Automate Live Migration Completion Strategies


There are number of strategies which can be used to help a live migration operation complete. It is desirable to automate the use of these based on how important it is to the operator that the live migration completes.

Problem description

When an operator performs a live migration they need to monitor it to ensure it is making progress and take actions to help it complete. This is labor intensive and expensive in terms of cloud operating costs. It would be preferable if the live migration process could automatically take action to try and complete the migration.

Use Cases

As an operator of an OpenStack cloud, I would like live migrations to, as far as possible, progress to completion without operator intervention.

Proposed change

The live migration processing will automatically determine what strategies to employ if the live migration is struggling to complete due to the instance’s memory access or disk I/O rates.

The options available are as follows:

Maximum Downtime Setting

In order to perform the switch over from the source to target instances the live migration process needs to pause the instance for a short period. The default value is 500 milliseconds but this can be adjusted during the live migration process via a libvirt API call. Increasing this value may enable the migration to complete.


This feature provides a method for slowing down guest execution speed in order to allow the live migration to copy dirty memory pages to the target and complete the migration. It has to be enabled prior to the start of a live migration operation. If enabled the live migration process will make a first pass of copying all memory pages to the target then incrementally decrease the instances CPU speed until the migration is completed.

By default it will initially decrease the CPU speed by 30% then reduce it by further increments of 10% until the instance is effectively paused. The initial decrease and increment size can be adjusted during the live migration process via the libvirt API. However these API calls are experimental so nova will not be using them.

Auto-converge can only be used if libvirt version 1.2.3 and qemu version 1.6 are installed on the source compute node. A nova configuration flag called live_migration_permit_auto_converge will be added. This flag can have the following values:

no - never use auto-converge.

yes - use auto-converge if available and no other better migration

strategy is availble.


Post-copy must be enabled prior to the migration starting if it is to be employed. A libvirt API call is performed to tell it to switch. Post-copy can only be used if libvirt version 1.3.3 and qemu version 2.5 are installed on the source and target compute nodes. A nova configuration flag called live_migration_permit_post_copy will be added. This flag can have the following values:

no - never use post-copy.

yes - use post-copy if it is available.

Nova will allow the live migration process will make a first pass of copying all memory pages to the target before considering a switch to post copy mode. The switch to post-copy will cause the instance on the target to become active instead of the instance on the source node. Qemu will then start pulling memory pages that have not yet been updated on the target from the source. If the target instance tries to access a page of memory that has not yet been copied to the target qemu will fetch the page from the source.

The use of Post-Copy has an impact on instance performance after the switch to post copying mode. Also, once in post copy mode if the migration processing fails then the instance will crash and need to be rebooted.

Live Migration Strategy

If the migration is not completed but has copied most of the memory then gradually increase the downtime allowed during the switch-over until the migration completes or the configured maximum downtime is reached.

Auto-converge will only be used if live_migration_permit_auto_converge is set to ‘yes’ and live_migration_permit_post_copy is set to no or unavailable due to the version of libvirt and qemu in use.

If available, post-copy will be employed if needed to complete the migration. Nova should allow the migration to run in pre-copy mode for one iteration of memory page copying and thereafter it should start monitoring the data remaining high water mark. If the data remaining high water mark does not decrease by at least 10% on each iteration, then it is a sign that live migration will not complete in suitable timeframe. At this point Nova will automatically switch to post-copy mode.

The auto-converge feature will be enabled if it is available and post-copy is not available.


The ‘live-migration-force-complete’ operation on an ongoing live migration can be used to place the instance in suspended (paused in libvirt parlance) state in order to allow the migration to complete. It will be automatically resumed when the migration completes and it switches to the target.

It is proposed that when the operator executes a live-migration-force-complete operation the action taken will depend on whether the post-copy feature is available. If it is available, i.e. live_migration_permit_post_copy is set to ‘yes’ and it is supported by the libvirt/qemu versions in use, a switch to post-copy mode will be performed instead of suspending the instance. However, if the live-migration-force-complete operation is performed before the completion of the first iteration of memory pages copying it will defer the switch to post-copy until the first iteration of memory page copying is complete. The migration memory counters will be used to determine if the first cycle of memory copying has been completed. This can be achieved by comparing the memory processed and the memory total. If the memory processed exceeds the memory total then at least one complete cycle of memory copying has been completed.

An attempt to abort a live-migration after the switch to post-copy will be rejected. Libvirt will reject an abort job API call if the migration has switched to post-copy mode. However when the driver issues the request to switch to post-copy mode it could update the migration status to indicate that post-copy mode is in effect, i.e. update it from ‘running’ to ‘running (post-copy)’. The API method called by ‘live-migration-abort’ could be enhanced to check the migration status to ensure it is not in post-copy mode. If the switch to post-copy occurs after the check in the API but before the execution of the abort by the driver then we will rely on libvirt to reject the abort request.

Note that live-migration-force-complete cannot be used to suspend an instance once the switch to post-copy has been performed. Note that if post-copy feature is available then the ‘live-migration-force-complete’ operation will switch to post-copy rather than attempt to suspend the instance so this shouldn’t be an issue, libvirt will reject an attempt to switch a migration operation to post-copy if it is already in post-copy mode. If the live_migration_permit_post_copy flag is changed during the live migration operation (i.e. it is set to mutable in the future, see then there is a risk that a ‘live-migration-force-complete’ operation will attempt to suspend an instance that is in post-copy mode. This can be addressed by the API method called by ‘live-migration-force-complete’ checking the migration status as decribed above. If the switch to post-copy occurs after the check in the API but before the execution of the suspend by the driver then the instance will be suspended unnecessarily but this should do no harm since the source instance will not be active at after the switch to post-copy.


One alternative is not doing this, leaving it up to operators to manage live migrations.

An alternative would be to either enable or disable migration options (such as post copy, auto-converge and the maximum down time setting) via nova configuration flags. Enabling these options globally could lead to customer complaints about instance performance and availability because use of these features can potentially have a significant impact on instance performance.

Another approach would be to provide the operator with APIs so they could select and tune these settings before and during live migrations. However it is not desirable to expose driver specifics to Nova API.

Data model impact


REST API impact


Security impact


Notifications impact


Other end user impact

The impact of the live-migration-force-complete operation will change if post-copy is available and enabled.

Performance Impact

No significant impact on Nova management application performance (i.e. the compute manager). However the impact on the instance being migrated will depend on the migration strategies utilized.

Other deployer impact

Operators need to be careful when performing actions that impact libvirt or qemu to ensure that they do not adversely impact on going operations such as live migration.

Developer impact




Primary assignee: Paul Carlton (irc: paul-carlton2)

Other assignees: None

Work Items

  • Update live migration start and monitor code.


See References below.


Unit tests will be added as required.

Documentation Impact



Analysis of techniques for ensuring migration completion with KVM



Release Name