TCO and ROI have been abused repeatedly by sales representatives, in the hope of getting you to swallow the sometimes outrageously high pricing on their quotation for a trendy new technology. However, server virtualization is one of the few ICT technologies that really lives up to its hype. The cost savings are real and the TCO is great, as long as you obey a few basic rules like not installing bloatware or extremely large memory limited databases. There is more.

Server consolidation is superb for the IT professional who is also a hardware enthusiast (and thus reads ?). Hardware purchases used to be motivated by the fact that the equipment was written off or because the maintenance contract was at the end of its life. Can you even think of a more boring reason to buy new hardware? The timeframe between the beginning of the 21st century and the start of commercially viable virtualization solutions was the timeframe where the bean counters ruled the datacenter. Few people were interested in hearing how much faster the newest servers were, as in most cases the extra processing power would go to waste 95% of the time anyway.

Now with virtualization, we hardware nerds are back with a vengeance. Every drop of performance you wring out of your servers translates into potentially higher consolidation ratios (more VMs per physical machine) or better response time per VM. More VMs per machine means immediate short- and long-term cost savings, and better performance per VM means happier users. Yes, performance matters once again and system administrators are seen as key persons, vital to accomplishing the business goals. But how do you know what hardware you should buy for virtualization? There are only two consolidation benchmarks out there: Intel's vConsolidate and VMware's VMmark. Both are cumbersome to set up and both are based on industry benchmarks (SPECJbb2005) that are only somewhat or even hardly representative of real-world applications. The result is that VMmark, despite the fact that it is a valuable benchmark, has turned into yet another OEM benchmark(et)ing tool. The only goal of the OEMs seems to be to produce scores as high as possible; that is understandable from their point of view, but not very useful for the IT professional. Without an analysis of where the extra performance comes from, the scores give a quick first impression but nothing more.

Yes, this article is long overdue, but the Sizing Servers Lab proudly presents the AnandTech readers with our newest virtualization benchmark, vApus Mark I, which uses real-world applications in a Windows Server Consolidation scenario. Our goal is certainly not to replace nor to discredit VMmark, but rather to give you another data point -- an independent second opinion based on solid benchmarking. Combining our own testing with what we find on the VMmark page, we will be able to understand the virtualization performance landscape a bit better. Before we dive into the results, let's discuss the reasoning behind some of the choices we made.

The Virtualization Benchmarking Chaos
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  • GotDiesel - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    "Yes, this article is long overdue, but the Sizing Server Lab proudly presents the AnandTech readers with our newest virtualization benchmark, vApus Mark I, which uses real-world applications in a Windows Server Consolidation scenario."

    spoken with a mouth full of microsoft cock

    where are the Linux reviews ?

    not all of us VM with windows you know..

  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    A minimum form of politeness would be appreciated, but I am going to assume your were just dissapointed.

    The problem is that right now the calling circle benchmark runs half as fast on Linux as it does on Windows. What is causing Oracle to run slower on Linux than on Windows is a mystery even to some of the experienced DBA we have spoken. We either have to replace that benchmark with an alternative (probably Sysbench) or find out what exactly happened.

    When you construct a virtualized benchmark it is not enough just to throw in a few benchmarks and VMs, you really have to understand the benchmark thoroughly. There are enough halfbaken benchmarks already on the internet that look like a Swiss cheese because there are so many holes in the methodology.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    Page 4: vApus Mark I: the choices we made

    "vApus mark I uses only Windows Guest OS VMs, but we are also preparing a mixed Linux and Windows scenario."

    Building tests, verifying tests, running them on all the servers takes a lot of time. That's why the 2-tile and 3-tile results are not yet ready. I suppose Linux will have to wait for Mark II (or Mark I.1).
  • mino - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    What you did so far is great. No more words needed.

    What I would like to see is vApus Mark I "small" where you make the tiles smaller, about 1/3 to 1/4 of your current tiles.
    Tile structure shall remain simmilar for simplicity, they will just be smaller.

    When you manage to have 2 different tile sizes, you shall be able to consider 1 big + 1 small tile as one "condensed" tile for general score.

    Having 2 reference points will allow for evaluating "VM size scaling" situations.
  • JohanAnandtech - Sunday, May 24, 2009 - link

    Can you elaborate a bit? What do you menan by "1/3 of my current tile?" . A tile = 4 VMs. are you talking about small mem footprint or number of VCPUs?

    Are you saying we should test with a Tile with small VMs and then test afterwards with the large ones? How do you see such "VM scaling" evaluation?
  • mino - Monday, May 25, 2009 - link

    Thanks for response.

    1/3 I mean smaller VM's. Mostly from the load POW. Probably 1/3 load would go for 1/2 memory footprint.

    The point being that currently the is only a single datapont with a specific load-size per tile/per VM.

    By "VM scaling" I would like to see what effect woul smaller loads have on overal performance.

    I suggest 1/3 or 1/4 the load to get a measurable difference while remaining within reasonable memory/VM scale.

    In the end, if you get simmilar overal performance from 1/4 tiles, it may not make sense to include this in future.
    Even then the information that your benchmark results can be safely extrapolated to smaller loads would be of a great value by itself.
  • mino - Monday, May 25, 2009 - link

    Eh, that last text of mime looks like a nice gibberish...
    Clarification nneded:

    To be able to run more tiles/box smaller memory footprint is a must.
    With smaller mem footprint, smaller DB's are a must.

    The end results may not be directly comparable but shall be able to give some reference point, corectly interpreted

    Please let me know if this makes sense to you.
    There are multiple dimensions to this. I may be easily on the imaginery branch :)
  • ibb27 - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    Can we have a chance to see benchmarks for Sun Virtualbox which is Opensource?
  • winterspan - Tuesday, May 26, 2009 - link

    This test is misleading because you are not using the latest version of VMware that supports Intel's EPT. Since AMD's version of this is supported in the older version, the test is not at all a fair representation of their respective performance.
  • Zstream - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    Can someone please perform a Win2008 RC2 Terminal Server benchmark? I have been looking everywhere and no one can provide that.

    If I can take this benchmark and tell my boss this is how the servers will perform in a TS environment please let me know.

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