I need to run several virtual machines on a core i7-920 box with 12GB or RAM and a 256GB SSD to host the VMs. It also has a Highpoint RocketRaid 2720SGL RAID controller with a 12TB RAID 5 array.

I want one of my VMs to run Windows 8 x64, to have access to the RAID array as a native disk (not as networked drives and it needs to run at full speed) and to be able to send files quickly across the network.

Initially I thought I'd try to do this using ESXi 5, but I have been unable to find any working RAID drivers for the RR2720SGL and it is not on the HCL for ESXi 5.

In light of this, I have installed Windows 8 x64 on the hardware and am thinking of installing VMWare Workstation and running my VMs inside there.

I guess my questions are these:

  • How does VMWare Workstation 9 perform compared to ESXi 5? In the real world I mean?
  • Presumably installing Win 8 as the host OS will give me way better performance for that Win 8 machine than Win 8 running under ESXi?
  • I should stick with Windows 8 x64 as the host OS, right?
  • If I install a domain controller VM inside my Win 8 box and join the Win 8 machine to that domain, am I insane (I would guess the Win 8 machine wouldn't see the domain controller until it finished starting everything up, but I don't think that matters)?!
  • is it feasible to give metrics like this and if so, what is the likely value of x? 25%? 50%? 75%? Win 8 under ESXi runs x% as fast as Win 8 installed bare metal.

Without digging into your end goal by asking a bunch of added questions:

  • It is only reasonable to assume WS9 will have more overhead than ESXi - how much you could only say by running both on the same hardware using the same benchmark.
  • Consider Windows server 2012 with Hyper-V role, or Hyper-V3 Server(free) if you are concerned about maximum efficiency from you physical hardware and ESXi free won't run on it. As I understand it, Windows 8 also has the Hyper-V3 in it as well
  • As long as your DC VM is typically on it will be ok, or just always log into the host OS with a non-domain account.
  • Yes, but only on identical hardware with an identical benchmark.

It sounds like eeking out every inch of performance is an issue for you. There are lots of entry level servers out there with a spec on par with your configuration that support ESXi that can be obtained for fairly low cost and put you in a 'supported' configuration. If this is a lab then, maybe this isn't a big deal.

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