Want to get rid of Windows (Vista) and run DirectX games on Linux? Found the recent virtualization articles just a bit tad too much "nuts and bolts"? Or do you wonder how well Microsoft's Hyper-V performs compared to VMware's ESX? It is all cooking in our IT lab.  
Liz will explain you why virtualization is fun and interesting in layman's terms, and will make you see the virtual wood despite the trees. This upcoming article should give those of you taking your first steps with virtualization a strong base knowledge of the technology, and is a good prelude to our in-depth articles. Of course, all work and no play would make Anandtech IT a dull website, so the article will also look at some of the fun bits virtualization has introduced to the world of the desktop user. Half-life 2 running on Linux or Mac OS-X? Runs fine and relatively fast!
Back to work. Microsoft has made a big splash with Hyper-V, so we could not resist: we had to include it in our long awaited hypervisor comparison. Hyper-V is a very interesting technology: it is a mix of paravirtualization and hardware virtualization. Surprisingly, Hyper-V fully supports Linux, the paravirtualized "Linux integration tools" (a paravirtualized driver pack) is available for several linux distributions. There is one catch: SMP does not work (yet?). In other words, Windows 2008 software can work with up to 4 virtual CPUs, Linux guest OS have to be content with only one. Officially, Windows 2003 only supports 2, but we found that running with 4 virtual CPUs is not a problem at all (in contrast with Linux: more than one CPU will simply not work on Hyper-V).
The Hyper-V team went to great lengths to paravirtualized Windows 2008, less effort was spend in Windows 2003. Remember the Oracle OLTP test, the MySQL decision support database test and the heavy php website that we ran together?
Well, we noticed that
  • the mysql DSS ran 2% faster
  • the heavy php website ran 3-7% faster   
  • and the OLTP oracle database ran a tangible 18% faster
if we run those realworld workloads on Windows Server 2008 instead of Windows Server 2003. We did not alter anything but the operating system: for example, the php site was still running on a IIS6 webserver instead IIS7 (which is standard on Windows 2008). How does it compare to ESX? Well, we'll report our full results soon. It is extremely interesting how the picture changes from application to application. Intel or AMD? It can make a difference in the hypervisor race.
Quick note to our Dutch and Flemish readers: we will be presenting - live -  our virtualization research on the October 23rd, together with VMware, Microsoft and Novell in great detail. Some of the greatest hardware will also be present (HP Blades, HP EVA storage array, Intel "Dunnington" and maybe more we can't talk about :-). Look for more details here (Dutch) or here (English).

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  • marc1000 - Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - link

    who said that enterprise IT is a dry news? i come here to know all i can, it is good to know about the virtualization market, as it also is to know about the consoles and CPUs. actually i work with IT and play with IT. I run games and also virtual servers on the very same computer at home.
  • AmberClad - Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - link

    Judging from the number of comments on the IT articles, versus the number of comments on enthusiast-related articles, especially video cards, I would say that it's not just me who find enterprise IT a bit dry...
  • AnAverageJoe - Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - link

    4 points:
    1. If your sole interest is playing games then OS virtualization is of no interest to you. Application virtualization as discussed in the previous articles however may interest you as you can sandbox a (probably modded) unstable game and stop it from taking down your system. That certainly would be of interest to me, esp. when trying out new mods.
    2. Johan didn't seize control of your mouse and force you to read his article.
    3. OS virtualization is the next big thing in IT. The hardware is arguably powerful enough. It doesn't make sense to waste unused computing cycles under-utilizing applications. It increases standardization and security, and decreases deployment and maintenance cycles. All of which reduce costs; and in IT at the end of the day, cost is the primary focus.
    4. There's an awful lot of marketing hype and someone who's willing to put claims through fact checking is a plus. Anandtech has proven itself on this in other areas, I look forward to it continuing the tradition in its IT section.
  • Mr Perfect - Tuesday, November 25, 2008 - link

    I wouldn't completely count out gaming as a reason for interest in virtualization. While there are some things I'd like to try virtualizing for at work, gaming is also starting to become important. So far I have two reasons to check this out for myself. The first is older games that require an older version of Windows to run properly. I used to just keep an older PC around for this, but they're starting to die off and parts aren't readily available. That and keeping a small farm of computers really isn't that attractive. Second is this whole DRM business. At first none of the games I was interested in had anything in them, but Securom is becoming far to common. So sandboxing that bit of nastiness might be a great way to play DRMed games while still retaining a clean system.

    Who knows though, it might turn out to be completely impractical. Definitely looking forward to the next article. :)
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, October 9, 2008 - link

    Really nice to read that you appreciate our articles. Nothing better than a pat on the back to keep going ;-).
  • smithkt - Thursday, October 9, 2008 - link

    Consider this a real pat on the back.

    This topic does interest some of us and the effort is appreciated. Looking forward to seeing the article and hoping it will bring some things into focus for me.
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - link

    Anandtech started out as a pure hardware enthusiast site. Most of the people, like you, come here for the enthusiast part. With it.anandtech.com, we like to attract the enthusiast that - probably got a bit older - and is now building the infrastructure of the (smaller) enterprises. And believe me in some cases that is more exciting (and admitted more nerve racking since there more money involved!) than building the latest gaming pc.

    The beauty of Anandtech is that claims of manufacturers are checked with benchmarks and tests.

    At it.anandtech.com we try to bring that same philosophy to the IT world. Because frankly, lots of the Enterprise IT stuff is not benchmarked, but "assumed to be faster/slower".

    For example, you would amazed how many people think that an expensive storage enclosure must be faster than cheaper one. "Surely an EMC must be faster than a white product!". The thing is if you apply the "enthusiast way" of looking at it, you know that it is matter of disks, RAID chip and amount of cache. So a cheap one with a newer dualcore RAID chip might beat an expensive one with an older single core RAID chip. You might still prefer the last one because it has better backup software and is easier to maintain, but at least you know it is bullshit when vendors claims their solution is faster simply "because it is in a different class".

  • RagingDragon - Friday, October 10, 2008 - link


    I've been reading your articles for a long time now - since shortly after you started writing for aceshardware, and I continued reading after you joined the AnandTech team. I pretty much fit your target market too - an older enthusiast working in IT, though as it happens I'm working on small projects for huge enterprise.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - link

    There's also the fact that while few people get a job because they know tons about computer games and graphics, knowing something about the IT world can be very useful when it comes time to get a paycheck. I'm always interested in reading Johan's articles, even though I don't run any real servers anymore. :)
  • marc1000 - Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - link

    that's a good point too. and right now we are making more comments on the IT articles =)

    thinking of my self-experience with virtualization, this was the very reason I bought my first dual-core CPU, and not gaming. I wanted to run a virtual server (windows + SQL) with more freedom to play around with disks and other advanced configurations, so I could practice and learn more before I took an exam for certification at Microsoft. Virtualization is not only for the "pro's".

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