I know that modern virtualization has minimal CPU impact. What about I/O? What about GUI work?

I'm asking specifically for VMware Workstation (Windows Host) and VMWare ESXi; Linux guest.

Edit: I'd like actual numbers. Something like: On VMware Workstation, CPU should be about 95%, but GUI work only 20%.

BTW: Do ESXi and Workstation use the same underlying virtualization engine?

Edit: By GUI, I mean typical desktop GUI: browser, IDE, word processor.

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    I doubt you're going to get such clear numbers - effects will vary massively depending on OS, virtualization technology, and last but not least the standard you're measuring against – Pekka 웃 Oct 6 '11 at 16:59

Every factor of performance is affected. There is no (or minimal) graphical acceleration in a VM with most hypervisors (though some hypervisors have some support, which is either highly experimental or has fairly strict hardware requirements).

Level 1 hypervisors, like ESX, Hyper-V, Xen, KVM: Most things will be around 3-5% penalty.
Level 2 hypervisors, like VMware Workstation: Most things about 10-15%.

"GUI" means nothing. If it's a DOS style CLI you will never be able to notice the difference. If it's a heavily detailed 3D environment (like a game) the performance penalty might easily be 99% or worse.

Most typical desktop applications are light on resources, so you wouldn't really notice that it's running in a VM. We have users with thin clients connected to a Terminal Server VM and they don't notice unless they try to play full screen video or something similarly resource intensive.

ESX and VMware Workstation do not have the same virtualization engine, though they are similar in some respects.

  • -1. NOT correct. Hyper-V for example adds virtualizatiopn for the graphics card now - yes, you need a special driver, but it IS there. VMWare Workstation had experimental DirectX 3d support for quite some time. – TomTom Oct 6 '11 at 19:00
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    @TomTom -1 for "virtualizatiopn" – Chris S Oct 6 '11 at 20:29

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