Benchmarks: Streaming and Virtual Hosted Desktop Study: Phase 2

Intel recently published a short 8-pages paper about the performance of virtual desktop streaming in a Microsoft VDI environment powered by Xeon X5570 CPUs, Hyper-V 2008 R2 and Citrix Provisioning Server 5.1, serving Windows 7 guest OSes.

The findings are rather interesting:

  • For basic office productivity applications, systems based on dual-core processors with streaming provided a 26 percent better WorldBench 5 performance benchmark score than VHD.
  • Streaming server utilization was consistently low. Streaming used about 1 percent of the processor while VHD used from 10 to 70 percent or more for up to 40 PCs.
  • A richer graphical user interface(GUI) with more features in Microsoft Windows 7 contributed to higher cumulative network traffic for both streaming and VHD, up to a 57 percent increase in traffic for 20 users.
  • Using WorldBench 5 tests as the primary indicator, local computing using the latest technology provided the best user experience.

Our findings indicate that increasingly complex user workloads make it challenging to measure, compare, and predict server loading. Beyond CPU usage, additional performance considerations now include the I/O subsystem and disk. New server optimization technologies, such as hyperthreading, increase performance but add to the complexity of tuning VHD environments. As user workloads evolve, optimization methods become more difficult and require constant attention.
Although the VHD WorldBench 5 scores have improved to be more comparable with streaming, this still does not mean thin PCs are an appropriate choice. In addition to looking at performance, before choosing a compute model, we also consider mobility requirements, flexibility to adapt to evolving workloads, and our ability to adequately support the solution. Consistent with the results from the first study, we found that mobile business PCs provide the best flexibility. Streaming remains more appropriate for graphics, multimedia, animation, and real-time collaboration applications, while VHD can be acceptable for basic office and data entry tasks.