Join the Conversation on Virtualization
Thu, 29 Dec 2005
AMD and Intel Servers Compete For Ultimate Virtuality
The always useful if somewhat ad-cluttered Tom's Hardware publishes some benchmarks on Opteron and Xeon CPU performance running ESX Server. Unfortunately, they were not able to test dual-core Intel Xeons. Although AMD chips did well in power consumption, for overall performance, as is often the case, your mileage will definitely vary depending on your driving habits.
As you can see from the results, you really must test your applications on both AMD and Intel platforms in order to properly decide which is the faster alternative - the results can be surprising. Before we started testing, we suspected the floating point intensive Cplex application would be much faster on the AMD platform, but we were wrong. Although Intel's new dual core Xeon can't outperform the AMD Opteron under conventional server environments, it is likely to give AMD a solid beating in the virtualization space.
One interesting result was their positive performance effects of Hyper Threading:
VMTN Forum thread on this article. I've tried to stay away from religious arguments ever since I used both vi and emacs, but if you're so inclined, the forums have some good discussion of where we are in the market today. Here are some threads from just this month: one, two, three, four. (And don't even get them started on blades vs non-blades...)
posted by jtroyer at: 16:39 | | | permanent link
Fri, 23 Dec 2005
Reducing the size of virtual machines for portability
With the increase in the number of available downloadable virtual machines, there is also an increased interest in reducing their size. Virtual machines are still, at the end of 2005, a bit large for convenient and widespread electronic distribution. Daemon_b gives us his recipe for Reducing the size of Windows XP VMs for portability.
What techniques do you recommend for reducing the size of a virtual machine, either Windows or Linux?
posted by jtroyer at: 13:44 | | | permanent link
Wed, 21 Dec 2005
Is CPU Utilization a useless metric?
Adrian Cockcroft came back from the Computer Measurement Group conference with some thoughts on virtualization's effects on measuring CPU virtualization:
My observation is that utilization is useless as a metric and should be abandoned. It has been useless in virtualized disk subsystems for some time, and is now useless for CPU measurement as well. There used to be a clear relationship between response time and utilization, but systems are now so complex that those relationships no longer hold. Instead, you need to directly measure response time and relate it to throughput. Utilization is properly defined as busy time as a proportion of elapsed time. The replacement for utilization is headroom which is defined as the unused proportion of the maximum possible throughput. Dave Fisk calls this Capability Utilization.
posted by jtroyer at: 17:23 | | | permanent link
Rise of the virtual machines
If there is one technology that took hold in the enterprise in 2005, it's virtualization. The software moved from test and development and into the data center faster than anyone imagined, including the experts. And while there are sure to be some bumps in the road in 2006 as the technology moves from awareness to adoption, you can bet most IT pros will be running virtualization in the data center before the end of next year.
From Matt Stansberry at SearchDataCenter.com.
posted by jtroyer at: 17:18 | | | permanent link
Tue, 20 Dec 2005
Oracle performance under virtual SMP
Tom Kyte is putting the new vSMP feature of Workstation 5.5 to good use. He says "VMware 5.5 rocks":
posted by jtroyer at: 10:41 | | | permanent link
A few recent interesting articles for your virtual enjoyment:
Disabling the VMWare network adapters from Christopher Miller.
When you are not running a VMWare session, you may want to disable the VMware virtual network adapters. I have found that they can slow down network operations on the host. Anything doing a UDP broadcast that is sent over all adapters will take much longer to run if they broadcast over the VMWare adapters. The ListAvailableSQLServers function call in the SQLDMO library is one example that I came across that slowed down dramatically with the VMWare adapters running.
\m/ at m*g33k tells you how to run Workstation as a service on Windows 2003. This is for development and testing only; not only does running a production server inside Workstation violate your license, you really want the management and scalability of GSX Server or ESX Server for a professional-grade service offering.
Tarry Singh dives down onto the Oracle DBA side with the fifth part of his series on bulding Oracle clusters with VMware: RACing ahead with Oracle on VMware - Part V: The powerful SRVCTL Utility.
posted by jtroyer at: 10:29 | | | permanent link
Wed, 14 Dec 2005
A Thin Client for Enterprise Desktop Hosting
Jim at vmwarez has found a cheap, workable thin client solution to enable enterprise desktop hosting with ESX Server:
Right now Jim is trying 2x, and is happy with it so far. It's not free as in speech or as in beer, but they do give you a free taste for the first 10 clients.
Update: Lots of good suggestions from the comments, including Citrix, SunRay, Knoppix, Pilot Linux , and just using RDP or Windows Terminal Services. The best solution, as usual, depends on your particular needs. Luckily, thin client computing has a long history and a mature set of technologies.
posted by jtroyer at: 18:01 | | | permanent link
Tue, 13 Dec 2005
The Virtualization Job Market
I keep up several ongoing searches of blogs and web pages, and I see plenty of job descriptions scroll by that ask for VMware experience. And as far as I could tell, the IT users I met at VMworld in October were very happy with their jobs using VMware. How is the demand for IT jobs with VMware experience in your neck of the woods?
From the retro green-on-black blog For all things tech...:
Currently as I write this, I know there is a BIG demand for IT staff that are experienced with Virtualization technologies. I know for a fact that VMware certified people are in high demand because of this increased demand. As the technology progresses and adoption at the enterprise level increases, so does the demand for qualified people to administer and implement these solutions.
VMware's certification and training usually get high marks from their participants. Here's a quick note from Dan Parsons' IT Obsession: (While you're there, you may find his mini-howto on 802.1q VLAN trunking with VMware ESX Server and a Cisco switch useful.)
Today was the last day of the "Virtual Infrastructure with ESX Server" course I was taking. It was a wonderful course and the instructor couldn't have been better. I guess I'm not accustomed to teachers knowing what they're teaching. Must have something to do with where I went to high school. Anyway, I learned a lot and I love ESX Server even more now. I must get my hands on a fibre channel switch and a VirtualCenter license.
And if you are interested in taking the VMware Certified Professional (VCP) Exam, I'd recommend checking out both Dominic Rivera's vmwareprofessional site and Mike Laverick's RTFM ExamCrams. (That you should be participating in the VMware Forums I hope goes without saying.)
posted by jtroyer at: 15:06 | | | permanent link
More Options for a Computer on a Stick
Following on to last Friday's post on Keychain PCs, Michal Halecky is also considering his portable personal environment options. He mentions VMware Player, U3, BlackDog, LaCie GlobeTrotter Portable Linux Desktop, and a future "ultra mobile PC" concept device from Intel similar to the OQO.
From the VMTN Player Discussion Forums, a good tip from Matt when storing your virtual machine on a removable flash drive:
One performance note I found when trying this is that portable hard drives tend to be a bit slower than typical desktop hard drives, and flash memory drives (even the best ones) tend to be a lot slower. And Windows by default disables write caching on removable drives (good for safety if you like yanking cables without doing "safely remove hardware", but bad for performance). The upshot is our optimization for fast suspends ends up doing badly on slow uncached drives, and your VM may run slower than it should. One workaround for this is to set "mainMem.useNamedFile=FALSE" in your .vmx file for any VMs you plan to use on portable/slow drives. Or, you can turn on write caching for that drive (but only if you know what this means, and then be very careful about telling Windows before unplugging the drive!).
posted by jtroyer at: 08:01 | | | permanent link
Fri, 09 Dec 2005
From "The Virtual Firewall" by Vassilis Prevelakis in the Dec 2005 issue of ;login: , the USENIX magazine (USENIX membership required, but you can also go straight to the author's website for an older presentation. One of the interesting ideas was to protect a laptop connected through a USB-attached wifi device; the USB device can be controlled by the virtual firewall guest and made invisible to the laptop host OS.
posted by jtroyer at: 16:36 | | | permanent link
Thu, 08 Dec 2005
Leveraging virtual machines for business continuity
Jason Buffington of NSI Software gives a nice overview of the value of virtualization in your business continuity strategy. It's focused on data replication, which while not the entire story of business continuity, is one of the most important chapters.
There is a white paper on VMTN that has more information on using NSI Double-Take with ESX Server.
posted by jtroyer at: 18:24 | | | permanent link
Keychain PCs: VMware vs FingerGear vs BlackDog
Mike Levin is looking to be Linux-enabled any time, any place, and is looking at his PC-on-a-keychain options. He looks at VMware Player, FingerGear's Bio Computer-On-a-Stick, and the Black Dog Mobile Personal Server.
So in the end, there appear to be 3 PC-on-a-keychain approaches. Two of them involve virtualization, and one uses "projection". Of the two virtualized approaches, one needs the host OS to be running, requires a free install, and gobbles up generally twice the resources, but is highly mature. The other requires taking over the host PC before the installed OS ever has a chance to boot, but doesn't appear as mature, and perhaps requires a deeper understanding of Linux to be productive. The non-virtualized approach may be the most promising in the long-term, because it operates almost independently of the host PC, but appears to be the least mature of all, and runs on a PowerPC processor. I think I'll be choosing the first (VMWare) option, because I'll be controlling the PC environments I use it on, and doing the free VM player install won't be an issue. And RAM is cheap, so I'll install plenty if that becomes an issue. And the clincher is that I'll be able to clone off and share my work with others relatively easily.
posted by jtroyer at: 18:14 | | | permanent link
Wed, 07 Dec 2005
Gibbs on Virtualization
Mark Gibbs of Network World has been touching on virtualization lately in his "Gearhead" column.
His December 5 column is entitled "The insanely cool VMware Player," a title I can endorse wholeheartedly. He goes over the basics of VMware Player, so if you haven't downloaded it yet, do go give him a read. I do have a few clarifications on this column:
In his November 28 column, he covers several books, including this one on virtualization:
posted by jtroyer at: 18:53 | | | permanent link
Fri, 02 Dec 2005
Links of interest this week:
What if I move my desktop inside a virtual machine? How much will this cost? What do I gain? What do I lose?
Pop open the hood and get your hands dirty inside your .vmx files: Supersizing Virtual SCSI Drives:
I've heard that it's possible to add more virtual SCSI disks to VMware Workstation 5.0 virtual machines by editing the VM's configuration file. For various classes that I teach, I like performing demonstrations of how to setup software RAID, but would like to assign more than seven virtual SCSI disks to a VM, which is the limitation through the GUI. Is this possible?
VMware vs Virtual PC. He likes VMware Workstation's performance, Ctl-Alt keyboard release shortcut, USB support, and conversion of Virtual PC images. He does like Virtual PC's keyboard shortcuts and focus-handling better.
posted by jtroyer at: 16:44 | | | permanent link