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[Xen-users] PCI/VGA passthrough: differences between Xen and ESXi?

  • To: xen-users@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • From: Patrick Proniewski <patpro@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2013 23:28:09 +0200
  • Delivery-date: Mon, 01 Apr 2013 21:29:15 +0000
  • List-id: Xen user discussion <xen-users.lists.xen.org>


That's my first post here. I'm absolutely newborn to Xen, never installed or 
used it. But I'm mastering many aspects of ESXi (vmare) and I've made some 
tests with PCI passthrough on this platform. 

My main goal is to create a powerful desktop workstation able to run 
simultaneously FreeBSD, some flavor of Linux (work/games), some flavor of 
Windows (games), Mac OS X (main OS). Everything is detailed here: 

In order to achieve this goal, I must rely on PCI passthrough. At least VGA to 
get proper GPU power (3D gaming like Left 4 Dead 2, photoshop processing - I'm 
also a photograph), and sound. I was able to achieve very good performance 
running Windows on top of ESXi on my Mac Pro, with stock ATI Radeon 
passed-through, even better than native Mac OS X performances :).
I've ended my testing with ESXi, because I was not able to passthrough sound 
device, and USB.

But PCI Passthrough on ESXi comes with major limitations:
- memory allocation is fully reserved (ie. can't start this VM if all its 
allocated memory is not available)
- no snapshot possible
- no sleep
- one PCI device can only be passed-through to one VM
- and some others...

I've read the documentation for Xen about VGA and PCI passthrough, but I'm 
totally new to a great part of Xen's vocabulary, and I'm not sure to understand 
everything. It looks like Xen shares some limitations with ESXi.

Xen's Wiki reads "Xen 4.0.0 supports VGA passthrough of the primary graphics 
adapter (...) only". What about 4.2? Is it possible to create a virtualized 
desktop with VGA and PCI passthrough for 2 or 3 VM's running simultaneously 
(ie. each one with its own video card)?


(i've subscribed to digest, Cc me, please)
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