What's the best hosted virtualisation suite?

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

Performance

When performing benchmarks of the hypervisors, only VMware Workstation was able to run every test we required. This speaks volumes for the stability and flexibility of the product.

The results of the tests we performed were:

VMware Workstation VirtualBox KVM Parallels Workstation Wine
Start-up (sec) 44.4 20.4 44.7 31.6 -
Cinebench (1 CPU) 3520 14,873 - 11,483 3810
Cinebench (xCPU) 6625 - - - 21,717
Cinebench (OpenGL) 206 1207 - - 7711

The key rows to look at are the start-up time and OpenGL score in Cinebench.

VirtualBox and Parallels appear to blitz the competition in the one CPU test, but everything is not as it seems. With those two products unable to be configured to restrict the number of cores used, I suspect that they are both using as many cores as they can in an effort to boost performance. This is backed up by the fact that Parallels and VirtualBox are able to appear faster than Wine on a single CPU, which is without the additional hypervisor and OS overhead, yet Wine smashes their scores on the multiple CPU score — what appears as one CPU to the guest OS may in fact be many processes and/or threads on the host OS. Therefore I put more credence into the start-up time as a better reflection of performance.

In general usage, each of these hypervisors feel quick within Windows XP. VirtualBox does stand above the competition though, and is blisteringly quick with OpenGL compared to the other hypervisors.

Cost

The following table summarises the cost of each product (does not include cost of support):

VMware Workstation VirtualBox KVM Parallels Workstation Wine
Cost (AU$) $150 Free Free $67.90 Free

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Virtualization

About

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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