By Lee Gomes
If a virtual workstation is booted in a forest, but there is no way to benchmark it, does it even exist? Desktop virtualization has had to wrestle with a version of that philosophical question for the longest time, owing to a lack of commonly-accepted standards to measure the performance of a virtualized workstation. (That's in contrast to the many different benchmarks available for traditional workstations and PCs.)
That situation has now changed for the better. The Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation, best known for the "spec marks" that are ubiquitous in computing, has just announced a revision of its workstation benchmark, SPECwpc V1.2. The big news is that the new standard, for the first time, includes a suite of performance metrics for virtualized machines.
The benchmarks are designed to allow both vendors and customers to accurately assess the different capabilities of a particular virtualized system. The tests quantify performance in a number of traditional areas, such as CPU power and memory and storage throughput. But they also assess virtualization-specific issues, such as hypervisor performance.
"Desktop virtualization is an important option for a wide range of professionals using popular workstation applications," says Tom Fisher, SPECwpc chair. "The latest version of SPECwpc software provides a comprehensive picture of performance for both physical and virtualized workstations."
The new tests come at a time of increased interest in using virtualization technologies for high-end tasks, taking advantage of new graphics co-processing hardware available for back-end servers. Jon Peddie Research estimates that while there were essentially no such clients two years ago, there will be 350,000 by 2018.
SPEC is a non-profit organization with a number of working groups. Members of the SPECwpc project group included HP, NVIDIA, VMware, Intel, Micron, Dell, AMD, Fujitsu and Lenovo.
The suite of SPECwpc V1.2 tests is available for free to non-commercial users. For commercial entities, the licensing fee is $5,000.