Tuesday, May 3, 2011

vmware and performance for developing

Curious, how many of you develop under a VMware environment?

Is it popular for employers to setup vmware for everyone?

Seems like a great way to rollout new desktop computers and perform backups etc.

Just worried about the performance though (PC vmwares).


I was just looking at vmware's site, 1.3 BILLION in sales..wow!

From stackoverflow
  • Depends on the employer, I suppose. On a machine that is adequately-equipped, VMWare (or any virtualization software) performs perfectly fine. On machines that you are more likely to be forced to use at the majority of programming jobs, not so much.

    I personally do not use VMWare at work. My work machine barely has enough power to natively handle the tools I need to use.

    nosatalian : If you are a developer, your employer ought to be saving money in the long run by purchasing you the best equipment available. If they are making the wrong decision on this issue, you have to wonder what else they are getting wrong..
    DannySmurf : Totally agree. A tri- or quad-core machine can be had for as little as $500 these days. There is absolutely no excuse for employers not to equip their workers with something decent.
  • Its very popular unless employer is cheap, i used it in a few companies. its great for .NET or any language where you have to check if the thing works on different OS versions/platforms. The most common way is not to use VMWare on your own computer but to remotely join it.

    AnonymousServer : remotely join it how?
    gbjbaanb : I think he means run it on a big fat server and connect to that. (via RDP or the VMware console)
  • We use it where I work. We are even making a dvd with the appliance on it to reduce the time it takes new developers to get up to speed.

    Regarding performance, I have seen a performance hit. It seems mostly limited by the hard drive if you have snapshots enabled. Of course after I moved my vm's to a VelociRaptor, even that performance hit is no longer noticable.

    Oh, I develop ASP websites and C/C++ applications using Visual Studio 2005 and 2008.

  • VMWare as a windows development environment runs terrible on my dual core with 2GB ram (XP guest, XP host). Even with nothing running on the host except for VMware, constant paging that takes about a minute to settle every time I switch applications. Heck, native VS2008 doesn't even run that great during intellisense-heavy use (occasional noticible lag). While using a fixed VM image as my day-to-day working environment has a ton of benefits, the second-to-second performance lag is just too frustrating.

    My employer is buying me a nice 64bit system with a ton of ram so I'll revisit the subject in a month. For now I just reimage my machine every couple months.

    ...console development is obviously performs just fine. for server applications (deployment) where high memory applications aren't launching and closing vmware is lovely and performs fine.

    nosatalian : Try more memory (4GB should be enough), and/or a Linux host
  • In my development environment I use a couple of VM's. Usually one (linux) server per role (such as subversion, MySQL databases, web server, trac server, etc.. ). This way my primary machine remains clean and can't affect my work by running amok, and the data remains secure on the VM-host.

    VmWare is quite high-level, for production I'd recommend using a more low-level, bare-metal solution, like Xen.

  • Personally I would love to use a virtualization solution for my day to day development because of the ability to test and develop on multiple operating systems simultaneously. However, since my day-to-day development involves quite a bit of opengl this currently isn't a workable solution because most of the time the OS on the VM will default back to software rendering due to the lack of drivers and hardware acceleration.

  • My company uses VMware to test our webapp using different browsers/OS versions. Everyone has at least 1 VM on their machine for this purpose. We all develop on the native machine, however -- even on a quad core machine with 4GB RAM, it takes about 20 minutes to do a clean build of our app! For me, I dislike using VM images because of how much paging they do. A few developers here have started using Linux has the host OS and running Windows VMs inside it and they get much better performance due to reduced paging (Linux is way better at memory and disk cache management, plus is has a better scheduler). The extra VMs for testing that would normally be run inside our Windows instance thus get moved to run side by side on the Linux host, which improves performance.

  • Sadly, it's not yet "popular" in the sense of "common," but it's definitely "popular" in the sense of "enjoyed" by those who try it. As a consultant, I love it, since it allows me to swap tool chains in a matter of minutes and, at the end of an engagement, burn a DVD, throw it in the project file, and be done with it.

    Several responders seem to be emphasizing the use of VMs for testing, where I think it is beginning to gain some traction, at least within more sophisticated shops. It's clearly a huge win for deployment and compatibility testing.

  • VMware Workstation 6.5 runs like a champ on my older Athlon X2. I use Visual Studio on my host machine and have many VMs installed with various OS, framework and browser combinations. VMware Workstation adds VM debugging into Visual Studio as well, so I can just hit F6 to start my app in any one of my VMs and debug it under any OS I want. The only catch is that you need at least 4gb RAM to make it practical to use more than 1 VM at a time.

  • I switched to developing exclusively in VMs around the time I started doing work with technologies like BizTalk Server, Sharepoint, and betas/CTPs of various things...it just got to be impossible to have all the stuff co-exist on the same box.

    Since switching I have enjoyed many other benefits to developing in a VM - snapshots, portability, dynamically marshaling resources, etc.

    The ultimate benefit is due to VMWare having a presence on many different hosts operating systems, thus I am free to select the host OS of my choice - XP, Vista, Linux, OSX, etc.

    Now I run OSX on a MacBook Pro, which allows me to do Mac and iPhone development as well as Windows development, all on the same box.

    That is the long winded backstory that brings me to answering the question - as long as your hardware is decently spec'd you should not run into any performance problems - even doing crazy shit with BizTalk and SQL Server.

  • I am doing some SharePoint development and I really love the flexibility that comes from using the VMPlayer on my laptop. I have an image with WSS and the VS2005 tool chain and another image with MOSS and VS2008/SQL server 2008 when I need to it to the max. When the 2008 image became corrupt (to many beta version I guess) I could just delete it and create a new one from a prior backup. Being able to develop in a server environment while on the train speakes for it self.

    PS: It only takes 4 GB to run the VMWare and it performing really nice, even with a slow 5600 rpm disk drive

  • I almost exclusively use Virtual Machines for development and am very happy doing so. The flexibility of multiple sand-boxed environments is definitely worth a small trade in performance.

    Clearly a VM will never give you the same results as running on a native system, but you should be able to get performance that's easily within 10-15% of the real thing. In my experience many of the performance problems people encounter are due to underspecced or poorly configured systems and VM;s.

    I primarily develop with a Vista x64 virtual machine on a 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo with 4GB of Ram. Of this I assign 2GB of RAM and two virtual core's to my main VM. If I'm running more than one VM I usually change this to 1-1.5GB and one core.

    Here's some quick GeekBench test results; (Note than GeekBench results under OSX and Vista don't seem comparable, they're listed here to show the impact of configs on both systems).

    Fresh boot, no active applications:

    Native OSX - 3115 Native OSX running Vista 64 VM - 3042 Native Vista 64 (2.4GHz x 2, 4GB) - 2596 Vista 64 VM (2 VCore, 3GB) - 2362 Vista 64 VM (1 VCore, 2GB) - 1892

    These are the most common reasons for poor VM performance in my experience;

    • Under-specced machines. Ideally you should be able to dedicate one core and 1GB of memory to each VM you plan to work in. Contrary to what you might read I've found that Vista runs within a few percent of XP with 1GB of memory.
    • Running too many things on your VM. Keep your email, web browsing and IM's to Mummy on your native OS.
    • On your VM turn off items such as screensavers, background apps and non-essential services. If your VM's are backed-up you may want to turn off system restore.
    • If possible have your VM's on a separate hard-drive than your native OS so their disc access is independent if one or the other starts paging.
    • Defrag your VM drive. It does make a difference.
  • I develop under a VMWare version of my entire network, including; AD Server, DB Server, etc, needless to say the performance is terrible even on our VMWare server that is running 4gb of ram. But it does allow me to develop without fear of accidentally destroying my companies live databases or shutting down an important server in the real world. And if something crazy happens, no biggy, I can just roll it back to yesterday. If my entire network wasn't housed inside the VMWare environment the performance would be incredible, but running all those other systems really bogs it down a lot.

  • We tried going all-in with VMs, but found that SQL Server running multiple times on the same physical box basically bogged it down to uselessness. However, I don't think we've seen any serious issues once the DBs were removed from the VM stacks.

  • Virtualization on desktop / workstation: Sun Virtualbox or VPC. Easy, light. We share our favorite images, keep it causal, and sometime even sysprep them.

    Main QA environments get serious with Manager. It's a beast to get working, but can't live without it. There's no way we could afford our test matrix in real machines, or maintain it without the template management. Without such a resource, there are probably things you should do and don't.

    Long lived servers or QA DB: VM Ware ESX. (No short explanation).

    We don't have perf problems with DBs and virtualization. Well, I did in Lab Manager - which is part of why DB's live on ESX in our shop. For I/O, our IT guys do magic with SAN, iSCSI, and high quality wire. It is certainly simpler to avoid perf problems on db servers if they are bare metal, and probably possible to squeeze out more perf from a dedicated host.

    Which brings up what virtualization is and isn't for: Virtualization isn't for a scenario where you are maxing out your hardware already. For example, I don't use it dev on, because I need everything my dev box can give me. It's to replace dozens of underutilized, hard to provision physical servers, with dozens of easy to provision virtual clones on many fewer hosts. It allows hot swapping more capacity, or allows engineering flexibility.

    I also have some late 90s computer games that I run in virtualized Windows 98.

    Mike Ohlsen : what were your perf issues with labmanager?
    Precipitous : LM is only a problem for long lived (1 week) databases. Normally LM delta disks are great (deploy 10 x 20GB servers, consuming 22GB of space) Dbs write a lot, and the delta disks get out of hand. Combine with a few snapshots and clones (new delta disk) and you have worst case scenario: DB servers highly fragmented and using far more space than they should. Moved DBs to plain ESX and am very happy. I keep short lived DBs in LM. LM database servers are perfectly happy if you revert them every night. Note that you will find better VM discussions on the sister site: serverfault.com
  • I've started using VMware for almost everything on my personal PC.

    I keep my native Windows install for games only and have seperate VMs for everything else:

    • a general office workstatation (MSOffice, accounting software, general crapware). This one stays on almost all the time.
    • a WAMP stack dev environment
    • a MS stack dev environment
    • a throwaway environment for beta testing and toying around with things that might break the OS install.

    Everything is pretty fast. I use a streamlined WinXP base install that takes up very little space/memory.

    Disk I/O seems to be the bottleneck for me, but I feel we are only one generation (6 months?) away from quite affordable SSDs.

    I couldnt go back to physical computing.

  • Once you start using VM's you'll never go back. I use VMware on a MacBook Pro for Windows and Linux development and I'm very happy with the result.


    • get plenty of RAM. 4GB is quite usable, but 8 is better. You're a developer, you have a lot of apps and web pages open, right?
    • allocate 1 core to the VM - it's faster than 2.
    • follow VMware's recommendations for allocating RAM to the guests
    • use a virtual hard drive for the guest OS. It's much faster than running the guest from a BootCamp partition.
    • VMware doesn't have the WDDM driver needed to enable Aero.
    • when I did an eval, the VMware Linux host video drivers didn't seem nearly as fast as for Windows or OSX hosts. Video for Windows guests is noticeably slower on a Linux host vs the other two OS's. This was the main reason I chose Mac over a Linux machine.


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