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Re: [Xen-users] Recommendations for Virtulization Hardware

(CC'ing Casey on this, as I recommend his setup for an Intel-based solution)

Hello ShadesOfGrey,

Hehehe, talk about timing ;)

On Sep 20, 2012, at 5:15 PM, ShadesOfGrey <shades_of_grey@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> I'm looking to build a new personal computer.  I want it to function as a 
> Linux desktop, provide network services for my home, and lastly, occasional 
> Windows gaming.  From what I've gathered, virtualization using a Type 1 
> Hypervisor supporting PCI/VGA pass-through like KVM or Xen would be an 
> attractive solution for my needs.  For reference, reading these threads on 
> Ars Technica may be helpful to understand where I'm coming from, 
> http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1175674 and 
> http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1181867. But basically, I 
> use Linux as my primary OS and would rather avoid dual booting or building 
> two boxes just to play Windows games when I want to play Windows games.  I'm 
> also intrigued by the concept of virtualization and would like to experiment 
> with it as a solution for my case.
> My problem is isolating which hardware to choose, specifically which 
> combination of CPU, motherboard and video card.  Previously I had been 
> relying on web searches to glean information from gaming and enthusiast web 
> sites and tech specs from motherboard manufacturers.  After what I learned 
> during my participation in the referenced threads at Ars Technica, I find 
> myself back at square one.  Instead of trying to guess what hardware support 
> KVM & Xen, and vice versa.  I'd like to know what hardware KVM & Xen users 
> are actually using to run KVM & Xen? Particularly with consideration for 3D 
> gaming and current generation hardware, BTW.
> If there is need for further clarification, I'll answer any queries you might 
> have.
> _______________________________________________
> Xen-users mailing list
> Xen-users@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> http://lists.xen.org/xen-users

As one of the folks on the list who has done this---probably to the
most extreme degree---I can tell you it's good stuff.  It brings the
joys of datacenter consolidation to your gaming desktop, and also to
your wallet ;)

While my setup is now slightly dated, the 990FX chipset is still at
the top of the AMD offering, so you can shop around on CPUs, and buy a
cheaper "secondary" USB controller if you're not looking to cram in a
4-to-1 ratio.  I've never had much success passing through the onboard
USB from an AMD system, so I highly recommend picking up a little PCIe
x1 controller at the least.  That said, I'm convinced that highpoint
has one of the coincidentally-best products on the market for people
looking to do this, but I digress!

Take a look at, specifically, this post I made to the list some months
back, and I'll follow with some errata:

First, I've tested all of the hardware in the build that I
recommended, and indeed ended up building a four-headed unit. It works
like magic. Came in handy a few weeks ago when several of my friends
and I piled into a couple cars for a vacation where we wanted to play
games (yup, we're total nerds), but we couldn't fit four desktop cases
in addition to our stuff in the cars. :)

Second, by the time I got around to building it, the Antec One Hundred
wasn't available. Finding a case that supports 8 expansion slots is a
tough thing, but I found another similarly priced one, and it was a
dream to build.  I recommend it highly if you think you may want to
max out your slots and/or go deeper down the rabbit hole with
consolidated desktops:

Aside from being a very solid case for the price point (good features
for screwless installation as well), to give you an idea of the size,
it is laid out in such a way that I could fit dual-GPU cards in it
(Radeon 5970s).  I ultimately had to remove the HDD mounts to pull it
off, but you shouldn't have that problem... Mostly because AMDs dual
GPU cards won't work for this, so don't buy one for this build.  It's
a problem with the PCIe switching hardware (well, the firmware
thereof, probably) that they use.  I'll save you the rambling, but
let's just say that it should work, but doesn't :(

Also, the case does look good! ;)

Finally, and this is unfortunate, for the AMD build, *I* recommend you
use ESXi. While Xen _does_ work with the hardware that I've listed,
I've never been able to get the VMs to work properly with the GPLPV
drivers, and these are crucial to performance.  I really, really want
to bring this project back up on Xen though, and will try again now
that 4.2 has gone RTM.  If you aren't buying anytime soon and would
like to hit me up in a few weeks, by all means drop me a line, and
I'll let you know if I've gotten around to it.


So, for the Intel route!

Casey DeLorme has, just this week, posted a fantastic set of detailed
videos and documentation on his setup, where he basically does exactly
what you're trying to accomplish.  You can find links to all of the
documentation, which I'm pretty sure covers his exact hardware, along
with videos of the installation process he used and a detailed,
written guide. Fine work if you ask me ;)


As far as his hardware goes, I'm not sure if it's the latest Intel
chips or not.  I've been eyeballing the i7-3770 myself (NOT the 3770K,
that one will not work, as [in my opinion] Intel has a pension for
artificially crippling their products for profit).  Haven't found a
board yet, but then again I started eyeballing hardware a day or two

Andrew Bobulsky

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