MacTech Benchmarks Parallels Desktop And VMWare Fusion…. The Results Might Surprise You [UPDATED]

I’ve been looking for something like this for some time to settle the the “Who is faster? Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion” argument (or to stir it up some more). MacTech decided to do some benchmarking on these visualization products for the Mac, and their very extensive document on the subject is truly worth reading if you run one of these applications (or you’ve been on the fence deciding which one to run). What’s the bottom line?

In the majority of overall averages of our tests, Parallels Desktop is the clear winner running 14-20% faster than VMware Fusion. The one exception is for those that need to run Windows XP, 32-bit on 2 virtual processors, VMware Fusion runs about 10% faster than Parallels Desktop.

That kind of surprises me. I’ve felt that with the latest version, Parallels Desktop has closed the gap in terms of speed, but VMWare Fusion has always “felt” faster to me. But feelings and hard numbers are two different things. While I have little reason to doubt their results (as the methodology appears to be sound), I’d love to see someone else validate these numbers.

Any takers?

UPDATE: Just to add to the fun,  Ben Gertzfield of VMWare has posted something on the ARS Technica discussion boards that says that Fusion will run faster on the Mac Pro computers that were released on Tuesday:

I’m particularly excited about the new Mac Pro’s support for Extended Page Tables in its Nehalem processor.

This is a huge benefit to virtualization software: without EPT, a big chunk of the heavy lifting that a virtual machine has to do is emulating the “map virtual memory address X to physical memory address Y” work that a traditional MMU does.

With EPT, the hardware adds a second level of mapping, so now in hardware, the hard work of doing “map virtual memory address X to a virtual machine’s physical address Y, which is backed by physical memory address Z” no longer needs to be emulated in software.

Not to toot my own horn (okay, I’m tooting my own horn), but VMware Fusion 2.0.2 comes with support for EPT baked right in. Assuming all goes well with the final Mac Pro hardware (we haven’t gotten our hands on it yet), you should see a pretty significant performance boost on the new Nehalem CPUs when running Fusion virtual machines.

So does Parallels Desktop have a similar feature? I can’t give you a straight answer on that. I tried looking around for any indication either way and couldn’t find it. Perhaps someone out there can point me towards the right resources to answer this question (or perhaps someone from Parallels can chime in with an answer).

One Response to “MacTech Benchmarks Parallels Desktop And VMWare Fusion…. The Results Might Surprise You [UPDATED]”

  1. Not sure if this is correct, but it seems that Parallels 4.0 already has this feature built in.

    I think Parallels refer to EPT as Intel VT-x2.

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