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Virtualization PC ~$1400

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June 30, 2012 4:42:26 AM

Hi Everyone,

After a 4-year hiatus from the IT industry, I'm hoping to get back into it.

I want to build a solid workstation to use as a virtualization platform, which I will use to set up a virtualized training lab and refresh my skills. I hope I could run at least 8 VMs on this system. None should take up a lot of CPU generally.

I have never built my own computer before, and am looking forward to doing so this time. But please be on the lookout for first-time builder errors.

My thought process that went into designing this system:
1. I need a lot of CPU horsepower, thus, i7 3770. But if the 3570 would do the trick, it'd save me some money.
2. I need virtualization features, thus i7 3770 instead of 3770k which lacks some, like VT-d.
3. I need lots of RAM. Starting with 16 GB to save money, but want the option to go to 32 GB later.
4. I need lots of storage space in a redundant and reasonably fast array, so that I don't lose data if a drive fails. Thus, 3 x 2 TB in RAID 5 for 4 TB usable. Plan to use the Intel RAID on the motherboard; not the best, but the least expensive.
5. I want to build a high quality system that will last a few years, but I can't afford top of the line for everything. So I searched for a good motherboard, a good case, a good power supply, etc. Not the best of each, but hopefully quality stuff.


Questions:
Could I save money by downgrading some options, and still have a viable system? For instance, could I get by with 3 x 1 TB (so 2 TB usable) drives? Would a Core i5 3570 work out instead of the i7 3770? I'm not sure how much hyperthreading gets you when you're running VMs.

The Seagate drives I've chosen seem to have a high failure rate, from what people write online. But they are the cheapest 2 TB drives out there, and fast ones too, and this is an expensive machine already. Would I be better off with 1 TB drives from another manufacturer?

What sorts of virtualization platforms would you recommend? I will run both Windows and Linux VMs. I plan to purchase Microsoft TechNet to have licensed training VMs, and could use the Windows 2008 hypervisor. I used to work with VMWare ESX; would ESXi run (unsupported of course) on a platform like this? Anything else out there that might be good to look at?

Does the type of memory I use matter very much for performance? There are a lot more kinds of memory, with many more specs, than when I last was into this sort of thing. I could get RAM that costs twice as much as what I've spec'd, but am not sure what the payoff would be?

For the power supply, I had no idea how to size the power supply. Is 650W a good size? Too much? Too little?

For the CPU fan -- as I mentioned, I've never built my own PC before -- does the CPU come with a stock fan that would be good enough, or do I have to buy a fan?


Thanks for taking the time! Any thoughts and suggestions are most appreciated!


Approximate Purchase Date: This week

Budget Range: Less than $1400. Lower cost is good, but needs to do the job well.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Virtualization for training purposes

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg.com

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: Open to anything

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Additional Comments:


Specifications
PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/b6vv

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper TX3 54.8 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler
Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-V ATX LGA1155 Motherboard
Memory: Corsair XMS3 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
Video Card: Asus Radeon HD 5450 512MB Video Card
Case: Cooler Master CM 690 II (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case
Power Supply: Cooler Master 650W ATX12V Power Supply
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer
Monitor: Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" Monitor
Keyboard: Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 Wireless Standard Keyboard w/Optical Mouse

More about : virtualization 1400

June 30, 2012 5:04:40 AM

general rule of thumb is one cpu core per VM

Hyperthreading is not going to give you the resources you need so your consumer choices are the AMD FX 8120 or 8150

stock fans are always good enough
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Best solution

June 30, 2012 5:42:16 AM

As a heavy VMWare user I'll give you a few words of advice.

1. You may want to consider going with an X79 platform. Not only do they all have VTd (C1 stepping processors have it disabled due to a bug, but these processors have long since left the shelves) but the extra cores, cache and memory bandwidth are great for virtual machines. Going with X79 adds a few hundred bucks but it will pay off in the long run. There's more than enough horsepower there to use it as a multipurpose machine. VTx works by creating a process for each virtual CPU. The VMM traps any privileged instructions executed within this thread context and handles them safely. Thus, there can exist some thread lag because the guest isn't aware that it doesn't have access to 100% of the physical CPU time.

2. If you use VMWare Workstation or ESX you can actually expose the virtualization extensions to the virtual machines themselves (not enabled by default). This allows you to install a VMM or Hypervisor within a guest OS for easier training and experimentation. VMWare Workstation is hands down the best Desktop virtualization software around and is what I would run on the host. It is a Type-2 virtualization platform, whereas Microsoft Hyper-V and ESX are Type-1 virtualization platforms (more explanation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypervisor). The end result is that under Type 1 platforms every OS on the system is virtualized including the host OS; even when there are no virtual machines running . This has a noticeable performance impact on real time applications which means that Type-1 platforms are not recommended for workstations; Type-2 platforms do not have this problem.

3. The type of memory that you're using doesn't really matter. Just make sure that it's a matched set and from a decent manufacturer. Some VMMs will allow you to overcommit memory but this is largely experimental and never a good idea when mixing different operating systems. An OS which is not guest aware may throw a fit and crash. Most VMMs will not allow it so if you want to run 8VMs you should aim for 32GB of memory. 16 Might work but you'll be cutting some short.

4. Seagate drives do have a high failure rate. That's what happens when you try to manufacture hard drives underwater. Go with Western Digital instead.

5. You can overcommit VM storage space. By default most VMMs expand the virtual disks dynamically which means that only used space will used, regardless of how much space is actually allocated to the guest. Overcommitting can cause errors on the guest if you run out of physical disk space but it's a lot less fatal than running out of memory. 6TB of storage space may not be necessary.
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June 30, 2012 6:36:16 AM

Pinhedd,

Thank you for all the good info!

I priced out an X79 system, which I'll paste below.

It has a 3820 CPU. Even with that, it's pushed past my budget, so a 3930 isn't feasible. But an X79 board with a 3820 I might be able to get.

Do you think the 3820 offers enough advantage over the 3770 to make the switch? It still has the better memory bandwidth and so on.

Thank you for the tip on VMWare Workstation. That's amazing that you can run a hypervisor in a VM with it. That alone makes it a great choice.

Thanks again!

Tom

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7-3820 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ($299.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus P9X79 ATX LGA2011 Motherboard ($259.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Mushkin Essentials 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1333 Memory ($189.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Asus Radeon HD 6570 1GB Video Card ($61.97 @ Newegg)
Case: Cooler Master CM 690 II (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Cooler Master 750W ATX12V Power Supply ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($21.98 @ Newegg)
Monitor: Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" Monitor ($109.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (64-bit) ($139.99 @ Newegg)
Keyboard: Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 Wireless Standard Keyboard w/Optical Mouse ($28.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $1632.84
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
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June 30, 2012 6:42:00 AM

TomBegins2012 said:
Pinhedd,

Thank you for all the good info!

I priced out an X79 system, which I'll paste below.

It has a 3820 CPU. Even with that, it's pushed past my budget, so a 3930 isn't feasible. But an X79 board with a 3820 I might be able to get.

Do you think the 3820 offers enough advantage over the 3770 to make the switch? It still has the better memory bandwidth and so on.

Thank you for the tip on VMWare Workstation. That's amazing that you can run a hypervisor in a VM with it. That alone makes it a great choice.

Thanks again!

Tom

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7-3820 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ($299.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus P9X79 ATX LGA2011 Motherboard ($259.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Mushkin Essentials 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1333 Memory ($189.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Asus Radeon HD 6570 1GB Video Card ($61.97 @ Newegg)
Case: Cooler Master CM 690 II (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Cooler Master 750W ATX12V Power Supply ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($21.98 @ Newegg)
Monitor: Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" Monitor ($109.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (64-bit) ($139.99 @ Newegg)
Keyboard: Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 Wireless Standard Keyboard w/Optical Mouse ($28.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $1632.84
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)


I don't think that the 3820 is worth it. The extra cache and memory bandwidth is nice but not nice enough to justify the extra cost. If you can't get a 3930k just go with a 3770

Quick edit: If you don't need 6TB of hard drive space right now I would consider dropping two of the hard drives. You can always add more in later on when the prices come down a bit more. You can't do the same with a processor.
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June 30, 2012 7:31:21 AM

Pinhedd said:
I don't think that the 3820 is worth it. The extra cache and memory bandwidth is nice but not nice enough to justify the extra cost. If you can't get a 3930k just go with a 3770

Quick edit: If you don't need 6TB of hard drive space right now I would consider dropping two of the hard drives. You can always add more in later on when the prices come down a bit more. You can't do the same with a processor.



It turns out I was not comparing apples to apples. Once I equalized the configurations, allowing some minor but necessary differences, the two systems end up only $35 apart. These systems have 32 GB each.

Your idea of trading hard drives for CPU is an interesting one. If I drop two hard drives, I can get a 3930K. But I checked the specifications on the 3930, and it does not support VT-d (it does support VT-x, of course). Since I'd like this system to last a few years, does that figure into it? Which is to say, are the two extra cores worth more than whatever virtualization software can do with VT-d? (And of course I have to weigh the trade-off on the two hard drives...)

So my choices are....
3770, 32 GB RAM, 3 x 2 TB hard drives, $1560.
3820, 32 GB RAM, 3 x 2 TB hard drives, $1595.
3930, 32 GB RAM, 1 x 2 TB hard drive, $1605.

Thanks again! This is been a very valuable thread.

Tom



Virtualization PC: 3770
PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($319.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-V ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($194.98 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($179.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Gigabyte Radeon HD 6450 1GB Video Card ($19.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Cooler Master CM 690 II (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($104.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Cooler Master 650W ATX12V Power Supply ($49.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($21.98 @ Newegg)
Monitor: Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" Monitor ($109.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (64-bit) ($139.99 @ Newegg)
Keyboard: Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 Wireless Standard Keyboard w/Optical Mouse ($28.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $1560.84



Virtualization PC: 3820

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7-3820 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ($299.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus P9X79 ATX LGA2011 Motherboard ($259.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($179.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Gigabyte Radeon HD 6450 1GB Video Card ($19.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Cooler Master CM 690 II (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Cooler Master 750W ATX12V Power Supply ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($21.98 @ Newegg)
Monitor: Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" Monitor ($109.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (64-bit) ($139.99 @ Newegg)
Keyboard: Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 Wireless Standard Keyboard w/Optical Mouse ($28.99 @ Newegg)
Other: WiFi Card - $15
Total: $1595.86


Virtualization PC: 3930K
PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7-3930K 3.2GHz 6-Core Processor ($569.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus P9X79 ATX LGA2011 Motherboard ($259.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($179.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Gigabyte Radeon HD 6450 1GB Video Card ($19.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Cooler Master CM 690 II (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Cooler Master 750W ATX12V Power Supply ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($21.98 @ Newegg)
Monitor: Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" Monitor ($109.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (64-bit) ($139.99 @ Newegg)
Keyboard: Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 Wireless Standard Keyboard w/Optical Mouse ($28.99 @ Newegg)
Other: WiFi Card - $15
Total: $1605.88
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)

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June 30, 2012 8:56:15 AM

TomBegins2012 said:
amuffin,

I do trust you. :hello:  Thank you for the recommendation. Out of curiosity, what makes this power supply the better choice? Is the wattage more appropriate? The connectors?

Thanks!
Tom

Seasonic is one of the most reliable brands and regarded as one of the best power supply makers. If you look at johnny guru's review of the cooler master power supply it scores a 7.
http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=...
The seasonic one scores a 9.7
http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=...


Even if the cooler master PSU was good, 750W would be way too much. In reality, your system will only be drawing roughly 300W on full load. a 520W would be more suited to your needs.
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June 30, 2012 1:55:01 PM

If you're wanting to show Virtualization then don't show it half baked, I would do this using a Xeon and depending on the memory requirements RDIMM and with a RAID Card for any parity RAID.

Currently, on Workstation (Server) grade components you're going to add +$300 or more. 8 VM's x 4GB = 32GB min. From the parts above keep the DVD & Monitor. What you're posted will be a disaster.

Before I take my time, do you want this done right (I'll help) or cheap (I'll watch)?
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June 30, 2012 2:52:21 PM

TomBegins2012 said:
It turns out I was not comparing apples to apples. Once I equalized the configurations, allowing some minor but necessary differences, the two systems end up only $35 apart. These systems have 32 GB each.

Your idea of trading hard drives for CPU is an interesting one. If I drop two hard drives, I can get a 3930K. But I checked the specifications on the 3930, and it does not support VT-d (it does support VT-x, of course). Since I'd like this system to last a few years, does that figure into it? Which is to say, are the two extra cores worth more than whatever virtualization software can do with VT-d? (And of course I have to weigh the trade-off on the two hard drives...)

So my choices are....
3770, 32 GB RAM, 3 x 2 TB hard drives, $1560.
3820, 32 GB RAM, 3 x 2 TB hard drives, $1595.
3930, 32 GB RAM, 1 x 2 TB hard drive, $1605.

Thanks again! This is been a very valuable thread.

Tom



Virtualization PC: 3770
PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($319.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-V ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($194.98 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($179.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Gigabyte Radeon HD 6450 1GB Video Card ($19.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Cooler Master CM 690 II (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($104.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Cooler Master 650W ATX12V Power Supply ($49.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($21.98 @ Newegg)
Monitor: Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" Monitor ($109.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (64-bit) ($139.99 @ Newegg)
Keyboard: Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 Wireless Standard Keyboard w/Optical Mouse ($28.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $1560.84



Virtualization PC: 3820

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7-3820 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ($299.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus P9X79 ATX LGA2011 Motherboard ($259.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($179.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Gigabyte Radeon HD 6450 1GB Video Card ($19.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Cooler Master CM 690 II (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Cooler Master 750W ATX12V Power Supply ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($21.98 @ Newegg)
Monitor: Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" Monitor ($109.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (64-bit) ($139.99 @ Newegg)
Keyboard: Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 Wireless Standard Keyboard w/Optical Mouse ($28.99 @ Newegg)
Other: WiFi Card - $15
Total: $1595.86


Virtualization PC: 3930K
PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i7-3930K 3.2GHz 6-Core Processor ($569.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus P9X79 ATX LGA2011 Motherboard ($259.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($179.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($129.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: Gigabyte Radeon HD 6450 1GB Video Card ($19.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Cooler Master CM 690 II (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Cooler Master 750W ATX12V Power Supply ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($21.98 @ Newegg)
Monitor: Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" Monitor ($109.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (64-bit) ($139.99 @ Newegg)
Keyboard: Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 Wireless Standard Keyboard w/Optical Mouse ($28.99 @ Newegg)
Other: WiFi Card - $15
Total: $1605.88
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)


The 3930k does support VTd but only on the newer C2 stepping models and beyond. It was intended to be included in all models but a bug rendered it useless in the C1 models and it had to be disabled via firmware. It is not enabled by default and needs to be turned on in the system setup for C2 models.
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June 30, 2012 3:16:33 PM

Pinhedd said:
The 3930k does support VTd but only on the newer C2 stepping models and beyond. It was intended to be included in all models but a bug rendered it useless in the C1 models and it had to be disabled via firmware. It is not enabled by default and needs to be turned on in the system setup for C2 models.



Oh yes, you mentioned that, and I forgot. Thank you for patiently repeating yourself! :) 

Okay.... I'll ponder the 3820 with three hard drives vs the 3930 with one for a bit. Also will see if Jaquith can suggest an affordable Xeon config. Hope to order on Monday, in any case, will let you know.

Thank you again for your help!
Tom
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June 30, 2012 3:21:58 PM

jaquith said:
If you're wanting to show Virtualization then don't show it half baked, I would do this using a Xeon and depending on the memory requirements RDIMM and with a RAID Card for any parity RAID.

Currently, on Workstation (Server) grade components you're going to add +$300 or more. 8 VM's x 4GB = 32GB min. From the parts above keep the DVD & Monitor. What you're posted will be a disaster.

Before I take my time, do you want this done right (I'll help) or cheap (I'll watch)?



Jaquith,

I appreciate your thoughts. Given my purposes and that I am on a budget, I don't know that a server system is feasible or necessary, but am happy to consider any viable option.

I need to build a small training lab to catch back up on the last few years so I can look for an IT job. Except for the IO subsystem, the workstation specs quite possibly are more powerful than the HP quad-CPU (single core) AMD Opteron systems that I used to manage running ESX 3 and 10+ VMs each. These were production systems supporting over 100 users, running domain controllers, exchange, file services, SMTP/security, ISA/security, etc. For my current purposes, I need to get things to boot up and talk to each other so I can install, configure, explore, learn about the software. I won't be crunching any massive databases or running e-mail for 100 people.

That said, I'd be interested in comparing features and pricing if you wanted to propose a configuration. I've been poking around and learning that building your own server is a different ballgame, if only because it's hard to find the parts. After figuring the E5-2420 is probably the best processor choice, I located a number of main boards but can't find anyone who sells them.

So, I'd be interested if you're up for putting something together. But I wouldn't want you to spend your time (unless you like teaching -- because I like learning!) if it would be much more expensive than what is already here, because I really can't afford much more than this; I was hoping for $1400 but $1600 is really my max.

Thanks,
Tom
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June 30, 2012 3:25:11 PM

amuffin said:
Seasonic is one of the most reliable brands and regarded as one of the best power supply makers. If you look at johnny guru's review of the cooler master power supply it scores a 7.
http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=...
The seasonic one scores a 9.7
http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=...


Even if the cooler master PSU was good, 750W would be way too much. In reality, your system will only be drawing roughly 300W on full load. a 520W would be more suited to your needs.


That's great information to have. Thank you!
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June 30, 2012 5:01:58 PM

First, you're comparing an single CPU solution to a MP (2P) solution. So unless you're suddenly increasing your budget it won't work.

Month delay:
$350 X9DBL-3-O (special order) - http://www.provantage.com/supermicro-mbd-x9dbl-3~ASUPM3...
$356 X9DAL-3-O (special order) - http://www.provantage.com/supermicro-mbd-x9dal-3~ASUPM3...
$800 Dual E5-2420 - http://www.provantage.com/intel-bx80621e52420~AITEP3NX....

Super Micro's line - http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherboard/Xeon1333...

Now:
What I had in mind was an LGA 2011 and E5-2600 series e.g. E5-2620 and a Super Micro LGA 2011 MOBO - http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherboard/Xeon3000... and 4x8GB e.g. M393B1K70DH0-CH9, etc..
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June 30, 2012 7:25:50 PM

Pinhedd said:
The 3930k does support VTd but only on the newer C2 stepping models and beyond. It was intended to be included in all models but a bug rendered it useless in the C1 models and it had to be disabled via firmware. It is not enabled by default and needs to be turned on in the system setup for C2 models.


I'm so glad I read the New Builds section of the Toms Hardware forums! You never know what you might learn.

I upgraded my home desktop to an X79 build two weeks ago with the purpose of having the ability to play with virtualization technology and the added processing power to really boost video encoding power and Photoshop performance. I spent the money to get the i7-3930K, and I have been blown away by how amazing this CPU is. I just checked, and CPU-Z reports that I do indeed have the C2 stepping model, so I'll have to dig around in the setup and enable VT-d.

I highly recommend that you spend your money on the 3930K. I had to start with some memory that was cheap in order to afford the CPU and motherboard I wanted and have a system that boots, but I'll be able to save some money and purchase high-quality RAM later. You should be able to start with a single 2TB drive and have a working system on which to begin learning, and you can always put back extra money to improve any areas that become bottlenecks later.
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June 30, 2012 10:58:34 PM

N0BOX said:
I highly recommend that you spend your money on the 3930K. I had to start with some memory that was cheap in order to afford the CPU and motherboard I wanted and have a system that boots, but I'll be able to save some money and purchase high-quality RAM later. You should be able to start with a single 2TB drive and have a working system on which to begin learning, and you can always put back extra money to improve any areas that become bottlenecks later.


NOBOX, you almost have me sold on the 3930K. After reading your post I was doing some searches for people writing about using the 3930K for virtualization, and some of what came up was other people proposing an interesting AMD Opteron solution. I'd like to see if anyone has any thoughts on the idea below vs. the 3990K.

It is mostly the the same system configuration except the MB and CPU. I could get an Asus KCMA-D8 motherboard and an AMD Opteron 4238 6-core, two 2TB hard drives, 32 GB RAM, and still be within my budget.

The thing is..... the KCMA-D8 is a dual socket motherboard, so I can add another 4238 chip later and end up with 12 cores.

The processors themselves can't touch the 3930K for performance: benchmark web sites show that dual 4238s are slower than a single 3930K. What I'm wondering is if 12 physical cores might be better for virtualization even if they're slower in aggregate, compared to the 3930K's 6 physical cores. I guess that's the crux of the question: are 12 slower, non-hyperthreaded cores better than 6 faster, hyperthreaded ones?

The big downside is that I could only afford a single 4238 to start, and that is MUCH slower than a 3930K.

I suspect the 3930K is a better solution, but wanted to see if anyone had any particular insights. Any thoughts much appreciated!

Thank you,
Tom


AMD Opteron 4238 (6 cores) $280
ASUS KCMA-D8 Dual Socket C32 Motherboard $300
Dynatron F580 CPU Cooler for AMD Socket C32 $ 27
Corsair 16GB (4 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory $ 90
Corsair 16GB (4 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory $ 90
Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM $130
Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM $130
Gigabyte Radeon HD 6450 1GB $ 47
Cooler Master CM 690 II (Black) ATX Mid Tower $ 60
Power Supply SeaSonic 520W ATX12V / EPS12V $ 70
Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer $ 22
Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" $110
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 (64-bit) $137
Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 w/Optical Mouse $ 27
WiFi Card $ 15

Total: $1535

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July 8, 2012 10:39:20 PM

Hi Everyone,

I apologize for taking so long to let you know what I decided. I thought hard about what to do. It was tough because without actually having a system there was no way to gauge what I needed, and as I'm cost-sensitive I didn't want to shell out for the highest possible configuration if I didn't need it.

I talked to someone I know who works with VMs, and also did some research online. Both my acquaintance and my online research suggested that anything I got would be more than enough for my needs. The main thing was to get plenty of RAM. For low CPU utilization VMs, it is possible to run as many as 8, and certainly at least 4, VMs per core, so RAM is more the limiting factor.

I decided that I did not need a separate video card if I went with Ivy Bridge, plus the Asus P8Z77-V has integrated WiFi. Since this will be a dedicated training machine, I also realized I could use an OS from TechNet and not buy Win7 Pro. Great cost savings all 'round.

So, I decided to go with the "low end" system (i7-3770). I almost changed my mind after I ordered everything, but stuck with it.

It's all built -- my first self-built PC! Not too hard. I am glad I saw a video that warned me about the noise that you hear when you lock the CPU in place -- that is a horrible sound to hear, and if I had not been warned I would have thought I'd broken the motherboard.

I've got my TechNet subscription all set up and have installed Windows Server 2008 R2 on the system. Getting the drivers installed was a bit tricky but all done.

Thanks to Pinhedd mentioning VMWare Workstation's VT-x support and the ability to run VMWare ESX inside a VM (and also, I've learned, Hyper-V). I plan to get VMWare workstation for most of my VM work. But I installed Server 2008 so that I can become familiar with Hyper-V, since all my background is with ESX. I chose Server 2008 instead of the 2012 release candidate since I figure 2012 won't be used in many business for some time yet.

I'll post the detailed configuration below, but basically I ended up with an Asus P8Z77-V motherboard running an Intel Core i7-3770 (NOT a 3770K which lacks virtualization support), 32 GB of RAM, a Crucial M4 64 GB SSD for boot OS and a Hitachi Deskstar 2 TB 7200 drive for running the VMs.

I am truly grateful for all the advice and help I received here, it was very helpful and I learned a lot. Assuming the thread stays open a bit, I'll try to post back in another week or so and update how performance is and how many VMs I can run happily at once.

Thank you all very much!

Sincerely,
Tom


Configuration as built
Total Cost: $1201.76

Component Description Cost
CPU: Intel Core i7-3770 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor $316.99
Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-V ATX LGA1155 Motherboard $189.99
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory $179.99
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive $129.99
Hard Drive: Crucial M4 64 GB SSD $76.99
Case: Rosewill Challenger U3 $59.99
Power Supply: SeaSonic 520W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply $59.99
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer $18.99
Monitor: Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" Monitor $109.99
Keyboard: Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 $28.99
Speakers: Logitech S-120 Speakers $15.99
Shipping: Shipping and Handling $13.87


Comparable machine with Core i7-3930K
Total cost: $1611.29 ($409.53 more than what I purchased)
(The same system as below but with an i7-3820 would cost $1341.29.)

CPU: Intel Core i7-3930k $569.99
Motherboard: Asus P8X79 Motherboard $259.99
Fan: Intel RTS 2011 AC Fan $28.55
WiFi Card: ASUS PCE-N10 Wireless Adapter IEEE 802.11b/g/n $22.99
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 5450 1 GB $34.99
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory $179.99
Hard Drive: Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive $129.99
Hard Drive: Crucial M4 64 GB SSD $76.99
Case: Rosewill Challenger U3 $59.99
Power Supply: SeaSonic 520W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply $59.99
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer $18.99
Monitor: Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" Monitor $109.99
Keyboard: Logitech Wireless Combo MK260 $28.99
Speakers: Logitech S-120 Speakers $15.99
Shipping: Shipping and Handling $13.87
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July 8, 2012 10:42:48 PM

Best answer selected by TomBegins2012.
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August 3, 2012 4:27:17 AM

TomBegins2012 said:
Assuming the thread stays open a bit, I'll try to post back in another week or so and update how performance is and how many VMs I can run happily at once.


Tom,

I'm looking at setting up a system that can run 18 VMs simultaneously so I'm definately interested in the max number of VMs you are able to accomodate with your system. If I were to guess I would say that your RAM and SSD size will be the limiting factors. How's it working out for you? Are you using the linked clones feature to save disk space?

Robert
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August 11, 2012 1:34:12 AM

rsprim said:
Tom,

I'm looking at setting up a system that can run 18 VMs simultaneously so I'm definately interested in the max number of VMs you are able to accomodate with your system. If I were to guess I would say that your RAM and SSD size will be the limiting factors. How's it working out for you? Are you using the linked clones feature to save disk space?

Robert


Robert, et. al,

Sorry for not following up!

This system has worked out very well.

I only use the SSD for the boot operating system, which is lightning fast. I use the 2 TB Hitachi drive for the VMs. I am not using the linked clones feature, since I am not tight on space. I usually give a VM a 40 GB drive, and with 2 TB of disk space I have not tried the linked clones feature.

I've only gotten up to about 10 VMs at once, just to do it, and never more than 6 at once so far for training. That said, I'm sure this system could handle 18 VMs from most angles as even with 10, I'm only using about half the RAM.

The biggest (only?) bottleneck is the hard drive. If you're mostly going to run idle VMs and are willing to have the others slow to a crawl if one is doing something disk-intensive, you'd be okay with one disk. Otherwise, I'd definitely try to get some sort of multiple platter solution, whether jbod or RAID 0/5/10, or a couple of SSDs which would probably be the best way to go if you can afford it.

It takes a while to get all the VMs up and running, and then once they are, everything is okay. The only disk intensive thing I do is patch them from time to time, and when I do that, things get pretty rough.

Here are some things I've learned by experimentation:

As you know, the Core i7-3770 is hyperthreaded. The way this ends up playing out with VMware Workstation is that if you only give a VM one "core", it ends up only getting half a core -- physical CPU on the host will be 12.5% if you max out the CPU on a single core VM. I find this is not enough, and give each VM two "cores" which gives it access to a full physical core on the host. Performance on the VM is MUCH better.

RAM is the biggest performance determining factor for a VM that I've found. If I run Windows Experience Index on the same VM with varying parameters, from 1 core to 4 cores, 1 GB RAM to 4 GB RAM, the sweet spot for performance is two cores and 3 GB of RAM for a Windows 7 or 8 VM. Even things you would not expect to change, like video performance, improves with memory. That said, you can operate most VMs with 1 GB just fine; the Windows Server 2008 runs great with 1 GB. Windows 7 is usable, but definitely much easier to use with 2 GB.


Some notes about the hardware

The case is okay, the biggest downside being that two of the three fans (the top and front fan) don't connect to the motherboard, just the power supply, so you can't control the speed. It isn't too noisy. The cable management options on the case seem a bit weak to me, but things aren't too out of control. For a $50 case, I think it is probably very nice, closer to others at $100 from what I read.

The motherboard is quite good in and of itself, I'm quite happy. If you'll be running a desktop OS on it, I wouldn't expect you'd have any problems. Running a server OS will require some creativity, especially if you want to get the wired NIC running. Intel has divided the 82579 NIC into two models, the "V" for desktop motherboards and the "LM" for server motherboards. They use the exact same drivers, and perhaps are the exact same NIC, but the drivers for the "V" won't install on a server OS. You can hack the .ini file in the driver to trick it into thinking it's an "LM" and the driver installs and runs fine. Just copy the device IDs from the "V" section to the "LM" section of the .ini file.

(More specifically, download the generic driver from intel.com, extract it, go to \PRO1000\Winx64\NDIS62, open e1c62x64.ini. For every line that starts with %E1503NC.DeviceDesc%, copy it to the section [Intel.NTamd64.6.1] and that'll do it.)

ASUS also doesn't let you install ANY of its driver software on a server OS if you run the ASUS installer. But if you dig into the folder and directly run the installer, you can get things working.

If you install the ASUS Suite, which lets you control fans, see temperatures, etc., I found that the WiFi Go! software is not compatible with VMWare Workstation and you won't be able to get your VMs on the network if WiFi Go! software is installed. Once I uninstalled it, everything was okay. There was no indication of a conflict and nothing useful I could find to make a diagnosis, but fortunately I installed VMware and got it running before I installed ASUS Suite and was able to make the connection.



So again, in a nutshell... the system works great. I have yet to use more than 16 GB of the 32 GB of RAM when I've had 10 VMs running. The disk is definitely the bottleneck, but rarely is a problem for me -- others might find it more problematic. I'm very happy with the system.

If I can answer any other questions, feel free to ask, and thank you again for everyone's help.

Tom


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August 11, 2012 1:37:44 AM

For those who might be interested, here are the Windows Experience Index results for various VM configurations on my computer. I ran these quite a while ago now and unfortunately did not note the operating system of the VM, so I am not sure if this is from a Windows 7 Professional 64-bit VM or a Windows 8 Release Preview 64-bit VM.

The results are very interesting, because both the CPU number and and graphics numbers are clearly impacted by the amount of memory assigned to the VM. The only thing not impacted by memory is the disk.

For the tests, while this wasn't a super-strict benchmark, I believe this was the only VM running and I wasn't doing anything on the host computer.

1 vCPU with 1 core and 1 GB RAM:
Processor: 5.4
Memory: 4.5
Graphics: 2.0
Gaming Graphics: 4.0
Primary hard disk: 6.7

1 vCPU with 2 cores and 1 GB RAM:
Processor: 6.4
Memory: 4.5
Graphics: 3.3
Gaming Graphics: 4.0
Primary hard disk: 6.7

1 vCPU with 1 core and 2 GB RAM:
Processor: 6.1
Memory:5.5
Graphics: 3.3
Gaming Graphics: 4.1
Primary hard disk: 6.7

1 vCPU with 2 cores and 2 GB RAM:
Processor: 6.1
Memory: 5.5
Graphics: 3.3
Gaming Graphics: 4.1
Primary hard disk: 6.7

1 vCPU with 2 cores and 3 GB RAM:
Processor: 7.1
Memory: 5.9
Graphics: 4.2
Gaming Graphics: 4.6
Primary hard disk: 6.7

1 vCPU with 4 cores and 4 GB RAM:
Processor: 7.1
Memory: 7.9
Graphics: 4.2
Gaming Graphics: 4.6
Primary hard disk: 6.7
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August 14, 2012 2:09:58 AM

TomBegins2012 said:
Here are some things I've learned by experimentation:

As you know, the Core i7-3770 is hyperthreaded. The way this ends up playing out with VMware Workstation is that if you only give a VM one "core", it ends up only getting half a core -- physical CPU on the host will be 12.5% if you max out the CPU on a single core VM. I find this is not enough, and give each VM two "cores" which gives it access to a full physical core on the host. Performance on the VM is MUCH better.

RAM is the biggest performance determining factor for a VM that I've found. If I run Windows Experience Index on the same VM with varying parameters, from 1 core to 4 cores, 1 GB RAM to 4 GB RAM, the sweet spot for performance is two cores and 3 GB of RAM for a Windows 7 or 8 VM. Even things you would not expect to change, like video performance, improves with memory. That said, you can operate most VMs with 1 GB just fine; the Windows Server 2008 runs great with 1 GB. Windows 7 is usable, but definitely much easier to use with 2 GB.

I have yet to use more than 16 GB of the 32 GB of RAM when I've had 10 VMs running. The disk is definitely the bottleneck, but rarely is a problem for me -- others might find it more problematic. I'm very happy with the system.


Tom,

That's great news and thank you for such a detailed response. I found it interesting that you mentioned that with hyperthreading 1 core is like a 1/2 a core and you found that you need to give 2 cores in order get 1 physical core. I'm buying a 3930K, and I was hoping I could get more VMs per core than 1:1. You mentioned that you've had 10 VMs running at once and I presume that you gave each of them 2 cores. Since I'm not sure how Workstation handles oversubscription on the processor side (if you know please share) I presume that random VMs would be impacted by the oversubscription.

I've ordered a system with a 3930K, 64GB of RAM and (2) Intel 480 SSDs for storing all the VMs. My biggest concern with implementing 18 Windows 2008 VMs is certainly the processor. It will be interesting to see how it handles it but I will try provisioning 2 cores and 3 GB of RAM to each and see how that works out.

Robert
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August 14, 2012 2:14:03 AM

Tom,

If you get a chance could you provide the stats for 1 vCPU with 1 core and 3 GB RAM? I'd like to compare it against the 1 vCPU with 2 cores and 3 GB RAM to see the difference from a Windows perspective. Thanks much!

Robert
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August 14, 2012 2:30:34 AM

rsprim said:
Tom,

That's great news and thank you for such a detailed response. I found it interesting that you mentioned that with hyperthreading 1 core is like a 1/2 a core and you found that you need to give 2 cores in order get 1 physical core. I'm buying a 3930K, and I was hoping I could get more VMs per core than 1:1. You mentioned that you've had 10 VMs running at once and I presume that you gave each of them 2 cores. Since I'm not sure how Workstation handles oversubscription on the processor side (if you know please share) I presume that random VMs would be impacted by the oversubscription.

I've ordered a system with a 3930K, 64GB of RAM and (2) Intel 480 SSDs for storing all the VMs. My biggest concern with implementing 18 Windows 2008 VMs is certainly the processor. It will be interesting to see how it handles it but I will try provisioning 2 cores and 3 GB of RAM to each and see how that works out.

Robert


Hi there,

Hyperthreading shouldn't be a problem. The hardware scheduler simply works on two threads at once to utilize resources more efficiently. This can result in a minor performance impact on a per-thread basis when a core is running two threads that are fighting for the same shared resources but the impact is extremely minimal and less than the total gain. Overall Hyperthreading should show gains of 10%-15% across the board.

A hyperthreaded CPU has exactly the same execution resources as an equivalent CPU without hyperthreading.

Unfortunately this can look strange to Windows and to those who aren't initiated in the way Hyperthreading works. Windows only addresses logical processors regardless of the total execution capacity of the system. This means that a 4 core system with hyperthreading enabled shows up as 8 logical processors. A dual socket system with 2 quad core processors without hyperthreading enabled will also show up as 8 logical processors. The two quad core processors without hyperthreading have twice the execution capacity as the single quad with hyperthreading.

When Windows computes CPU usage it only measures the amount of CPU time spent in the System Idle Process as a fraction of the total. Since CPUs are discrete devices they are either on and executing or off and not-executing. This means that one or more logical processors will be executing idle loops at the same time. If a processor is executing a single sequential thread and the system idle process at the same time it will appear to be idle 50% of the time when almost all of its resources may be used by the sequential thread.

Actual CPU usage is extremely hard to measure.

The way VMWare Workstation works is it creates a process domain for each VM and a hardware process for each virtual processor. The time spent inside each virtual processor thread is spent just like time in any other application. This means that according to the Windows way of measuring CPU usage it can appear to be using only 1/8th of the CPU time for a single processor assignment and 25% of the CPU time for a dual processor assignment. In reality the single processor can use a full core's worth of execution resources but since Windows views the other thread on the same processor as being idle it thinks that it's only using half. That other thread may be idle but the execution resources that it would normally be using are in use by the other thread.

As far as overcommiting goes. You can overcommit processors as much as you like. Each processor is a hardware process and the CPU cycles between them just like any other process.
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August 14, 2012 2:59:10 AM

Pinhedd said:
The two quad core processors without hyperthreading have twice the execution capacity as the single quad with hyperthreading.


Thanks for the information. I feel a little better about being able to run 18 VMs simultaneously without each one grinding to a halt to the point I want to just shut it all down.

How do you determine the execution capacity of a processor when looking at the specs? Are you just going by cores? You also mentioned that a hyperthreaded processor will show 10-15% gains across the board. Are you referring to execution time?

Just wondering. Thanks for clarifying.
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August 14, 2012 3:30:10 AM

rsprim said:
Thanks for the information. I feel a little better about being able to run 18 VMs simultaneously without each one grinding to a halt to the point I want to just shut it all down.

How do you determine the execution capacity of a processor when looking at the specs? Are you just going by cores? You also mentioned that a hyperthreaded processor will show 10-15% gains across the board. Are you referring to execution time?

Just wondering. Thanks for clarifying.


Glad to help

You should be able to run 18VMs without issue. Keep in mind that you should avoid loading them all at once for obvious reasons.

As for execution capacity I'm talking about it relatively. Two quad core processors without hyperthreading compared to one identically clocked processor of the same generation with hyperthreading. It could even be the same processor with hyperthreading enabled/disabled.

With hyperthreading enabled certain parts of the processor architecture are duplicated, namely the state tracking hardware. The execution resources are not duplicated but are instead shared dynamically between the two threads rather than one. This has a few advantages.

First, independent execution resources can be used on separate threads. One thread can utilize integer arithmetic and address generation while another uses various SSE hardware. Under superoptimal conditions this can have performance gains of nearly 100%.

Second, if one thread stalls out, is idle, or blocks, the execution resources can be dynamically reassigned to the other thread entirely. This is where the 50% illusion comes from. One thread can be idle and the other in use. The core will appear to be half idle yet the resources are entirely in use.

Assigning two virtual processors to a VM can have mixed results. The virtual processors could end up being executed side-by-side on the same physical core at which point they will be sharing execution resources or the virtual processors could be executed on separate physical cores which may or may not share resources with other processes. This is determined by the load conditions at the time and will affect all processes. Keep in mind that processes will be bounced around by the scheduler in real time to find the most optimal setting for execution. Processes do not stay on the processor that they were first launched on.

As for hyperthreading performance gains, that's an observed metric from a large number of applications tested with HT on and off. Some applications have gains as high as 25%-40% while others can actually suffer a bit or show no impact at all. Aggregated improvement across all tested applications is about 10%-15%.
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August 15, 2012 2:38:05 AM

rsprim said:
Tom,

If you get a chance could you provide the stats for 1 vCPU with 1 core and 3 GB RAM? I'd like to compare it against the 1 vCPU with 2 cores and 3 GB RAM to see the difference from a Windows perspective. Thanks much!

Robert



Robert,

I ran the Windows Experience Index on a Windows 8 Release Preview VM four times: 1 vCPU 1 core and 2 core with hyperthreading on, and then again with hyperthreading on the host turned off in the BIOS. The WEI numbers are shockingly similar between the four runs. I don't understand the results.

Tom

1 vCPU, 1 core, 3 GB of RAM:

Processor: 7.1
Memory: 5.9
Graphics: 3.2
Gaming Graphics: 4.0
Primary Hard Disk: 6.7


1 vCPUs, 2 cores, 3 GB of RAM:

Processor: 7.1
Memory: 5.9
Graphics: 3.2
Gaming Graphics: 4.1
Primary Hard Disk: 6.8


1 vCPU, 1 core, 3 GB of RAM, hyperthreading disabled on host:

Processor: 7.1
Memory: 5.9
Graphics: 3.2
Gaming Graphics: 4.0
Primary Hard Disk: 6.8


1 vCPU, 2 cores, 3 GB of RAM, hyperthreading disabled on host:

Processor: 7.2
Memory: 5.9
Graphics: 3.2
Gaming Graphics: 4.0
Primary Hard Disk: 6.8


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August 15, 2012 2:55:22 AM

TomBegins2012 said:
Robert,

I ran the Windows Experience Index on a Windows 8 Release Preview VM four times: 1 vCPU 1 core and 2 core with hyperthreading on, and then again with hyperthreading on the host turned off in the BIOS. The WEI numbers are shockingly similar between the four runs. I don't understand the results.

Tom

1 vCPU, 1 core, 3 GB of RAM:

Processor: 7.1
Memory: 5.9
Graphics: 3.2
Gaming Graphics: 4.0
Primary Hard Disk: 6.7


1 vCPUs, 2 cores, 3 GB of RAM:

Processor: 7.1
Memory: 5.9
Graphics: 3.2
Gaming Graphics: 4.1
Primary Hard Disk: 6.8


1 vCPU, 1 core, 3 GB of RAM, hyperthreading disabled on host:

Processor: 7.1
Memory: 5.9
Graphics: 3.2
Gaming Graphics: 4.0
Primary Hard Disk: 6.8


1 vCPU, 2 cores, 3 GB of RAM, hyperthreading disabled on host:

Processor: 7.2
Memory: 5.9
Graphics: 3.2
Gaming Graphics: 4.0
Primary Hard Disk: 6.8



Tom please see my above two posts for an explanation as to why you're seeing similar performance results but different CPU usage. The CPU usage is an illusion because of the way it's measured.
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August 24, 2012 2:52:06 PM

Hi Everyone,

Am building a system for the same purpose too. Any new recommendation for CPU and motherboard?

Thanks.
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August 24, 2012 3:27:34 PM

Shotty said:
Hi Everyone,

Am building a system for the same purpose too. Any new recommendation for CPU and motherboard?

Thanks.


Shotty,

I don't think the CPU landscape has changed too much. 3770, 3770K, 3820, 3930 are good options depending on cost.

One thing worth mentioning is that I thought it was really important to get the 3770 instead of the 3770K, and now I don't think this is the case. The 3770 supports VT-d, while the 3770 does not -- this is a technology that allows for direct device virtualization. But the motherboard has to support it, and the chances of finding a desktop motherboard that supports it seem pretty low; I couldn't find any Z77 motherboards that do. If VT-d is important for you, I found a detailed thread on getting it to work on this site:
http://wiki.xensource.com/xenwiki/VTdHowTo

Also, I've turned off hyperthreading on my system in the BIOS and am still quite happy with the performance. I think you'd probably be okay with a 3570, and that saves about $100, but as they say, ymmv.

Hope it works out well!
Tom

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August 24, 2012 3:30:43 PM

TomBegins2012 said:
Shotty,

I don't think the CPU landscape has changed too much. 3770, 3770K, 3820, 3930 are good options depending on cost.

One thing worth mentioning is that I thought it was really important to get the 3770 instead of the 3770K, and now I don't think this is the case. The 3770 supports VT-d, while the 3770 does not -- this is a technology that allows for direct device virtualization. But the motherboard has to support it, and the chances of finding a desktop motherboard that supports it seem pretty low; I couldn't find any Z77 motherboards that do. If VT-d is important for you, I found a detailed thread on getting it to work on this site:
http://wiki.xensource.com/xenwiki/VTdHowTo

Also, I've turned off hyperthreading on my system in the BIOS and am still quite happy with the performance. I think you'd probably be okay with a 3570, and that saves about $100, but as they say, ymmv.

Hope it works out well!
Tom


VT-d is a memory controller technology. It allows for DMA memory requests that bypass the IA cores to be remapped if the device is handled by a virtual machine. This prevents guest operating systems from accessing host memory through DMA. Without VT-d any device that has DMA access cannot be safely controlled directly by a guest OS. This used to be a function of the northbridge which would have made VT-d chipset dependent but when the memory controller was moved onto the CPU it became a CPU dependent technology instead.

The 3770 (non-k), 3820, 3930k, and 3960x all support VT-d independent of chipset or motherboard. The Sandybridge-E processors only support it in the C2 stepping due to a bug in the C1 stepping and as a result it must be enabled in the system setup on all X79 motherboards.
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August 24, 2012 6:37:20 PM

In regards to VT-d use: I have an i7-3930K, which supports VT-d, and I am using the Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard, which has had the ability to detect and allow the VT-d feature to be used with C2 stepping Sandy Bridge-E chips since the 9.XX firmware update.

If you plan on using the computer as a workstation... that is, if you plan on installing an operating system on it and then creating virtual machines using something like VMWare Workstation or VirtualBox... then you won't have any use for the VT-d instructions. VMWare only supports VT-d in ESXi, so VT-d is only useful on a headless server. I'm not sure which of Xen's offerings support VT-d, but I don't think Xen has a workstation-style hypervisor.

I thought I wanted VT-d, chose a CPU based on that need, and then found out later that I have no immediate use for it. One day, when this computer gets retired to my stack of secondary computers, I'll definitely install ESXi on it and make use of the Direct-I/O features, but right now I'm having too much fun having a ridiculously powerful desktop system that can act like 3 or 4 powerful desktop systems.
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August 25, 2012 2:13:19 PM

Thanks all for the recommendation. Guess i will stick to the non "K" CPU. Looks like ASUS is the common board here. Let me do some more research and put up my list.

There are 16GB DDRs available, bus seem like no MB are supporting them yet.
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August 25, 2012 2:25:32 PM

Shotty said:
Thanks all for the recommendation. Guess i will stick to the non "K" CPU. Looks like ASUS is the common board here. Let me do some more research and put up my list.

There are 16GB DDRs available, bus seem like no MB are supporting them yet.


16GB DDRs are most likely dual rank and/or RDIMM. They may not be supported if they do not conform to JEDEC completely
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July 4, 2013 7:44:57 PM

Forgive me if I am mis-utilzing this form of communication - Just getting acquainted with how things work.

In a nutshell- I am now trying to do what TomBegins2012 was doing a year ago.

I understand about 25% of the detailed points, but do understand that the i7-3770 will work fine.

Question: What specs do I need to look for on a motherboard, and IF I want to use this machine to play Sim City (my guilty pleasure)... should I use the same server OS that Tom used, or should I install a version of Windows 7 Pro?

Thanks much!
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July 4, 2013 8:51:18 PM

SS580 said:
Forgive me if I am mis-utilzing this form of communication - Just getting acquainted with how things work.

In a nutshell- I am now trying to do what TomBegins2012 was doing a year ago.

I understand about 25% of the detailed points, but do understand that the i7-3770 will work fine.

Question: What specs do I need to look for on a motherboard, and IF I want to use this machine to play Sim City (my guilty pleasure)... should I use the same server OS that Tom used, or should I install a version of Windows 7 Pro?

Thanks much!


This thread is almost a year old!

You're probably best off starting a new thread so that myself or someone else can answer your specific questions.
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July 5, 2013 7:15:56 PM

SS580 said:
Forgive me if I am mis-utilzing this form of communication - Just getting acquainted with how things work.

In a nutshell- I am now trying to do what TomBegins2012 was doing a year ago.

I understand about 25% of the detailed points, but do understand that the i7-3770 will work fine.

Question: What specs do I need to look for on a motherboard, and IF I want to use this machine to play Sim City (my guilty pleasure)... should I use the same server OS that Tom used, or should I install a version of Windows 7 Pro?

Thanks much!


After about a year of working with this PC, and having made some upgrades, I'll share my thoughts, and how I might change the configuration if I were building it now and cost were not an issue.

The system is as good a PC as I could ask for. It is fast and reliable. I'm glad I purchased quality parts, including the i7-3770 and the ASUS motherboard.

I did not like the case at first but it grew on me; you could do better, but the price is fantastic, and it is good quality and extremely well ventilated.

I switched to a wired keyboard since the wireless goes through batteries pretty fast.

The most important upgrade I made to the system was a 480 GB Crucial m500 SSD.

When I was running VMs on a hard drive, things worked but were painful. With the SSD, there's no noticable I/O contention and things fly. I can run numerous VMs and they never stumble because one is doing something with disk. And with thin provisioning -- which is fine for a training lab -- you can fit a lot of VMs on a 480 GB SSD.

I've worked with a few SSDs now. Given current pricing and performance factors, if I were building this system right now (the SSD market changes rapidly), I would try to get two Samsung 840 SSDs: A 120 GB for the OS, and a 500 GB for VMs. And a 2 or 3 TB hard disk for data storage.

In the consumer SSD space, the Samsung 840 and the Crucial m500 are hard to beat at the moment. Good performance, 3 year warranty. The m500 has some more whiz-bang and more durable flash, but the complete lack of software tips my preference to the Samsung. That said, I own an m500 and it's great.

In terms of memory, I have never approached needing the full 32 GB, but I have exceeded 16 GB. Memory is substantially more expensive now than a year ago. You could start with 16 GB and add more if needed.

I got tired of running a server OS on a desktop because of all the drivers and software that don't want to install on a server OS. Currently, I suggest Windows 8 Professional. You could run Windows 8.1 Preview for free for the next six months or so, then buy your OS when it RTMs.

If you don't like the Windows 8 interface, you can still get it and spend $5 on StarDock's Start8 Start Menu replacement. Properly configured, you'll hardly know you're not using Windows 7, and Windows 8 has many improvements under the hood that make it worth it.

If your budget isn't relatively unlimited and you want to work with virtualization and save some money, you could start with Client Hyper-V, which is built into Windows 8 Professional. VMware Workstation is a more powerful tool, but Client Hyper-V is a fine starting point.

The next generation Intel CPUs recently came out. On the desktop level, it seems there's about a 10% performance gain, which isn't too much to get excited about. You could buy a 3rd generation CPU for some savings, or 4th gen for state of the art.

For gaming, I don't know. SimCity isn't an action game (or at least wasn't), so the on-board graphics might be enough, but I can't address that question.

I'll paste the config as I might spec it today, if I had the money and was going with 3rd generation CPU. Depending on the motherboard, a Haswell system would likely run $50-100 more; I'd get that if money were no obstacle.

One caveat to all this: You indicated that your interest is in learning about virtualization. I built my setup to be a good virtualization host for training purposes for Microsoft network training. If I wanted to become a virtualization expert per se, I would build two smaller systems and install VMware ESXi on them. That's a different ball game.

You also indicate you don't have a professional IT background and that your understanding of this thread is somewhat incomplete. Without knowing you personally it is difficult to give appropriate advice, but just to ask the question, is spending a large sum on a very powerful computer the next best step? Maybe, but seems a question worth asking.

Apologies for going on so long.

Best wishes for your training endeavors!

Tom

NewEgg pricing on July 5, 2013:

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor $289.99
Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-V ATX LGA1155 Motherboard $124.99
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory $264.99
Hard Drive: Samsung 840 SSD 120 GB for OS $109.99
Hard Drive: Samsung 840 SSD 500 GB for virtual machines $369.99
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 ST3000DM001 3TB 7200 RPM $134.99
Case: Rosewill Challenger U3 $ 59.99
Power Supp: SeaSonic 520W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply $ 79.99
Optical: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer $ 19.99
Monitor: Acer S220HQLAbd 21.5" Monitor $129.99
Keyboard: Logitech MK200 Wired Keyboard & Mouse $ 21.99
Speakers: Logitech S-120 Speakers $ 14.99
OS: Windows 8 Professional 64-bit OEM $139.99

Total: $1761.87


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July 5, 2013 8:46:34 PM

11102497,0,781558 said:
11096349,0,1354354 said:


Tom,

Thank you for taking the time and providing such in indepth perspective and advice.

I do have the 3770 already, I have the power supply, a 256gb SSD, and an MSDN license through work that will help with my experimentation, providing quite a few license keys, including Windows 8.

My ultimate goal is not Virtualization, but since I am a QA tester in a 'shop' that wants to be an MS test shop, I'm trying to learn more about Team Foundation Server and Sharepoint.

One thing I wanted to clear up - it appears that the motherboard has very little bearing on the fact that I am planning on setting up VMs, since the virtualization now seems to depend on the CPU's instruction set almost entirely since the Ivy Bridge came out (and fortunately, I didn't buy the 3770K, eh?). Have you found the same thing to be correct? Motherboard has very little bearing, if any at all? I have researched all day today, literally, trying to verify if MoBo makes any difference. Want to get a nice one, but not into the level of overclocking.

Oh! One other quick thought - Have you come across the 'opinion' that getting a CPU WITHOUT the VT instruction set could actually be an advantage? Is it because the VT instruction set on the 3770/4770 locks you into Intel's path? Just curious.

Thanks again, Tom. Much appreciated!

Steve
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