Virtual Virtuosity

Last week I got a new desktop at work. It’s a real nice workstation class PC with a lot of CPU power and memory. It’s purpose is to simulate a small network of computers via VMware Server for software testing.

I was of course curious if I can run NetBSD as a guest operating system. I decided to try NetBSD-amd64 because both the hardware and software support 64Bit mode. I downloaded an ISO image from the daily builds, created a virtual machine with two CPUs and started it. NetBSD booted without any problems and detected all the emulated hardware. VMware Server still emulates an old Intel i440BX chipset from the times of the Pentium II and III. But the virtual AMD PCnet network chip has been replaced by a virtual Intel Gigabit i82545 network chip. I don’t know why they made that change but I guess it helps network performance of virtual machines using more than 4GB of memory. Installing NetBSD to the (virtual) harddisk worked without any problems. The new system started up fine and I had networking up and running in no time.

The last experiment was to try to boot a NetBSD kernel with multi processor support. The kernel took a long time to boot up but finally reached multi user mode after a few minutes. I upgraded the NetBSD sources and started a build using four parallel jobs. The build finished without any difficulties and top on the host machine confirmed that the virtual machine was indeed keeping two CPU cores busy.