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CPU Virtualization

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April 10, 2012 5:58:23 AM

Best CPU for Virtualization.
(VMWARE Workstation/Player)

I need to run 4-6 Win XP's with GFX 3d-acceleration enabled.
((They each run a game or directx program to test on different config settings so need adequate speeds))

So far I have 3 boxes.
[Win7x64 , i7 x4 3.3ghz (Sandy), 16gb ram, 2 harddrives (3 VM's each)]

I am rethinking my build for when trinity and ivy bridge come out.

>Trinity = GREAT GPU (No need for extra video card)
>Ivy Bridge = Good CPU + Low Power + Okay GPU

I am running these in a home server environment, doing a micro-mini atx build. Aiming to get around 10 of them.


Any Ideas?

More about : cpu virtualization

a c 186 à CPUs
April 10, 2012 7:29:34 AM

Ivybridge, or the newer 8 core sandybridge xeons...
a c 188 à CPUs
April 10, 2012 7:52:50 AM

I advise against testing 3D applications in a virtual machine. These setups are still experimental and only old versions of DirectX are support (still 9.0c last I checked)
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April 10, 2012 8:36:20 AM

Experimental is right. There are 2 way to do it, both of them with YMMV comment:
1. 3D translation done by VM driver - I actually don't think there is something "production-ready".
2. VT-d/IOMMU - Once you make it work, it's acceptable. This is what I'm using on my game machine. But you need a 2nd GPU.

I'll talk about the 2nd option, since that is what I'm using for gaming:
- Don't know about windows host possibility. I'm using Linux
- Virtualbox: no-go (nov 2011), Xen: working, VMWare: never tried.
- CPU: must support VT-d. AMD: don't know. Intel: i5 or i7, non-K (this is very important).
- Motherboard: my Z68 seems to not support it (according to Intel), but it works for me. MB was chosen after seeing it in a list of VMWare ESX (??? not sure, but it was VMWare???) successes with storage controller virtualization.

Major issues:
- IRQ sharing. Vista and Windows 7 (on guest side) support MSI and MSI-X, which is a great addition toward VT-d support. I never managed to make XP work.
- timing: I saw that all sound cards (onboard, XFi and USB soundcard) seem to miss some critical timings: there are minor pops/cracks, sometimes leading to complete sound freezing. VM by itself still works, but a VM restart is required for sound to work. I think this is still related to IRQs.
- Not all GPU's will work. My AMD HD5850 works as a secondary card in guest, primary being the virtual GPU. Tried a GTX260 with same configuration: no-go. Using them as simgle cards in OS needs hacking the VM BIOS to combine the VGA part (...again: Xen)

So if you really want to do it, be ready for dissapointment. Especially with a closed-source hypervisor.
April 10, 2012 3:41:25 PM

mathew7 said:
Experimental is right. There are 2 way to do it, both of them with YMMV comment:
1. 3D translation done by VM driver - I actually don't think there is something "production-ready".
2. VT-d/IOMMU - Once you make it work, it's acceptable. This is what I'm using on my game machine. But you need a 2nd GPU.

I'll talk about the 2nd option, since that is what I'm using for gaming:
- Don't know about windows host possibility. I'm using Linux
- Virtualbox: no-go (nov 2011), Xen: working, VMWare: never tried.
- CPU: must support VT-d. AMD: don't know. Intel: i5 or i7, non-K (this is very important).
- Motherboard: my Z68 seems to not support it (according to Intel), but it works for me. MB was chosen after seeing it in a list of VMWare ESX (??? not sure, but it was VMWare???) successes with storage controller virtualization.

Major issues:
- IRQ sharing. Vista and Windows 7 (on guest side) support MSI and MSI-X, which is a great addition toward VT-d support. I never managed to make XP work.
- timing: I saw that all sound cards (onboard, XFi and USB soundcard) seem to miss some critical timings: there are minor pops/cracks, sometimes leading to complete sound freezing. VM by itself still works, but a VM restart is required for sound to work. I think this is still related to IRQs.
- Not all GPU's will work. My AMD HD5850 works as a secondary card in guest, primary being the virtual GPU. Tried a GTX260 with same configuration: no-go. Using them as simgle cards in OS needs hacking the VM BIOS to combine the VGA part (...again: Xen)

So if you really want to do it, be ready for dissapointment. Especially with a closed-source hypervisor.


Ok, so am I right to assume your setup only allows 1 vm per 1 real gfx card no? Or is there some sharing involved done by Xen between the 4-6 VM's.

All apps are directx9, so that's not a real issue. However, if your idea is applicable to multiple vm's at once I am willing to give it a shot. I've tried a similar thing with 3d-accel in Vmware Linux using my AMD 6900 but found performance on a linux host subpar10fps vs 22fps windows.
!