Anandtech challenges VMware with its own independent multi-hypervisor benchmark tool

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There’s no doubt that the virtualization industry needs a standard benchmarking platform. The only two alternatives we have today are simply ignored (Intel vConsolidate) or are not recognized by all the vendors (VMware VMmark).

Now even the specialized press is questioning about the value of these platforms, we are talking specifically about Anandtech, suggesting that they may not use real-world workloads to test the hypervisors:

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.

To prove its point Anandtech has developed its own benchmark, vApus Mark I (developed by the academic group Sizing Server Lab), that is useful to compare the of different CPUs in a virtual infrastructure running Windows guest operating systems. This is a fine first step as most of the virtual machines deployed in the world run Windows, but just in case some customers are not satisfied the group is already developing a new version that features Windows and Linux virtual machines.
The beauty of this work, assuming it has no flaws, is that it can be used with any hypervisor, including VMware ESX, Citrix XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V.

The benchmark measures the performance of four virtual machines (each equipped with 4 vCPUs and 4GB vRAM) with four enterprise grade applications:

  • 1 x OLAP database, based on SQL Server 2008 x64 running on Windows 2008 64-bit, which runs (over 100GB data organized in hundreds of tables)
  • 2 x MCS eFMS portals running PHP, IIS on Windows 2003 R2, described here.
  • 1 x OLTP database, based on Oracle 10G Calling Circle benchmark of Dominic Giles.

Because of this selection the Sizing Server Lab firmly claims that its vApus Mark I is not made to replace VMmark as it mimics the average virtual data center usage, while their own platform only replicates resource intensive services.

The results are extremely interesting as they highlight a performance difference between different CPUs that is not matching at all the numbers obtained with VMmark:

The rest of long article includes key information about impact on performance of CPU components like dual and quad core architectures, the cache, the memory bandwidth and the clock speed.

The conclusions are surprising: if you have a VMware ESX 3.5 Update 4 (ESX 4.0 will be used in future tests) then the Xeon Nehalem is without a doubt the fastest platform, but the latest quad-core Opteron is not far behind.

The entire Anandtech benchmark analysis is definitively worth a read while waiting the likely outraged reaction of VMware.