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Ubuntu 12.04 KVM/Xen Virtualization: Intel vs. AMD

Michael Larabel

Published on 28 March 2012
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 8 of 8 - 15 Comments

While there are many results to go through, a few items stuck out:

- VirtualBox 4.1 on Ubuntu 12.04 when running on the Intel Core i7 3960X "Sandy Bridge Extreme" performed very poorly. VirtualBox was most often running at a small fraction of the speed of the KVM and Xen virtualization methods for the i7-3960X. VirtualBox on the AMD FX-8150 performed much closer to where KVM was running, but still was noticeably behind the popular Kernel-based Virtual Machine. There is some major issue going on with the $1000 USD Intel processor and VirtualBox, possibly similar to the Xen performance issues encountered last year. VirtualBox seemed to do the worst on Intel with multi-threaded workloads.

- Xen 4.1 generally performed in line with KVM's performance on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS x86_64 with the Linux 3.2 kernel. This is at least for the Sandy-E system, but Xen issues with the ASUS motherboard prevented Bulldozer Xen results from making it out there.

- Between Intel's Sandy Bridge and AMD's Bulldozer for KVM virtualization, the relative performance was generally quite close between these competing latest-generation architectures. If looking at the harmonic mean of the over three dozen tests that were run, the Intel Core i7 3960X was running at 93% the speed of bare metal with KVM while the AMD FX-8150 came in at 90% the speed of the bare metal Bulldozer. Alternatively, with the geometric mean of all the results, the i7-3960X was at 85% the speed of bare metal while the AMD FX-8150 was at 88%. VirtualBox on the FX-8150 was at 85% while the problematic VirtualBox-on-Sandy-E was at 59%. Xen on Sandy-E came in at 94%.

As a bonus (and as I was running some extra tests for Canonical), here are some Clarkfield KVM/Xen/VirtualBox virtualization results from a very different system. VirtualBox on this older Intel Core i7 did have some troubling spots too, but overall was at least better than its performance on the i7-3960X Sandy Bridge Extreme.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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