CS 378: Virtualization

Welcome to Virtualization! This course will introduce students to a range of exciting topics including:

  • Basics of Virtual Machines
  • Basics of Containers
  • How CPU is Virtualized
  • How Storage is Virtualized
  • How Network is Virtualized
  • Nested Virtualization
  • Hardware Features Assisting Virtualization
  • Deploying Virtual Machines
  • Orchestrating Containers
  • Datacenters and Virtualization
This is an implementation-heavy course. You will be building your own hypervisor, and working with container-orchestration frameworks. Do not take this course if you aren't comfortable reading, modifying, and writing code.

Aside from teaching you the concepts behind virtualization, this course is meant to get you familiar with the commonly used tools and software. You should get used to using virtual machines, and containers. You will gain more experience with Git, and with real-world code bases.

Independent Inquiry

This course carries the Independent Inquiry flag. Independent Inquiry courses are designed to engage you in the process of inquiry over the course of a semester, providing you with the opportunity for independent investigation of a question, problem, or project related to your major. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from the independent investigation and presentation of your own work.


The expected background for this course is an undergraduate operating systems course, in which you learned the basics of an OS: virtualizing the CPU, virtualizing memory, file systems, and so forth. Probably you learned it out of some book like Silberschatz or Tanenbaum or the free OS book from Wisconsin.

You should also have some hardware background, as in a basic understanding of how a machine works, what caches and TLBs are, and things like that. This knowledge is particularly useful because the OS sits at the lowest levels of the system, and thus we sometimes need to know things about the hardware.


There are no prescribed books for this course. The content will be sourced from publications, blogs, and reading the code.

We believe the following resources will be useful:

Course Policies

Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities, 512-471-6259, http://www.utexas.edu/diversity/ddce/ssd/.

Religious Holy Days: A student who is absent from an examination or cannot meet an assignment deadline due to the observance of a religious holy day may take the exam on an alternate day or submit the assignment up to 24 hours late without penalty, if proper notice of the planned absence has been given. Notice must be given at least 14 days prior to the classes which will be missed. For religious holy days that fall within the first 2 weeks of the semester, notice should be given on the first day of the semester. Notice must be personally delivered to the instructor and signed and dated by the instructor, or sent certified mail. Email notification will be accepted if received, but a student submitting email notification must receive email confirmation from the instructor.


  1. The students are encouraged to do the projects in groups of two or three.
  2. All exams are done individually, with absolutely no collaboration.
  3. Each student must present.
  4. I strongly encourage you to discuss the projects and assignments with anyone you can. That's the way good science happens. But all work and writeup for the assignment must be your own, and only your own.
  5. As a professional, you should acknowledge significant contributions or collaborations in your written or spoken presentations.
  6. The student code of conduct is here. Intellectual dishonesty can end your career, and it is your responsibility to stay on the right side of the line. If you are not sure about something, ask.
  7. The penalty for cheating on an exam, project or assignment in this course is an F in the course and a referral to the Dean of Students office.
  8. You cross over from collaboration to cheating when you look at another person/team's source code. Discussing ideas is okay, sharing code is not.
  9. You also may not look at any course project material relating to any project similar to or the same as this course's class projects. For example, you may not look at the work done by a student in past years' courses, and you may not look at similar course projects at other universities.
  10. All submitted work must be new and original.


  1. You will be allowed a A4 page of notes during exams. I will likely make the exams open book, but I reserve the right not to do so.
  2. Laptops, tablets, and ereaders are BANNED from exams. You should not need them in an exam, and they are far too flexible as communication devices to make enforcement of non-communication policies enforceable. Any use of a communication device for any reason in the exam room will earn an automatic zero on the exam.

Late Policy

  1. All projects/assignments must be submitted in class the day they are due.
  2. For each day a project/assignment is late, you lose 10% of the points for that project. So if you submit two days after the deadline, your maximum points on that project will be 80%.
  3. In this class, it is always better to do the work (even late) than not do it at all.
  4. If you become ill: contact the instructor. A medical note is required to miss an exam.


Who: Vijay Chidambaram
When: TuTh 2-3:30 PM
Where: GDC 1.304
First class: August 31st

Office Hours: TuTh 3:30-4:30 PM
Where: GDC 6.436 (my office)
You can meet with me at other times by appointment.

TA: Dhathri Purohith
Office Hours: MW 4-5 PM
Where: GDC 1st Floor TA Station 1

Detailed Class Schedule


We will be using Canvas for course administration. Check out the course page here. You will need your UT EID to log in.

I will be making all important announcements on Canvas (although some of it may be on this page as well). Check Canvas regularly!


We will be holding our class discussions on Pizza. Please sign up here.

Guest Lectures

The state-of-the-art in virtualization rapidly changes due to the massive industry focus on it. We will have a number of industrial speakers to gain an understanding of pressing problems in this space in industry.

Speakers include:

  1. Mike Hall, Principal Engineer, VMware
  2. Gabriel Schenker, Principal Curriculum Developer (previously Senior Architect), Docker
  3. Wes Felter, Researcher for 15 years in IBM Research
  4. Lee Calcote, Head of Technology Strategy, SolarWinds


30% Exams (15% each midterm)
20% Assignments (10% each assignment)
50% Projects (25% each project)

Extra Credit

One of the goals of this course is to give students exposure to open-source projects. You will be given extra credit if:
  1. You patch a bug (and get it accepted) in an open-source project such as Docker, Swarm, or VIC (worth 5% extra credit!)
  2. You file a bug which is accepted by the project developers at one of the above open-source repositories (worth 1% for each bug, for a max of 3%)
The maximum extra credit you can earn is 8%. Note that these extra-credit activities will also serve you well in hunting for jobs or internships: getting a patch accepted in a project is impressive.


There will be two mid-terms. Each mid-term will count for 15% of the grade.

Midterm 1: Oct 12th (tentatively)
Midterm 2: Nov 21st (tentatively)


There will be two big projects in the course. Students will work in groups of two or three for both projects.

The first project will involve building your own hypervisor. You will need to know the basics of operating systems, C, and assembly to complete this project.

The second project is open-ended, and will involve adding a new feature to any open-source project related to virtualization and containers. Students will propose what they want to do, get the proposal approved, and then present on what they did at the end of the semester. You are encouraged to add a useful feature to an open-source project (and potentially get it merged with the code base).

More details about the projects will be added shortly.


The assignments will be smaller scope than the projects, but will be related to the projects. You can think of them as exercises meant to "warm-up" for the projects.

Tools Page Useful for Assignment 1

Assignment 1 released!

Assignment 2 released!

Project 1 released!


This course is inspired by (and uses material from) courses taught by Alison Norman, Remzi Arpaci-Dusseau, Don Porter, Simon Peter, and Chris Rossbach.


Copyright Notice: These course materials, including, but not limited to, lecture notes, homeworks, and projects are copyright protected. You must ask me permission to use these materials.

I do not grant to you the right to publish these materials for profit in any form. Any unauthorized copying of the class materials is a violation of federal law and may result in disciplinary actions being taken against the student or other legal action against an outside entity. Additionally, the sharing of class materials without the specific, express approval of the instructor may be a violation of the University's Student Honor Code and an act of academic dishonesty, which could result in further disciplinary action. This includes, among other things, uploading class materials to websites for the purpose of sharing those materials with other current or future students.