustive, any conforming backend implementing the device and using the vhost-user protocol should work.


The vhost-user-device is a generic development device intended for expert use while developing new backends. The user needs to specify all the required parameters including:

  • Device virtio-id

  • The num_vqs it needs and their vq_size

  • The config_size if needed


To prevent user confusion you cannot currently instantiate vhost-user-device without first patching out:

/* Reason: stop inexperienced users confusing themselves */
dc->user_creatable = false;

in vhost-user-device.c and vhost-user-device-pci.c file and rebuilding.

vhost-user daemon

This is a separate process that is connected to by QEMU via a socket following the Vhost-user Protocol. There are a number of daemons that can be built when enabled by the project although any daemon that meets the specification for a given device can be used.

Shared memory object

In order for the daemon to access the VirtIO queues to process the requests it needs access to the guest’s address space. This is achieved via the memory-backend-file or memory-backend-memfd objects. A reference to a file-descriptor which can access this object will be passed via the socket as part of the protocol negotiation.

Currently the shared memory object needs to match the size of the main system memory as defined by the -m argument.


First start your daemon.

$ virtio-foo --socket-path=/var/run/foo.sock $OTHER_ARGS

Then you start your QEMU instance specifying the device, chardev and memory objects.

$ qemu-system-x86_64 \
    -m 4096 \
    -chardev socket,id=ba1,path=/var/run/foo.sock \
    -device vhost-user-foo,chardev=ba1,$OTHER_ARGS \
    -object memory-backend-memfd,id=mem,size=4G,share=on \
    -numa node,memdev=mem \