Hyper-V is definitely NOT for workstations

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EDIT: The mul­ti­me­dia per­for­mance prob­lems described below turned out to be a dis­play dri­ver issue with nvidia hav­ing some kind of con­flict with Hyper-V. Down­grad­ing to Win­dows XP dri­vers cured this for me.

Also, the very min­i­mal per­for­mance test­ing I did pre­vi­ous­ly (start-up time of a Win­dows XP VM in Hyper-V) was a bit apples-to-oranges as I installed a fresh copy of WinXP under Hyper-V. Since I already rein­stalled Hyper-V to test out the dis­play dri­vers fix, I decid­ed to do a bet­ter com­par­i­son. This time I con­vert­ed my VMware VM to a Hyper-V VM (min­i­mal ser­vices set to start and all) and found start­up time on par with VMware work­sta­tion, maybe a few sec­onds faster.

My only road­block to using Hyper-V now is the lack of wire­less NIC support.

I’m at a point in my cur­rent project where I need to test out auto­mat­ed installs on dif­fer­ent OSes at var­i­ous states (total­ly clean, .net frame­work installed, our soft­ware already installed, etc).  Hav­ing just moved to Win2k8 on my work­sta­tion, I decid­ed to give Microsoft’s new par­avir­tu­al­iza­tion prod­uct, Hyper-V, a shot.

I’m a pret­ty big VMware fan.  I use VMware Work­sta­tion on a dai­ly basis and also used their free VMware Serv­er prod­uct before they switched over to the clunky web-only inter­face in v2.  Microsoft’s Vir­tu­al PC and Vir­tu­al Serv­er offer­ings nev­er com­pared with even the free VMware Serv­er, as far as fea­tures and per­for­mance were con­cerned.  It was even worse when you take into account Workstation’s killer snap­shot man­age­ment.  Hyper-V (essen­tial­ly $28 when bun­dled with Win2k8) was sup­posed to bring every­thing much more in par­i­ty with VMware’s enter­prise offer­ings.  I was excit­ed to try it out.

That didn’t last long though, as I soon dis­cov­ered that Hyper-V doesn’t sup­port bind­ing to wire­less NICs.  There are some painful workarounds involv­ing bind­ing your wire­less NIC to the vir­tu­al NIC, or using ICS on your wire­less NIC to share it out to the vir­tu­al NIC.  Both are kludgy and nei­ther were very sta­ble for me.

The real killer though was how much host per­for­mance suf­fered.  When the Hyper-V role is installed on Win2k8, the hyper­vi­sor stack is installed under­neath the host OS stack and the host essen­tial­ly becomes a vir­tu­al­ized envi­ron­ment, just like any oth­er VM.  This is great for the serv­er envi­ron­ments that Hyper-V is intend­ed for, but for a work­sta­tion where you want inter­ac­tiv­i­ty, it means pret­ty notice­able per­for­mance degra­da­tion.  Videos that would nor­mal­ly load up and play instant­ly would hang for 5-10 sec­onds before play­ing, and even then, the audio and video would stut­ter for the first few sec­onds.  Per­form­ing oth­er activ­i­ties involv­ing rea­son­able disk I/O (such as copy­ing files) would make the audio and video stut­ter more.  Scrolling appli­ca­tions, which are smooth with­out Hyper-V, are jerky when vir­tu­al­ized (remind­ed me a lot of scrolling on a remote desk­top session).

Grant­ed, Hyper-V isn’t designed for work­sta­tion use, just like Win2k8 serv­er, but for IT pros/Developers who have switched toWin2k8 for their work­sta­tion regard­less, stick with VMware.  It pro­vides more fea­tures and bet­ter host per­for­mance.  Guest per­for­mance seems remark­ably bet­ter as well (a WinXP VM that takes 13 sec­onds avg to boot to a desk­top under VMware took 24 sec­onds avg under Hyper-V).  I’m not real­ly sure I see the ben­e­fit Hyper-V pro­vides, at this point.

8 thoughts on “Hyper-V is definitely NOT for workstations

  1. Although the some of your points are accu­rate, they are all a bit miss lead­ing. For your first point on Wire­less access, there is a good point on why it isn't enabled by default. And if you want it work­ing it real­ly isn't hard, it is just a few steps and nev­er fails. http://blogs.msdn.com/virtual_pc_guy/archive/2008/01/09/using-hyper-v-with-a-wireless-network-adapter.aspx
    That is the VPC Guy with a walkthrough.

    Now, for your points on per­for­mance, I too am expe­ri­enc­ing this. I can't stand it! But we in a few forums have nar­rowed this down to the Hyper-V RC1 and RTM update. Pre-RC1 installs worked flaw­less­ly with every­thing (as a work­sta­tion). Even now with the weird hic­cups I do have the abil­i­ty to run Cry­sis beau­ti­ful­ly, etc. They real­ly need to fix what­ev­er it is that was changed. If you are inter­est­ed in a good thread go here:
    http://forums.technet.microsoft.com/en-US/winserverhyperv/thread/4e1c53f5-0400-4ca9-8819-f942c10881c1/

  2. I can't use ICS between my wire­less and my wired nics (or bridg­ing or net­work rout­ing for that mat­ter) because I already use my work­sta­tion for VPN, have pri­vate lans on my wired port, and DHCP already run­ning. All of this inter­feres when I try any of the ran­dom solu­tions out there. I need to be able to just have a vm nic bridged to my wire­less nic, which Hyper-V won't do. The solu­tions are ICS, set­ting up rout­ing ser­vices, or bridg­ing the wire­less nic to a wired nic, etc, all of which I con­sid­er kludges to get Hyper-V to do some­thing it doesn't want to. They don't work in my spe­cif­ic sce­nario, which makes it painful. So not sure why my point's mis­lead­ing there. 😉

    Thanks for the heads up on the thread! I'll keep tabs on it!

  3. Did you check out the VPC Guy's wire­less walk­through? When you add the vir­tu­al net­work and then add it to your vir­tu­al machine it cre­ates it's on net­work con­nec­tion. You then just share (or bridge) which ever adapter's con­nec­tion to the vir­tu­al adapter. This could be for wired or wire­less adapters. VPN, DHCP, I don't see how this isn't a sim­ple fix? You could add 2 or 3 vir­tu­al net­work adapters receiv­ing a net­work share from dif­fer­ent phys­i­cal adapters. Then you could have VPN, inter­net, wire­less inter­net, some play dns/dhcp serv­er all con­nect­ed sep­a­rate­ly to the vir­tu­al machine.

  4. I did try bridg­ing the vir­tu­al net­work adapter and my wire­less nic and found it caused issues with my DNS Serv­er no longer answer­ing requests and not being able to restart upon boot­up. My DHCP serv­er sud­den­ly stopped respond­ing to DHCP requests on the network.

    The main point is that I don't want to have to do kludgy workarounds like that, ones that have the poten­tial to cause all kinds of issues to ser­vices that bind to NICs. I'd rather just have my work­sta­tion vir­tu­al­iza­tion prod­uct able to bind to a wire­less NIC.

  5. Regard­ing per­for­mance.
    IF you have hard­ware VM sup­port and 8GB ram then it will absolute­ly crush any­thing. Prfor­mance is way beyond anthing I ever expect­ed from MS.
    For exam­ple run­ning 2003 straight on hard­ware is about 1/4 the per­for­mance of run­ning 2003 in hyper-v

  6. @Anonymous: I have 8GB and so far have found per­for­mance to be pret­ty much on par with VMware Work­sta­tion 6.

    Not sure what you mean by "hard­ware VM sup­port", but I have Intel VT obvi­ous­ly as it's required to use Hyper-V. Work­sta­tion takes advan­tage of VT too, so I'm not see­ing a huge difference.

  7. @Mikey - I def­i­nite­ly agree with You that after hav­ing used Hyper-V for about 2 months, it appears that I'm get­ting way below par per­for­mance on my work­sta­tion 2k8. No mat­ter what MS says regard­ing Hyper-V role restric­tion etc, the fact of the mat­ter is that it slowed the host down from a Dual Core2 to a Sin­gle Core P3 (at least that's what I'm see­ing). Open­ing up any appli­ca­tion will prac­ti­cal­ly pause every­thing for quite a few sec­onds before resuming.

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