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NOVA Microhypervisor

This is the source code for the NOVA microhypervisor.

The NOVA microhypervisor combines microkernel and hypervisor functionality and provides an extremely small trusted computing base for user applications and virtual machines running on top of it. The microhypervisor implements a capability-based authorization model and provides basic mechanisms for virtualization, spatial and temporal separation, scheduling, communication, and management of platform resources.

NOVA can be used with a multi-server environment that implements additional operating-system services in user mode, such as device drivers, protocol stacks, and policies. On machines with hardware virtualization features, multiple unmodified guest operating systems can run concurrently on top of the microhypervisor.

This code is experimental and not feature complete. If it breaks, you get to keep both pieces.


Required Tools

The following tools are needed to compile the source code:

Build Environment

The build environment can be customized permanently in Makefile.conf or ad hoc by passing the applicable ARCH, BOARD and PREFIX- variables to the invocation of make as described below.

  • PREFIX-aarch64 sets the path for an ARMv8-A cross-toolchain
  • PREFIX-x86_64 sets the path for an x86 (64bit) cross-toolchain

For example, if the ARMv8-A cross-toolchain is located at


then set PREFIX-aarch64=/opt/aarch64-linux/bin/aarch64-linux-

Supported Architectures

ARMv8-A (64bit)

For CPUs with ARMv8-A architecture and boards with a flattened device tree (FDT).

Board Build Command Comments
UEFI Platform make ARCH=aarch64 BOARD=uefi Default Board
QEMU Virt Platform make ARCH=aarch64 BOARD=qemu Use -M virt -smp 4
NXP i.MX 8MQuad make ARCH=aarch64 BOARD=imx8 4 Cortex-A53, GICv3
Renesas R-Car M3 make ARCH=aarch64 BOARD=rcar 4 Cortex-A53, 2 Cortex-A57, GICv2
Raspberry Pi 4 Model B make ARCH=aarch64 BOARD=rpi4 4 Cortex-A72, GICv2
Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 make ARCH=aarch64 BOARD=sdm670 6 Kryo 360 Silver, 2 Kryo 360 Gold, GICv3, SMMUv2
NVIDIA Tegra X1 make ARCH=aarch64 BOARD=tegrax1 4 Cortex-A57, GICv2
Avnet Xilinx Ultra96 make ARCH=aarch64 BOARD=u96 4 Cortex-A53, GICv2, SMMUv2
Xilinx MPSoC ZCU102 make ARCH=aarch64 BOARD=zcu102 4 Cortex-A53, GICv2, SMMUv2

x86 (64bit)

For CPUs with x86 architecture

  • Intel VT-x (VMX+EPT) + optionally VT-d

and boards with Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI).

Platform Build Command Comments
x86_64 make ARCH=x86_64 64bit or 32bit VMs


See the NOVA interface specification in the doc directory for details regarding booting the NOVA microhypervisor.


The NOVA source code is licensed under the GPL version 2.

Copyright (C) 2009-2011 Udo Steinberg <>
Economic rights: Technische Universitaet Dresden (Germany)

Copyright (C) 2012-2013 Udo Steinberg, Intel Corporation.
Copyright (C) 2014 Udo Steinberg, FireEye, Inc.
Copyright (C) 2019-2021 Udo Steinberg, BedRock Systems, Inc.

NOVA is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it
under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2 as
published by the Free Software Foundation.

NOVA is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
GNU General Public License version 2 for more details.


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