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Benchmarks and Tests

Virtual Machine Showdown – VMWare vs VirtualBox

Let’s face it, not everyone wants to install a second operating system on their hard disk.  Dual booting between Linux and Windows is a tremendous pain in the butt. This is why the great computing diety invented Virtual Machines.Virtual Machines are programs that emulate a computer, It allows you to run an operating system inside of your current operating system.  If you were so inclined you could even run an operating system inside of an operating system which is inside of an operating system, but then you’re getting into some serious Leonardo DiCaprio Inception bullshit and no one really wants that.

I spent the last day or so testing out both VirtualBox, which is new to me, and VMWare Player, a free version of VMWare, the program I’ve been using for many years. and the results are interesting.

I did a default installation of Linux Mint, Both with 10GB Drives, 2GB RAM, and 2 CPUs from my 4-core Intel i7 920.

I did my first installation on VirtualBox ( http://www.virtualbox.org/ ) and it was surprisingly easy.  I selected a Debain x86_64 based system and installed off the x86_64 ISO DVD image I downloaded from http://www.linuxmint.com. I only ran into one minor glitch in the beginning where I was unable to modify the Virtual Server hardware settings after I initially created the new Virtual Server. This was fixed by closing and re-opening VirtualBox.  From initial system boot to the final reboot installation of Linux Mint under VirtualBox took 11 minutes.

Virtual Machines also have “tools” that need to be installed on the guest operating system. VirtualBox makes this very simple, you go to “Devices->Install Guest Additions…” and VirtualBox forces the operating system to mount an ISO image with the tools required.  It includes an autorun script on the ISO so they install automatically. Overall this was probably the least painful Linux installation I’ve ever done. VirtualBox also has a really useful walkthrough when creating a virtual machine that’s good for relative newbies.  I still suggest you at least browse the documentation though!

The next installation was done with VMWare. VMWare is very similar to VirtualBox, but a little more difficult to use. Even with that though, it’s a far more mature product and that showed in the benchmarks I did.  Unfortunately the interface is lacking. From initial boot to final reboot the installation on VMWare took only 7 minutes. There were a few problems, though…

First, unlike with VirtualBox, sound didn’t work right away. That seemed to clear itself up with a reboot, though.  I have had issues with sound and VMWare in the past, but it’s never been a big concern to me. Regardless, it cleared itself up.

The “VMWare Tools” package was a bit more difficult to install.  VMWare, like VirtualBox mounted an ISO for me on Linux but there was no autorun, it was just a tarball (tar.gz) on a CD.  You have to copy the tarball to your home directory, uncompress it, then run the install.sh via a terminal. You also have to answer a bunch of questions about locations and what you want to install from it.

So, Interface-wise, I really prefer VirtualBox. It just seemed easier to use and manage over VMWare Player.

However….

When it comes down to raw benchmarks, VMWare seems to have it in the bag. I didn’t do any graphical benchmarks, but instead tested some more quantitative things using phoronix test suite, CPU, memory & disk access.

The comparison between the two systems can be found here: http://openbenchmarking.org/result/1109086-DAIT-MINTVMW79,1109082-DAIT-VIRTUAL59
(I’ve been having some issues with Chrome crashing on that site, If you do as well, just refresh it until it pops up. It’ll work, I promise)

Both machines had the same settings. 2GB RAM, 2 CPUs with VT-x enabled (Intel’s Virtual machine technology) and 10GB drives. In nearly all categories VMWare beat VirtualBox. Some categories VirtualBox was just crushed (like the Apache connections test) but most were very close  The only tests in which VirtualBox won were  Encryption (GnuPG) and image conversion (dcraw), both CPU-based.

So, in the end if performance is what you need out of your Virtual Machine, VMWare is probably the way to go.  Honestly though, if you’re in it for performance you shouldn’t be using a virtual machine anyway, you should just be dual booting then.

I’m personally going to play around with VirtualBox for awhile. It’s great for a testing environment and as long as you make snapshots of your virtual machine before you do anything drastic you can’t screw things up.  It’s the perfect system for those who want to test Linux without giving up their Windows installation.

  • Fat Bloke

    Great info!
    In my experience, VirtualBox is usually faster than VMware Player in most tests, so surprised to see the results. I wonder if it is because you used 2 vCPUs. Would be interesting to see single vCPU in a vm results.

  • Wild Turkey

    I originally got into VMs to run iTunes on my Linux computer, installing Win7 as the guest. That was over a year ago. I started with VirtualBox, but then switched to VMware Player when I discovered that VirtualBox would not let me write a music CD. Has that been fixed? In any case, I’ve been with Player ever since, but I try to keep up with the comparisons. Thanks for this one.

  • I just installed both vmware and virtual box, both with windows 7 x86. The settings were 2 cpu, 2gb ram, 500 hdd space; anyway seems that in my host machine, vmware consume less memory then virtual box with about 20% even I specify to both the same amount of memory. Also vmware has the ability of totally full screen which for me fits my expectation most. I will definitely go on vmware, but virtual box is more easier to setup.

    • Rahul Kundu

      I am working with virtualbox for a long time and full screen mode is available here.

  • Me

    @Wild Turkey

    Youve gone way too far!

    wine <– runs windows programs in linux

  • Paul

    Thanks for the breakdown, GREAT info!

  • maihoa

    wine <– runs windows programs in linux —Sometimes. I gave up on it. too many problems. until wine matures (if ever) vmware player on linux is a better choice.

  • Thanks a lot for your hard work! I’m a newbie on VM, doing some research b/w VMware Player and VirtualBox on Scientific Linux 6. I will probably go for VirtualBox first, just to get a feel on VM, and will switch to VMware Player later. Keep up your good work. =)

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  • BigMac

    VMware and Virtualbox are both good choices, but another virtualisation option is Xen.
    Wine is useful as you don’t need a Windows license (it can be a pain to get working though).

  • It is generally acknowledged that VirtualBox is more performant than VMware. Interesting that you observed the opposite. I think VMWare gives better options for external devices than Virtualbox.

    The main advantage I see in using VMs on a pc is that you can back up a instance, move it onto another computer without re-installing, have various instances each optimised for specific usages and not get a registry full of garbage which is what happens on a windoze machine after 6-12 months of usage.

    Tip: Try running VMs off USB disks if you internal disks don’t support parallel access.

  • Keith Smith

    Nowhere do I see what actual virtualbox release we are running. Performance benchmarks are somewhat pointless for a virtual desktop environment, unless they are WAY out. Like the apache one.

    But your configurations are not listed. Was the network adaptor bridged?

    VirtualBox Full-Screens just fine. With the openGL drivers in the guest and on the host, I’ve found it will play Full motion video just fine 1080p.

    Your “comparison” has the screen size 1280×960 onb Vbox vs 1024×768 for VMware, This will affect memory consumption for sure, as does openGL support in the guest, etc, etc, etc.

    The pure CPU benchmarks show very little difference. So I’m guessing the virtual disk I/O plays heavily here, and VMware is definately faster on the I/O front.

    If you want a server, use VMware. In my experience Virtualbox is much better for interactive use. Keyboard and mouse integration is VASTLY better, and extremely stable. The seamless mode with opengl support has always performed without a hitch.

  • Ibrahim

    I have been using virtual box both Linux and Windows as host and vice versa. My computer has a 1366 X 768 display of 32bits, 3GB RAM, NVIDIA graphics and 2.17GHZ AMD processor. D problem i am having is d slow aspect. I recently upgraded my RAM to 4GB eventhough it is showing (2.75 used) in parenthesis and have fully updated my windows prior to installing Ubuntu 11.10 but i quite nt think if dat affects it. I really want a fast performance. In fact i dual booted my computer but most times my windows fails to loads from d GRUB boot manager. Help me out with a lasting solution pls.

  • Darko

    Generally, I like both VirtualBox and VMware, VBox being free and simple with some unique settings, VMware for general use.

    But, last couple of days I have virtualized old Intel P4 NetBurst machine and tested it on Windows XP Mobile Celeron 1.7GHz Yonah with both VBox and VMware, and VBox is literaly 3 to 4 times faster in booting-up, loading programs and shuting-down!

    I do have to admit that VMware image was created from a virtual instalation od Acronis True Image .TIB backup (converted to .ISO with ImgBurn and placed in virtual CD ROM) so that might be the cause of slow performance, but it should actually be native VMware instalation format as I see it, I can’t really explain this massive performance difference.

    Vbox image was created with Disk2VHD with prepare for VirtualPC option checked.

    Vbox to go whenever possible.

    • revskill

      What about running VBox in production, inside a Windows Server 2008 machine ?

  • Darko

    Addition to my last post, both images had installed respective tools and same graphics reslution settings (1280×800) with 512 MB of RAM assigned.

    • Darko

      After some recent research, I found a better way to convert VHD->VMDK using WinImage or TIB->VMDK using vCenter, and this way VMware’s virtually the same to VBox (pun intended) performance wise. The earlier described ISO method for TIB->ISO->VMDK is obviously doing something wrong to the VMware’s image, because I’ve got 3-4 times slower performance as mentioned in my 1st comment.

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  • 18TommyBoy

    Its amazing test! Thank you! 🙂

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