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It’s the UI that counts (technical) April 24, 2009

Posted by gordonwatts in CERNVM, computers.
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In my last post I mentioned that I was using CERNVM. In order to use that I need a virtual machine program of some sort. I’m on windows (Windows 7 at the moment), and so the three main ones that are available to me (and free!) are Virtual PC, VMWare, and VirtualBox. I’ve talked about VirtualBox before. My opinion hasn’t changed about the thing.

But now I’ve done some speed measurements. For running and building software in the ATLAS environment, it seems like it is about 10% slower than Virtual PC (Microsoft’s edition). The networking seems to be about the same – at least as far as I can tell. So the question becomes: choose UI over functionality? For me the 10% hit isn’t big enough, so I’ll be sticking with it. But I thought it would be interesting to comment on this.

BTW, this was the 2.1.4 version of VB. The 2.2.0 version, which is the latest and sounds like it might be a bit more efficient, does not play with with Windows 7. Much as VMWare took over all my USB devices and wouldn’t give them back, VirtualBox 2.2 takes over my network connection and forces me to basically shut down and restart the networking stack in order to get them back. Hopefully there will be some bug fixes soon!

But something else came out of this. If you are planning on running virtual machines – run, do not walk, and buy/build a machine build on Intel’s Core i7 architecture (as I did). That home machine blew the doors off anything else I had around. x2 faster in many cases. When doing straight single-threaded calculations it was only 30%-40% faster than my other machines, so there must be some hardware improvements for virtualization in the hardware. Both Virtual PC and VirtualBox were able to take advantage of whatever improvements were there (err) out of the box.

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