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My current system is a simple Athlon XP 2400+ with 1 GB RAM (see below). I'm running VMWare workstation 4.5.1 on it now but in the near future, probably before year's end, I'm going to thoroughly upgrade my PC. Mainboard, CPU and RAM will be replaced. I'll start with a couple of 512 MB DDR400 DIMMs but I don't know which CPU-mainboard combo though. Athlon 64's are tempting but I wonder whether a HyperThreaded P4 wouldn't fare better, with it's 2 logical CPU's. I could assign one of them to my virtual machine, the other to the host OS. I know AMD will have dual core CPU's Real Soon Now but by the time I can afford those... Duallies are out of my budget as well.

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The biggest question is what will be running inside the vm. VMware's perf is pretty close the host system running everything at the same time. You really need enough memory and running mulitple vm sessions will use alot more than your typical.

If would look at getting a dual channel memory system on the new mb, so you can add more memory.

Hyperthreading doesn't seem to help all that much in most circumstances. If it would help you depends on how this system will be used.

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I would probably be using 3 VM's or so at a time. I know 1 GB may be a bit sparse but I'm already paying for a house <_<

Host OS is Windows XP, guest OS's Windows Server 2003 and Debian Linux, perhaps FreeBSD.

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If you're on a budget for a duallie, I have been able to build one for under $700.

It was like $512.something for the CPUs and the motherboard. (Tyan S2466 and two MP2600+s)

I've found VMWare to be a bit of a waste of time because I had a system that had Red Hat 9 and Windows 2000. Started up W2k in RH9 and it took 13 minutes to open up explorer!!!

I also remember that when I first priced out the system, that to go to dual Opteron 240s, it was about $120 more.

My latest dual was $125 for the motherboard (Tyan S2462UNG) and $95 for two MP1800+s (off eBay.) Course, if you're an eBay skeptic, then you don't have to go that route, but it IS VERY possible to build systems on a fairly tight budget.

hehe...if you ever need to some resources or something for building systems on a budget, ask a college student. It's amazing....it may take a little longer than usual, but I figure if I save a couple hundred $s while I'm at it, I'd much prefer to go that route.

I have also been told that with Window 2003 and dual Opterons, you can run two instances of the same OS, which is more or less like a hardware implementation of VMWare. At least that's what I've been told by one of my roommates who started a company with his uncle I THINK in the SF Bay area (or it MIGHT be in Orange County, CA) *shrug*. I haven't seen it, but I won't be surprised if that were true though.

For the most part, hyperthreading doesn't do a whole lot. I've gotten mixed results with different and same systems with it....and proved inconclusive.

Contrast that with the Athlon series (if I have 1st hand experience with Opterons, I would report on it too, but I don't so I won't "guess"). But based on what I've seen with the Athlons, they definitely have a proven performance record and it's absolutely amazing. I've heard pretty much nothing BUT good things about the Opteron. The only down side so far against the Opterons, the lack of "general" 64-bit software is preventing it from being utilized fully.

I have also been told that Maya 7 requires Opteron as the minimum because of the 64-bit extensions and that it WILL NOT run on current systems. (*w00t*)

And then if you're REALLY in a pinch for budgetting, try this:

Tyan S2460 Tiger MP

2x AMD Duron 1.8 GHz

I bought the new Durons and an MSI board for $90 (half for the board and half for the CPU) and benched it... 2.5 GFLOPS. My current duallie gets 5.5 GFLOPS, so...IF it is a linear scale (which I know it isn't perfectly linear), but you would be close to 5 GFLOPS. And I think that you should be able to get the S2460 off eBay for maybe $100 and $90 for the two processors.

*grin*

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My current system is a simple Athlon XP 2400+ with 1 GB RAM (see below).  I'm running VMWare workstation 4.5.1 on it now but in the near future, probably before year's end, I'm going to thoroughly upgrade my PC.  Mainboard, CPU and RAM will be replaced.  I'll start with a couple of 512 MB DDR400 DIMMs but I don't know which CPU-mainboard combo though.  Athlon 64's are tempting but I wonder whether a HyperThreaded P4 wouldn't fare better, with it's 2 logical CPU's.  I could assign one of them to my virtual machine, the other to the host OS.  I know AMD will have dual core CPU's Real Soon Now but by the time I can afford those...  Duallies are out of my budget as well.

While I'm no expert, my understanding of HT leads me to believe that it may not be a particularly effective solution for your use...maybe.

HT, while two "logical" processors, is NOT two processors, and doesn't have the resources of two processors. It's basically a trick for running multiple processes through the CPU to use up more idle resources. Assigning the two different tasks (OS and VMs) to each separate processor could result in a DRASTIC performance decrease on one or both depending on what applications are running on each, possibly resulting in less overall perf than you'd see without HT due to CPU cache contention between the processes.

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HT would help but not a great deal. HT is more useful for running apps in the background with a '&' or such. A second minor thread in an app will also be HT friendly.

The best I could recommend is to buy a dual Opteron shuttle. It shouldn't cost too much but you'll have to live with 1 oppie sharing the other's memory transport.

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I have been using VMware extensively for a long time now, both for testing and training purposes, and for live server consolidation. Ram is definitely the most important thing for VMware, once you have a certain minimum CPU.

The machine that I use as a live server is a P3-733, with 512 MB of Ram. It runs Win2k Pro as a host OS, with the following guest operating systems : Win2k Server (160 MB Ram), Win 98 (32 MB Ram), and NT Server 4.0 (64 MB Ram). The host machine is a little stressed for Ram (the bios will not allow more than 512), but it is a great way to cut down on space used in the server room. All the legacy apps run on one box. The system is stable as a rock.

My main testing machine for VMware is an Athlon XP 2500+ with 1 GB of Ram. It can easily run 3 or 4 guest operating systems with excellent performance. Unless you have a lot of clients connecting to the virtual machines to keep them busy, a single fast CPU will likely be fine.

You mentioned that you would use Windows 2003 Server, Debian Linux, and perhaps FreeBSD. What apps do you plan to run with the guest operating systems ? Unless you really load the guests heavily, your current rig should handle that with no problems.

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No, virtually all P4s have HT these days. Not that it adds much to the performance of the system.

Back to the main questions...

As someone who does a ton with VMWare, ram is most important, CPU is much less important. I am running a small vmware gsx server for web hosting at home, I have a dual 3GHz Xeon with 2GB of RAM, and VMWare flies. People terminal service into the windows 2003 VM and cannot believe it when I tell them that it's one of three running at once. The largest VM runs Oracle 9i as well, so it is a bit of a memory hog. 1GB of RAM will let you run two moderate VMs or one large VM as well as your main OS. If you notice poor VM performance, there is a 90% chance that it's RAM. VMWare reccomends fairly minimal RAM when you use the wizard, so make sure the number is realistic or you may be dissapointed with the VM performance.

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These posts about vmware aren't one size fits all, although they seem to be roughly correct for desktop usage (which is what HMTK asked about). For very small implementations, such as 1-2 VMs (or more), which are mainly used for testing other OSes, or running apps not available on the host, then RAM is certainly the bottleneck on a desktop or laptop.

For larger implementations, where there are 4-8 VMs running a workload on a larger system, both RAM and CPU, as well as disk I/O can constrain the system. Dual Opterons have had about 40% better performance than Xeons for the apps I've tested (not a wide variety though). These are somewhat CPU intensive apps, and they are active at the same time.

On very large workloads, with VMWARE ESX, CPU is almost always the bottleneck, although driver and architectural limitations have caused us to change configurations or reduce the number of VMs as well. From my testing, we expect to run 40-50 VMs per 8-way x445 (with 32-64GB of RAM). Under the load tests, CPU peaks far before any other resource, and other organizations have had similar results. 30-50 VMs seems to be standard.

Also, VMWare recommends allocation about 64MB more RAM for a VM than you would put into a physical machine when creating it.

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What apps do you plan to run with the guest operating systems ?

First thing I'm going to do is learn to use the various OS'es correctly. I'd like both Debian and W2K3 for file/print server, mail server (Exchange on the W2K3), web server and ftp server but I'm going to start with the most basic stuff first.

If you're on a budget for a duallie, I have been able to build one for under $700.

A Tyan S2466-N-4M costs € 270 on it's own. An Athlon MP 2600+ goes for €160 per CPU. Then I don't have RAM yet and it's "old tech". Opteron 2xx's start at ~ € 240 each, mainboards I'd use for them start at € 550. Still no RAM for that price.

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For just testing/using various OSes (which I assume you'll mainly just be running one at a time), you don't need a dual system, or huge amounts of RAM, but RAM is more important, as these VMs will mostly be idle.

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What apps do you plan to run with the guest operating systems ?

First thing I'm going to do is learn to use the various OS'es correctly. I'd like both Debian and W2K3 for file/print server, mail server (Exchange on the W2K3), web server and ftp server but I'm going to start with the most basic stuff first.

If you're on a budget for a duallie, I have been able to build one for under $700.

A Tyan S2466-N-4M costs € 270 on it's own. An Athlon MP 2600+ goes for €160 per CPU. Then I don't have RAM yet and it's "old tech". Opteron 2xx's start at ~ € 240 each, mainboards I'd use for them start at € 550. Still no RAM for that price.

two questions: a) eBay?

B) Can't you find someone here in the US or Canada that you trust enough to build your system for you, and then ship it to you? Or...just order the parts for you and then ship them to you and let you build it?

My guess is that even with S&H and VAT...that it's still come out cheaper.

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a. I don't buy Athlons second hand unless I can't avoid it. Things are too fragile to trust a seller not to sell a damaged one.

b. No. Anyway if I buy something with horrible replacement procedures (like any mainboard), I want to be able to simply go to where I bought it and get another.

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