Guest Post: Intel Inside for Hyper-V Virtualization

Guest Post: Intel Inside for Hyper-V Virtualization

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Hi my name is Radhakrishna Hiremane, a senior product marketing engineer at Intel based in Portland, Oregon, and I’m responsible for marketing of virtualization technology on Intel servers and workstations. 

Microsoft recently extended the processor core support for Hyper-V to 24-cores.  A shift from the initially announced 16 core support in Hyper-V, this highlights the long standing collaboration between Intel and Microsoft in the area of innovation inclusive of the most valued technology in the datacenter today - virtualization. With the support of 24 cores, Hyper-V is able to support the performance increments of Intel Xeon 7400 processor-based servers.  The performance of Intel Xeon 7400 processor-based servers with Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V was demonstrated in a recent vConsolidate version 2.0 (profile 2) benchmark.  The measurement of power and performance was done by Principled Technologies commissioned by Intel.  The result showed that the Intel Xeon processor x7460-based server produced 52.1% better performance per watt than the Intel Xeon processor x7350-based server.  In addition, the Intel Xeon processor x7460-based server delivered 40% more performance running vConsolidate with the optimum number of CSUs that the Intel Xeon processor x7350-based server. These results show great performance and scalability of Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V running on Intel Xeon 7400 processor-based servers and for more information on these results, please visit here.  Those who live and breathe virtualization understand the relevance of the virtualization and multi-core processors. But for those who may be wondering why this is so important, please read on.

Virtualization performance is coupled with native performance. As the native performance increases the virtualization performance increases. However, virtualization software adds some overhead over native environment as it is a layer of software that now has to manage the hardware resources and the guest OSes or VMs that need these resources. The overhead is typically dependent on the application being run in the guest OS and the extent to which the hypervisor emulates the resources in software to share the same with multiple VMs. This is where Intel’s hardware assist for virtualization helps to lower the overhead of virtualization software. Intel VT (introduced first in 2005) today represents a platform centric innovation in hardware assist encompassing Intel VT-x in the processor, Intel VT for Directed I/O (VT-d) for I/O virtualization in chipset and Intel VT for Connectivity (VT-c) in the networking devices, all of which help VMs reduce the virtualization software overhead across the platform and increase the performance.

Hyper-V leverages several key features of the hardware architecture. First and foremost is the Intel multi-core architecture and ability to leverage the performance and scalability of the Intel Xeon processor-based servers. Since 2006, Intel has delivered power efficient performance increases on a regular cadence. It began with Intel Core Micro-architecture that can execute more instruction per clock and includes fine grain power control in the processor. At a high level virtualization is about doing more with less, so being able to execute more instruction per clock means better performance and better performance per watt. This is evident from Intel’s leadership in industry standard power benchmark results - SPECpower. Further, Windows Server 2008 is able to exploit the per core power controls using Demand Based Switching capability for efficient power management.

Beyond the Core Micro-architecture, Intel delivered Quad Core processors in Q4 2006 that increased the virtualization performance up to 60% within the same power envelope as a dual core. On a predictive cadence Intel delivered further increase in performance with 45nm process technology in Q4 2007. With the new process technology, Intel is able to add more cache, faster transistors and hence more processing capability that resulted in up to 20% more virtualization performance and all within the same power envelope. All this means that IT managers are able to take advantage of these performance increments on a predictive cadence and deploy virtualization with confidence and gain better TCO of their infrastructure.

Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V is built on hardware assists for virtualization. It requires VT-x and 64-bit capable processor. It utilizes hardware assist such as Intel VT FlexPriority (interrupt virtualization hardware assist) to reduce the interrupt overheads and increase performance (in particular legacy OSes such as Windows 32-bit OSes). Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V also supports Intel Dynamic Power Manager, which allows datacenter managers to monitor and cap the power utilization of the servers. Power management essentially is one of the most critical factors in datacenters today. Overall, with Hyper-V on Intel, customers can benefit in terms of TCO and power efficient performance for virtualization deployment.

Radhakrishna Hiremane

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