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I’m Your Turbo-Memory, Tell Me There’s No Other…

Ok, if you got that joke, you either are or were a long-haired hessian from the 80’s, just like I was. First off – I’m sorry I’ve been silent for so long. I’m buying a house, my wife and I are expecting again, and I’m hiring staff as well as kicking off LOTS of real projects at work. Anyway, with that, allow me to start the blogging again!

I just came back from the Intel Premier IT Professionals session in NYC, and while it was geared largely on the desktop space (apparently the Fall event will focus more on Servers), they spent some time covering virtualization and the new hardware coming out to support virtualization. The agenda covered Intel’s VT extensions that help improve system virtualization performance, and is such a key component of Virtual Iron’s and other Xen-based products. Without this (or AMD’s equivalent), there could be no way of making Microsoft operating systems run on Xen hypervisors. Intel also covered my grrr-item of the year – Windows Vista’s virtualization-friendly license that is friendly only for the Enterprise Edition, but I’ll grrr on that elsewhere. My favorite item of this year’s new hardware – Turbo Memory.

For those unfamiliar with Turbo Memory, it’s best described as this – picture a flash (NAND) drive that sits between your regular hard drive(s) and your CPU/Motherboard/RAM. There it acts as a cache for frequently used data (kind of like a CPU’s cache) and helps offload read/write to your hard disks, thereboy mitigating one of the last real bottlenecks in the architecture of modern PC-based systems. From my understanding, TM is tied to Vista’s ReadyDrive system for full functionality, but that will only last for so long before the concept moves into competitive production and other vendors figure out how to detach the TM concept from Vista and make it as invisible as normal hard disk cache. It hasn’t yet hit the server chips, but is expected to by this time next year. From a server virtualization point-of-view, this is important since disk I/O is one of the biggest problems with getting a large physical-to-virtual machine ratio. As each virtual machine is accessed, it calls for disk access to it’s virtual disks, as these requests go to the hardware via the hypervisor and/or host OS, they queue up, slowing down performance. The Turbo Memory concept is one that can be applied to help mitigate this problem. As it stands, I may just get a Vista Desktop with dual disks and Turbo Memory, load it up w/ 4GB RAM, and throw in a huge number of VMs via VMware Server and then via Virtual PC. Throw in some load simulation scripts, perfmon logging and a little elbow grease, and I might have some interesting numbers to show against an entry-level server running W2K3 and similar hardware. The test won’t be worth much on the books, since Vista’s got client-related limitation that make it an inefficient platform (10 connections, anyone?) for hosting virtual machines, but for the fun of it and for the raw numbers that show what Turbo Memory can do, it’ll be worthwhile.

While there I also met the Regional Director for Virtual Iron, who I’m going to be following up with to see about getting my Virtual Iron demo rolling.

Going back to my “poker-based” review system, I give turbo memory’s concept a solid 9 pokers.

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No need to wait until you can drum up a Vista machine for this kind of test. Head over to, download an eval of DXtreme and see the magic they can do to eliminate IO bottlenecks and maximize memory. I've seen massive performance throughput and the ability to at least double the number of VMs on a host simply by using their stuff. It's new, but very interesting.
Speaking of DXtreme, we just published an article on it by Alex Barrett: VMware performance spikes with InovaWave DXtreme, users say