VMware's Virtual GPU Driver Is Running Fast

Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 10 February 2012. Page 2 of 6. 20 Comments

Besides needing all of the components that comprise the vmwgfx / SVGA II driver stack on Linux setup within the guest system (the supported Linux kernel, libdrm, Mesa, and xf86-video-vmware DDX), you also must (obviously) have hardware graphics acceleration on the host system and be running a supported version of VMware's virtualization platform. The VMware Linux graphics developers recommend at least VMware Workstation 8.0.2, VMware Fusion 4.1.2, or VMware Player 4.0.2. With VMware Player being the free version, that was used for this testing (v4.0.2 Build 591240).

When running a supported version, within the virtual machine settings area under the hardware display settings, "Accelerate 3D graphics" must be enabled. The testing in this article was done from an Intel Core i7 system with a clean Ubuntu 11.10 installation as the host and a clean Ubuntu 12.04 installation as the guest. The Ubuntu 12.04 development snapshot from early February was used since all of the "vmwgfx" driver components have landed and enabled by default. Ubuntu 11.10 was used on the host with VMware Player 4.0.2 since when attempting to use the Ubuntu 12.04 development snapshot on the host not all of the needed kernel modules could be built against Pangolin's 3.2 kernel. Of course, by the time Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is officially released, VMware will be supporting such configurations.

At first when booting the cleanly installed Ubuntu 12.04 installation within VMware, and having 3D acceleration enabled, the experience was poor as shown in the screenshots above. The rendering was a mess. However, this was with the Nouveau (open-source NVIDIA graphics driver) running on the host. Nouveau for the Ubuntu 11.10 host is the Linux 3.0 DRM and Mesa 7.11. It is not surprising there are problems with Nouveau. The proprietary -- but officially supported -- NVIDIA binary Linux graphics driver was then installed on the host.

As soon as the binary NVIDIA driver was running on the host, the guest 3D/OpenGL acceleration within VMware virtualization running Ubuntu 12.04 was wonderful. Ubuntu 12.04 as the guest provided a wonderful "out of the box" experience. Unlike VirtualBox where the "guest additions" must be installed to take advantage of 3D acceleration, VMware has now mainlined all of their components so everything "just works" for the end-user. The Compiz-based Unity desktop had no problems running, the desktop was being rendered artifact-free, and all was good. The OpenGL renderer string of the working configuration was exposed as "Gallium 0.4 on SVGA3D; build: RELEASE."

Related Articles