With the upcoming availability of Ubuntu 12.04 "Precise Pangolin" being a Long-Term Support (LTS) release that will be quickly making its way into many enterprise environments, here's a look at the virtualization performance of this popular Linux distribution. In particular, being looked at is the Linux virtualization performance of KVM, Xen, and Oracle VirtualBox compared to bare metal when using Intel Sandy Bridge Extreme and AMD Bulldozer hardware.
The last time comparing Xen, KVM, and VirtualBox performance was last October with Ubuntu 11.10, but since then there's been more upstream advancements in these popular virtualization platforms (separately, there's also KVM vs. VMware results and of VMware's wonderful virtual graphics driver. Xen as found in the Linux 3.0 kernel on Ubuntu 11.10 also had some critical performance issues, which have since been corrected in the Linux 3.2 kernel that is in use by Ubuntu 12.04. With testing the "out of the box" virtualization performance of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, an Intel Core i7 3960X "Sandy Bridge" Extreme Edition and AMD FX-8150 "Bulldozer" systems were used.
The six-core with Hyper Threading i7-3960X was overclocked to 4.5GHz during testing and was running on the Intel DX79SI motherboard, The other system components remained the same between the Intel and AMD platforms: 16GB of memory (4 x 4GB of DDR3-1600MHz), a 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 Serial ATA 3.0 SSD, and an AMD Radeon HD 6570 graphics card. The AMD FX-8150 Bulldozer with its eight "cores" at 3.60GHz was running from the ASUS Crosshair V Formula motherboard while all of the other system components were maintained. Xen virtualization results were not available from the AMD Bulldozer platform since booting the Xen-enabled Linux kernel had problems with the ASUS motherboard. Unfortunately I don't have any latest-generation Intel/AMD server hardware at the moment, so this comparison was limited to using the high-end FX-8150 and i7-3960X processors.
When it came to running the virtualized tests, each VM test was run independently and the virtualized Ubuntu 12.04 instance was allowed to access all logical CPU cores and to 12GB of the system's 16GB of RAM. All of the virtualization packages were obtained from the Ubuntu Precise repository following the clean Ubuntu 12.04 daily installations from 24 March. The Ubuntu 12.04 settings for both the guest and host were at their default settings.