November 10, 2006 5:16 AM PST

Speed test for virtualization under way

LOS ANGELES--An industry group has begun working on a way to find out whether VMware, Xen or Microsoft Virtual Server is the fastest virtualization software.

The Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. (SPEC) has launched a subgroup to come up with a benchmark to see how well computers handle a variety of tasks running on a virtualization foundation. Virtualization lets a single computer run separate operating systems in different compartments called virtual machines.

"SPEC has picked up virtualization as a new subgroup. They will drive industry toward a standard way of making this kind of virtualization comparison," said Stephen Herrod, vice president of technology development at VMware, speaking during a presentation at the company's VMworld conference here.

Virtual machine technology has existed for years on high-end servers, but it's coming to mainstream servers using x86 processors through products such as VMware's ESX Server, XenSource's XenEnterprise and Microsoft's Virtual Server. Virtualization holds promise for efficiency and reliability, but it incurs a performance penalty.

Members of SPEC's virtualization subgroup include AMD, Intel, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun Microsystems, Fujitsu Siemens and EMC subsidiary VMware.

But don't expect fast results. "Standards organizations don't move super-quickly. It'll be realistically over a year before 'SPECvm' or whatever will be there," Herrod said.

Until the SPEC benchmark is complete, VMware encourages use of its in-house benchmark, VMmark, which it debuted in September and detailed at the conference.

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