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Measuring the Cost of SMP with Mixed Workloads

It is no secret that vSphere 4.0 delivers excellent
performance and provides the capability to virtualize the beefiest of
workloads. Several impressive performance studies using ESX 4.0 have been
already been presented. (My favorite is this database performance whitepaper.) However, I continue to hear questions about the
scheduling overhead of larger VMs within a heavily-utilized, mixed-workload
environment. We put together a study using simple variations of VMware’s
mixed-workload consolidation benchmark VMmark to help answer this
question.

For this study we chose two of the VMmark workloads,
database and web server, as the vCPU-scalability targets. These VMs represent
workloads that typically show the greatest range of load in production
environments so they are natural choices for a scalability assessment. We
varied the number of vCPUs in these two VMs between one and four and measured throughput
scaling and CPU utilization of each configuration by increasing the number of
benchmark tiles up to and beyond system saturation.

The standard VMmark workload levels were used and were held
constant for all tests. Given that the workload is constant, we are measuring
the cost of SMP VMs and their impact on the scheduler . This approach
places increasing stress the hypervisor as the vCPU allocations increase and
creates a worst-case scenario for the scheduler. The vCPU allocations for the
three configurations are shown in the table below:

 

Webserver vCPUs

Database vCPUs

Fileserver vCPUs

Mailserver vCPUs

Javaserver vCPUs

Standby vCPUs

Total vCPUs

Config1

1

1

1

2

2

1

8

Config2

2

2

1

2

2

1

10

Config3

4

4

1

2

2

1

14

 

Config2 uses the standard VMmark vCPU allocation of 10 vCPUs
per tile. Config1 contains 20% fewer vCPUs than the standard while Config3
contains 40% more than the standard.

We also used Windows Server 2008 instead of Windows Server
2003 where possible to characterize its behavior in anticipation of using
Server 2008 in a next-generation benchmark. As a result, we increased the
memory in the Javaserver VMs from 1GB to 1.4 GB to insure sufficient memory
space for the JVM. The table below provides a summary of each VM’s
configuration:

Workload

Memory

Disk

OS

Mailserver

1GB

24GB

Windows
2003 32bit

Javaserver

1.4GB

12GB
(*)

Windows
2008 64bit

Standby
Server

256MB
(*)

12GB
(*)

Windows
2008 32bit

Webserver

512MB

8GB

SLES
10 SP2 64bit

Database

2GB

10GB

SLES
10 SP2 64bit

Fileserver

256MB

8GB

SLES
10 SP2 32bit

Below is a basic summary of the hardware used:

  • Dell PowerEdge R905 with 4 x 2.6GHz Quad Core AMD Opteron
    8382
  • Firmware version 3.0.2 (latest available).
  • 128GB DDR2 Memory.
  • 2 x Intel E1000 dual-port NIC
  • 2 x Qlogic 2462 dual-port 4Gb
  • 2 x EMC CX3-80 Storage Arrays.
  • 15 x HP DL360 client systems.

Experimental Results

Figure 1 below shows both the CPU utilization and the throughput
scaling normalized to the single-tile throughput of Config1. Both throughput and
CPU utilization remain roughly equal for all three configurations at load
levels of 1, 3, and 6 tiles (6, 18, and 36 VMs, respectively). The cost of
using SMP VMs is negligible here. The throughputs remain roughly equal while
the CPU utilization curves begin to diverge as the load increases to 9, 10, and
11 tiles (54, 60, and 66 VMs, respectively). Furthermore, all three
configurations achieve roughly linear scaling up to 11 tiles (66 VMs). CPU
utilization when running 11 tiles was 85%, 90%, and 93% for Config1, Config2,
and Config3, respectively. Considering that few customers are comfortable
running at overall system utilizations above 85%, this result shows remarkable
scheduler performance and limited SMP co-scheduling overhead within a typical
operating regime.

FIG1_Alternatev-CPUscaling-4b 

Figure 2 below shows the same normalized throughput of Figure 1 as well as the total number of running vCPUs to illustrate the additional stresses put on the hypervisor by the progressively larger SMP configurations. For instance, the throughput scaling at nine tiles is equivalent despite the fact that Config1 requires only 72 vCPUs while
Config3 uses 126 vCPUs. As expected, Config3, with its heavier resource demands, is the first to transition into system saturation. This occurs at a load of 12 tiles (72 VMs). At 12 tiles, there are 168 vCPUs active – 48 more vCPUs than used by Config2 at 12 tiles. Nevertheless, Config3 scaling only lags Config2 by 9% and Config1 by 8%. Config2 reaches system saturation at 14 tiles (84 VMs), where it lags Config1 by 5%. Finally Config1 hits the saturation point at 15 tiles (90 VMs).

FIG2_Alternatev-CPUscaling-5b 

Overall, these results show that ESX 4.0 effectively and fairly manages VMs of all shapes and sizes in a mixed-workload environment. ESX 4.0 also exhibits excellent throughput parity and minimal CPU differences between the three configurations throughout the typical operating envelope. ESX continues to demonstrate first-class enterprise stability, robustness, and predictability in all cases. Considering how well ESX 4.0 handles a tough situation like this, users can have confidence when virtualizing their larger workloads within larger VMs.

(*) The spartan memory and disk allocations for the Windows Server 2008 VMs might cause readers to question if the virtual machines were adequately provisioned. Since our internal testing covers a wide array of virtualization platforms, reducing the memory of the Standby Server enables us to measure the peak performance of the server before encountering memory bottlenecks on virtualization platforms where physical memory is limited and sophisticated memory overcommit techniques are unavailable. Likewise, we want to configure our tests so that the storage capacity doesn’t induce an
artificial bottleneck. Neither the Standby Server nor the Javaserver place significant demands on their virtual disks, allowing us to optimize storage usage. We carefully compared this spartan Windows Server 2008 configuration against a richly configured Windows Server 2008 tile and found no measurable difference in stability or performance. Of course, I would not encourage this type of configuration in a live production setting. On the other hand, if a VM gets configured in this way, vSphere users can sleep well knowing that ESX won’t let them down.

2 thoughts on “Measuring the Cost of SMP with Mixed Workloads

  1. Art Cardinas

    You really make it seem so uncomplicated with your presentation but I find that topic to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and incredibly broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I can try to get the hang up of it!

    Reply
  2. Ignacio Wagenblast

    Every email you send should have your signature with the link to your web site or weblog. That usually brings in some visitors.

    Reply

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