Current Virtualisation Hardware

I’m doing some research on the current state of play for virtualisation hardware, as I need to build a basic VT or Pacifica system. This system is so I can do some testing between Xen and VMWare for hosting Windows 2003 TS. The Xen wiki has a list of the HVM capable CPUs and since I’d prefer something basic, I’ve been looking mainly at the desktop Intel and AMD solutions. Which are the Intel Core Duo and Core Duo 2, and AMD AM2 socket CPUs.

Given that the Core Duo is no longer available as a retail CPU in NZ, the only VT based Core Duo systems are laptops or Apple Macs. Since I want a lab system this choice is not as effective, lacking the option for additional HDDs or NICs. For the Core Duo 2 option according the Intel motherboard list and this review, the only Intel chipset that supports VT is the Q965/963. I’m still trying to confirm this, but if so it complicates matters as there are no Q965 based motherboards available in NZ at the moment.

There maybe non-Intel chipsets for the Core Duo 2 which support VT, but this is something I need further information on.

Conversely with AMD it seems that all AM2 socket systems support AMD-V (Pacifica) and these systems are readily available in NZ. That said, I’m not sure how good the AMD Athlon 64 X2 CPU is at supporting HVM. There are no reviews or howtos on AM2 motherboards which discuss AMD-V on the net.

With the lack of basic options, I’ve also considered server grade CPUs. The new Woodcrest 5100 Xeon and a simple Intel Server SC5400 chassis is at least twice the price of any potential Core Duo 2 system.

AMD have also recently released their new series of Opterons, the Opteron 1000, 2000 and 8000 series. Based this info from AMD and wikipedia, these are the only Opteron’s with AMD-V. Sun have also released this month two new x86 servers based on these chips: the x2100 M2 and the x2200. Both are SATA based and a x2100 M2 with a 1210 is pretty close to the price of a desktop white box solution, but a noisy rack system on my desk
as a lab machine is not very appealing.

A first up review of the Opterons vs Xeon, shows that Xeon 5100 series has really jumped forward with at least a 15% advantage for the same clock speed over the Opterons. It would be interesting to see if this improvement held out against the Opteron’s better 64bit mode. However, obviously the Opterons have lost their clear advantage.

So it seems right at the moment I have two options, an expensive Xeon 5100 or an unknown AMD Athlon 64 X2 system at half the price.

Update: The Sun Ultra 20 M2 might be worth considering as well. Although it gets a mixed review.

Update 2: Only the older single core Orleans and newer dual-core Windsor AMD Athlon 64 X2 CPUs support AMD-V.  Windsor Athlons are the only AM2 socket Athlons at present, but it might be possible to confuse them with the older models if you are not careful.

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  1. Skull Said,

    September 11, 2006 @ 8:05 pm

    have you positive feedback about using Sun rack-mount servers (x2100M2) for HVM?

  2. Nicholas Lee Said,

    September 11, 2006 @ 9:03 pm

    Nothing yet, then again they are probably only just coming on general release now. Would be interesting to know if Sun has done any internal Xen HVM testing and what their benchmarks have been for the 2000 series CPUs.

    The Ultra 20 M2 looks like a good option, and its available in NZ from Friday.

  3. Skull Said,

    September 11, 2006 @ 9:27 pm

    My problem is actually the chance of having HVM machines in my datacenter, so non-rack boxes are not a good chance, sadly.
    Seems like there’s a lack of fully HVM-enabled HW, out there… :-\
    The only rack machines w/ full HVM support I’ve been able to find are Dell’s one. Bad experiences with those boxes… 🙁

  4. Nicholas Lee Said,

    September 11, 2006 @ 9:51 pm

    All the new Opterons (1000, 2000 and 8000) have AMD-V, plus the Xeon 5100 series all have VT. So the new x2100 M2 do have HVM. Intel Server System might be better than Dell. If you want to test either, best bet is to grab Xenoppix and ask your local Sun guy if you can borrow a machine.

  5. XenIntro « John's Blog Said,

    February 19, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

    […] Current Virtualisation Hardware by Nicholas […]

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