NetBSD/xen I/O Performance

In the past NetBSD has been reported to deliver poor I/O performance when running under the Xen hypervisor. Because I’m considering running Xen on my home server in future I ran some benchmarks under NetBSD/xen myself recently.

I used my HP Proliant ML110 G4 for the benchmarks. The machine has an Intel Xeon 3040 CPU (Dual Core 1,87GHz), 5GB of DDR2 memory and a single 160GB SATA hard disk. I used the new 64Bit Xen support in NetBSD-current for booting NetBSD/xen because the machine normally runs NetBSD/amd64.

The two benchmarks consisted of:

  1. Extracting the NetBSD 4.0 source tar archives from a memory filesystem to an empty filesystem on the hard disk.
  2. Copying 32GB from /dev/zero to file on a (non empty) filesystem on the hard disk.

I’ve used an unmodified GENERIC kernel under NetBSD/amd64 and the XEN3_DOM0 kernel under NetBSD/xen. Both kernels were built from NetBSD 4.99.63 sources. The NetBSD/amd64 kernel could utilise both CPU cores and the full 5GB of main memory. Because NetBSD/xen doesn’t support SMP and cannot handle 5GB at the moment (see PR port-xen/38699) the NetBSD/xen kernel could only use one CPU core and 3.5GB. Under these conditions I expected NetBSD/amd64 to win by a mile. But I was in for a surprise:

Benchmark/Kernel NetBSD/amd64 NetBSD/xen
extract sources 4:19.31 min 3:59.20 min
write 32GB 46391830 bytes/sec 47161618 bytes/sec

As you can see the NetBSD/xen kernel actually provided slightly better I/O performance. The benchmarks are I/O bound and the NetBSD/amd64 could apparently not benefit from the second CPU core. My guess is that it was instead slowed down by the locking overhead of the SMP kernel.

The good news is however that NetBSD/xen delivers good I/O performance. Michael Graff had similar encouraging results when he compared VMware Server and Xen.

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