Dell announced today that they are releasing Alienware and Studio laptops with Intel Core i7 processors. Why is this worth regurgitating? The Core i7 processors feature the Nehalem processor microarchitecture, which means that Hyper-V V2 (in Windows Server 2008 R2) can take advantage of SLAT (Second Level Address Translation). SLAT is implemented as EPT (Extended Paging Tables) in Intel technology and NPT (Nested Paging Tables) for AMD. Here’s Microsoft’s summary of the new Hyper-V support for SLAT:
The new Hyper-V also adds performance enhancements that increase virtual machine performance and power consumption. Hyper-V now supports Second Level Address Translation (SLAT), which uses new features on today’s CPUs to improve VM performance while reducing processing load on the Windows Hypervisor and new Hyper-V VMs will also consume less power by virtue of the new Core Parking feature implemented into Windows Server 2008 R2.
VitualizationAdmin.com adds a bit more to that:
Using NPT or EPT, AMD-V and Intel VT processors can maintain and perform the two levels of address space translations required for each virtual machine in hardware, reducing the complexity of the Windows Hypervisor and the context switches needed to manage virtual machine page faults. As a result, Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V provides better scalability of Hyper-V servers.
But what’s really important is that this solves the Hyper-V graphics performance problem for new laptops. Scott Havens summed up the graphics issue nicely. Actually it was his comments on the Virtual PC Guy blog entries that first drew my attention to this caveat. Here’s his take on the same issue as it regards laptops and he fleshes out some more of the complexities around this issue – but as I say, Dell has announced the new laptops today, so we aren’t far off!
For those of us who are unlikely to get new laptops any time soon, it’s worth reviewing my original assessment. One thing that Scott’s articles pointed out for me that hadn’t really sunk in for me yet is that this isn’t just an issue for SharePoint 2010 – but for Windows Server 2008 R2 full-stop, as it is also x64-only. Oh, and it’s worth considering a Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V dual-boot if you’ll be doing anything massively graphics-intensive. This is actually how Virtual PC Guy describes his laptop setup.