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Linux KVM vs. VirtualBox 4.0 Virtualization Benchmarks

Michael Larabel

Published on 13 December 2010
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 7 - 27 Comments

Oracle's been vigorously working on their VM VirtualBox 4.0 software and in just the past week they have delivered two public betas that bring a number of new features. Among the changes there is support for Intel HD audio / ICH9 to guest VMs, the concept of extension packs, user-interface improvements, support for limiting a virtual machine's CPU time and I/O bandwidth, 3D acceleration fixes for guests, and a great number of bug-fixes. How though is this updated Oracle/Sun virtualization platform comparing to the older VirtualBox 3.2 release and that of the upstream Linux KVM (the Kernel-based Virtual Machine) that most Linux distributions rely upon? Here are a number of benchmarks that seek to answer this very question.

We have carried out a number of benchmarks under VirtualBox 3.2.12, VirtualBox 4.0 Beta 2, KVM in the Linux 2.6.35 kernel, and atop the actual system's host operating system. The tests we carried out in the four different configurations for looking at the Linux virtualization performance were Apache, SQLite, PostMark, FS-Mark, 7-Zip, Parallel BZIP2, C-Ray, GnuPG, OpenSSL, Gcrypt, Ogg, x264, FFmpeg, TCP Network Performance, timed Apache compilation under GCC, Bullet Physics Engine, and NAS Parallel Benchmarks. All of these tests were managed and executed by the Phoronix Test Suite.

The system used for this Linux virtualization benchmarking was based around the new Intel Core i7 970 Gulftown processor with six physical threads plus Hyper Threading to provide a logical count of 12 threads and a core clock of 3.20GHz. The motherboard was an ASRock X58 SuperComputer with 3GB of system memory, a 320GB Seagate ST3320620AS SATA HDD, and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 graphics card.

When running our automated virtualization tests under the different configurations we allowed the guests access to all 12 processor threads and limited the VMs to 1.5GB of system RAM (per the maximum "optimal settings" under VirtualBox for this system). The KVM testing was done with QEMU and Virt-Manager. The stock settings besides that were used throughout the testing process and on the host itself. The software stack on both the host and guests were Ubuntu 10.10 (x86_64) with the Linux 2.6.35-22-generic kernel, GNOME 2.32.0, X.Org Server 1.9.0, GCC 4.4.5, and the EXT4 file-system. With the VirtualBox testing the respective "Guest Additions" were installed for each release.

Without further ado, let us see how these virtualization systems compare.

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