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Achieving High Web Throughput with VMware vSphere 4 on Intel Xeon 5500 series (Nehalem) servers

We just published a SPECweb2005 benchmark score of 62,296 — the highest result published to date on a virtual configuration. This result was obtained on an HP ProLiant DL380 G6 server running VMware vSphere 4 and featuring Intel Xeon 5500 series processors, and Intel 82598EB 10 Gigabit AF network interface cards. While driving the network throughput from a single host to just under 30 Gbps, this benchmark score still stands at 85% of the level achieved in native (non-virtualized) execution on equivalent hardware configurations.

Our latest benchmark results show that VMware, with our partners Intel and HP, is able to provide virtualization solutions that meet the performance and scaling needs of modern data centers. In addition, the simplification achieved through consolidation in a virtual environment, as demonstrated by the configuration used in our benchmark publication, contributes to eliminating complexity in the software environment.

Let me briefly discuss some of the distinctive characteristics of our latest benchmark results:

Use of VMDirectPath for virtualizing network I/O: VMDirectPath is a feature in vSphere 4 that builds upon Intel VT-D (Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O) capability engineered into recent Intel processors to virtualize network I/O. It allows guest operating systems to directly access an I/O device, bypassing the virtualization layer. The result we just published is notably different from our previous results in that this time we used VMDirectPath feature to take benefit of the higher performance that it makes possible.

High performance and linear scaling with the addition of virtual machines: VMDirectPath bypasses the virtualization layer to a large extent for the network interactions but, a measurable number of guest OS and hypervisor interactions still remain. The possibility still exists that the hypervisor can become a scaling limiter in a multi-VM environment. The excellent performance achieved by our benchmark configuration using four virtual machines shows that this should not be a concern.

A highly simplified setup: Results published in the SPECweb2005 website reveal the complexity of “interrupt pinning” that is common in the configurations in a native setting, generally employed in order to make full use of all the cores in today’s multi-core processors. By comparison, our benchmark configuration does not use device interrupt pinning. This is because the virtualization approach divides the load among multiple VMs, each of which is smaller and therefore easier to keep core-efficient.

Virtualization Performance: Our results show that a single vSphere host can handle 30 Gbps real world Web traffic and still reach a performance level of 85% of the native results published on equivalent physical configuration. This demonstrates capabilities several orders of magnitude greater than those needed by typical Web applications, proof-positive that the vast majority of the Web applications can be consolidated, with excellent performance, in a virtualized environment.

For more details, check out the full length article published on the VMware community website in which we elaborate upon each of the characteristics that we briefly discussed here.

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