Hosted virtualisation suites: a group test

Summary:If you need to run virtual machines on a workstation rather than a server, which is the best platform? We test VMware Workstation, VirtualBox, Parallels Workstation and KVM under Ubuntu, along with Wine, to find out.

A lot of the activity in virtualisation is focused around the datacentre. That's all well and good, but there's a whole world of virtualisation for workstations, where competition for the best suite is red-hot and constantly improving.

Previously we examined the bare-metal hypervisors that are favoured in datacentres. Here we look at Type 2 virtualisation — where one operating system needs to be running to host another operating system.

The line-up for this round-up is: VMware Workstation, Virtualbox, Parallels Workstation and KVM. Wine is also tested to provide some control to the test and because it can achieve some of the benefits of a hypervisor for running Windows applications.

The workstation we used for testing was an HP Z800 workstation; this system features dual 3.2GHz Xeon W5580 processors, 2GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. A monstrous Nvidia Quadro FX 5800 graphics adapter with 4GB RAM is also part of the mix.

Ubuntu 9.04 was chosen as the base operating system as it provided the widest range of hypervisors to examine and allowed for testing of KVM and Wine, which are not available on any Windows operating systems.

Windows XP SP2 was installed under each hypervisor, and the following tests performed:

  • Cinebench single CPU
  • Cinebench multiple CPU
  • Cinebench openGL
  • Start-up time

Windows XP was chosen over Windows Vista or Windows 7 as it is stable, lighter and a well-known quantity. We felt that this would allow each of the hypervisors to show off their potential with the additional extra packages and tools included for XP. KVM was the only hypervisor to not provide an additional package to install to accelerate Windows XP's performance.


Topics: Virtualization, Enterprise Software, Reviews


Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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