Choosing between AMD and Intel for the Virtual Infrastructure

My ESXi v5 runs on a Mini-ITX Z68 motherboard with Intel Core i5 2500T (Quad core). I choose this because I wanted to have a silent (fanless) and low consumption box. The box runs quite well. The only thing that I regret is that I don’t have access to any sensors from the vSphere client. I was looking at the SuperMicro motherboards as they seem to provide IPMI.

The SuperMicro H8SCM-F looked really really nice. Micro ATX Form, integrated IPMI and KVM, support for up to 128GB of RAM and AMD Opteron 4000 Series ; the Opteron 4256 EE @2.5 GHz have 8 cores and a TDP of 35W! So I started to wonder how whould an Opteron 4256 EE (8 cores, 2,5GHz, 35W TDP) performs vs my Core i5 2500T (4 cores, 2,3GHz, 45W TDP). According to SPECfp2006 Rate Results, the AMD Opteron 4256 EE would have a baseline of 67 and the Intel Core i5-2500T would have a baseline of 87. A better comparison should be done with Opteron 3250 HE (4 cores, 2,5GHz, 45W TDP) which is ranked 52.

Then the big question raised: is it better to choose AMD or Intel for the virtual infrastructure. I recall reading than AMD processor were perfect for virtualization because they have more cores and use less power. But this was the marketing chat and was published a year ago. What I’m going to do here is try to understand how to compare processor in the case of hypervisor.

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The FreeBSD hypervisor using VirtualBox

VirtualBox is a virtualization software that allows running several OSes on a single host machine. It was first a free VMware Workstation-like tools but has grown quite a bit now. You can now run virtual machines headless, like you do with Xen or KVM.

Here’s a little tour on setting up an hypervisor using VirtualBox on FreeBSD 9.

BTW: Why FreeBSD? Because it features ZFS filesystem version 5 and ZFS pool version 28.

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Run a virtual ESXi 5 in VMware ESXi 5

I now have a (quite) powerfull server: Intel Core i5 with 4 cores and 16GB of RAM. I want to virtualize as many things as possible. So I installed the free VMware ESXi 5 on the physical server and started populating it with virtual machines. I have a main virtual machine that has been P2Ved and run on the local storage of the ESXi. Then I have a virtual Nexenta that accesses some raw disks of the physical server to populate the storage.

This is how to install and run a virtual ESXi 5.0.0 inside a physical ESXi 5.0.0 instance.
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Windows Server on virtualization infrastructure cheat sheet

Once upon a time, the way to decide which Microsoft Windows Server license to get was only a matter of checking the servers number, a bit of their configuration and features you wanted to get. Basically, the Standard Edition was good for anything that had less than 32GB of RAM and/or wasn’t used in clustered configuration ; else you would require the Enterprise Edition. There were also options for Web, Datacenter, Storage Edition but I never had to look at those.

Virtualization, Cloud computing and IaaS have turned servers into instances with virtual resources which made those licenses quite inapplicable ; especially OEM license and CPU limitations. Here’s the way I understood the Microsoft documentation. It may enable you to understand and decide which licenses to use in your particular case. I’m writing it with VMware vSphere implementation in mind, but it should apply to apply virtualization technology.

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VMware vSphere 5 pricing cheat sheet

With the new vSphere 5 version, VMware has modified their licensing options. Previously, the restrictions were set on physical CPU and CPU cores numbers but not really on RAM capacity (limits were quite high). Since v5, the restrictions apply to the physical CPU number (no matter how much cores and threads they have) and provisioned RAM (vRAM).

This article will sum’up the VMware vSphere 5 licensing methods, as far as I understood them.
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