Want to get rid of Windows (Vista) and run DirectX games on Linux? Found the recent virtualization articles just a bit tad too much "nuts and bolts"? Or do you wonder how well Microsoft's Hyper-V performs compared to VMware's ESX? It is all cooking in our IT lab.  
Liz will explain you why virtualization is fun and interesting in layman's terms, and will make you see the virtual wood despite the trees. This upcoming article should give those of you taking your first steps with virtualization a strong base knowledge of the technology, and is a good prelude to our in-depth articles. Of course, all work and no play would make Anandtech IT a dull website, so the article will also look at some of the fun bits virtualization has introduced to the world of the desktop user. Half-life 2 running on Linux or Mac OS-X? Runs fine and relatively fast!
Back to work. Microsoft has made a big splash with Hyper-V, so we could not resist: we had to include it in our long awaited hypervisor comparison. Hyper-V is a very interesting technology: it is a mix of paravirtualization and hardware virtualization. Surprisingly, Hyper-V fully supports Linux, the paravirtualized "Linux integration tools" (a paravirtualized driver pack) is available for several linux distributions. There is one catch: SMP does not work (yet?). In other words, Windows 2008 software can work with up to 4 virtual CPUs, Linux guest OS have to be content with only one. Officially, Windows 2003 only supports 2, but we found that running with 4 virtual CPUs is not a problem at all (in contrast with Linux: more than one CPU will simply not work on Hyper-V).
The Hyper-V team went to great lengths to paravirtualized Windows 2008, less effort was spend in Windows 2003. Remember the Oracle OLTP test, the MySQL decision support database test and the heavy php website that we ran together?
Well, we noticed that
  • the mysql DSS ran 2% faster
  • the heavy php website ran 3-7% faster   
  • and the OLTP oracle database ran a tangible 18% faster
if we run those realworld workloads on Windows Server 2008 instead of Windows Server 2003. We did not alter anything but the operating system: for example, the php site was still running on a IIS6 webserver instead IIS7 (which is standard on Windows 2008). How does it compare to ESX? Well, we'll report our full results soon. It is extremely interesting how the picture changes from application to application. Intel or AMD? It can make a difference in the hypervisor race.
Quick note to our Dutch and Flemish readers: we will be presenting - live -  our virtualization research on the October 23rd, together with VMware, Microsoft and Novell in great detail. Some of the greatest hardware will also be present (HP Blades, HP EVA storage array, Intel "Dunnington" and maybe more we can't talk about :-). Look for more details here (Dutch) or here (English).

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  • aenagy - Wednesday, October 22, 2008 - link

    1) To AnAverageJoe: how does virtualization *increase* security. This is counter-intuitive to me and to any authors I have read on this topic.
    2) 3D acceleration in a virtual machine. Are you kidding?
    3) Quit teasing us and get on with the artile(s).
  • stormyandcold - Saturday, October 18, 2008 - link

    Can't wait for the results! I've been testing a few variants of Ubuntu with some success.

    Currently running Ubuntu Ultimate Gamers Edition 1.4 (all updates)

    Ubuntu 8.04 32/64-bit (64bit seems faster, had problems with monitor on both versions; sony gm5410)
    Ubuntu Studio 32/64-bit (amazing audacity performance 155/178)

    Couldn't get asio to work under wine with Reaper DAW so went to gamers edition. Still doesn't work :/
  • Starcub - Monday, October 13, 2008 - link

    Now this is interesting. I was under the (appearently mistaken) impression that there were no drivers for any 3D hardware for any virtual machine. That fact one can play HL2 on a VM would imply that this is not the case. I'm very much looking forward to seeing how this is working.
  • Kiijibari - Saturday, October 11, 2008 - link

    Solaris is so far not very usable as desktop OS, but maybe it could be a very good Host-OS ?

    Would be interesting, imo :)


  • duploxxx - Friday, October 10, 2008 - link

    I joined the MS roadshow this week and they already claim some decent benchmarking/performance and that they will be announced by anand. (good pr for you guys)
    Lets see what you guys have put together and how well you created load on those systems. With there Master slave concept i have some concerns with high VM count.

    Off course they were so full of love for the dunnington since they already support it and Vmware dus not yet, then we get back to your testing platform, its already known that dunnington can take more Vm's but did you guys actually checked the possible throughput of a VM, looking at VMmark scores that says enough.

    Actually that's the only thing you can say about the Hyper-V that is added value, larger support for platforms. The way they work with master slave concept actually scares me knowing the OS stability in the past. So get 1 VM for free but never ever install anything or patch anything in the master OS :)

    Also funny how they talked about there licensing model and that they don't care about how many cores on a socket, well people from Redmond your lic model sucks very bad, for sure when you combine it with HA, there is no decent solution unless you take the win2008 datacenter solution, which other idiot does not have more then 4VM on a server during failure, we are talking about 2s-4s systems here in 2008 with quadcore as default platform.....oh and i won't mention your nice tool that is able to controll all up into the OS and furter layers, its expensive as hell in a large datacenter.

    regarding the hyper-V itself, looking at the parts and tricks they put together to get there "hyping" hypervisor it will take them at least to 2008R2 to get a decent hypervisor on the market to race against esx 3 not to mention the enhancements in 3.5 and 4.0 under nda. (some issue highlights here: multiple Nics, Vm in each drive, no nfs, no vmotion, no storage vmotion, ...) For now i just call it a broken OS with some features but sure not ready for production environments unless you have old hardware (which then again in a hypervisor environment is worthless when you have hyperthreaded servers.)

    for the record i don't work for VMware, just an IT guy that actually has to work with it.

    love to see the final comments from Anand on there article, sure you can talk about performance then, but lets see how you highlight the functionality. waiting for the review... like we are also waiting a .....while..... for your great chipset comparison.
  • ChronoReverse - Thursday, October 9, 2008 - link

    ...about a few of the things said about Linux and Hyper-V?

    I've been testing Hyper-V for the past week including a few stints into Linux guests and it seems only SUSE Enterprise is supported by the Integration Components. It's possible to patch other distros anyway but it's not a breeze in any way.

    Also, SMP does appear to be working in the CentOS install I have running right now (without the Integration Services) so I find the claim SMP doesn't work in Linux curious.

    In any case, I'm looking forward to some benchmarks. My own extremely cursory benchmarks show CPU performance to be extremely good while VHD disk imagae performance to be (as expected) quite poor.
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, October 9, 2008 - link

    Unfortunately Microsoft agrees with us:

    "Linux distributions
    Note Virtual machines are configured to use one virtual processor."

    Did you check if you really get SMP performance on CentOS?
  • ChronoReverse - Friday, October 10, 2008 - link

    Yes, I've done enough testing to convince myself that at least 2-way SMP is functioning.
  • Oakenfold - Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - link

    I'm looking forward to the rest of the article, it sounds like a very good primer for someone like me who understands the basic concepts but doesn't know how the current products stack up against each other!

  • AmberClad - Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - link

    Looking forward to the bit about DX on Linux. I come here to read enthusiast articles, not articles about dry topics like enterprise technology.

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