Home Lab on the Cheap: HP Z420 from eBay

Many technical individuals want to continually build their skills and learn new technologies. Sometimes this requires a hardware lab setup in order to run additional desktop or server operating system instances in virtual machines. This can be done in a number of ways:

1) Using an existing desktop or laptop with Client Hyper-V on either Windows 10 or Windows 8.1
2) Purchase new desktop or server hardware ($$$)
3) Purchase used server hardware (loud, power hungry)
4) Purchase used workstation hardware

When thinking about upgrading my home lab, initially I was dead set on buying server hardware, but decided against it when I considered power draw, space requirements, and the fact that my office is right off of my bedroom. I don’t think the wife would appreciate the loud fans of a 1U or 2U server running loudly all night, and I’d probably get tired of it as well. I don’t have another place to put it, so that solution was out.

I decided to go with a used HP Z420 workstation from eBay. I did quite a bit of research and found that this model should be able to run both Hyper-V and VMware ESXi very well. Additionally, it wouldn’t run too loud, nor would it be too terrible on the power bill. I was able to purchase one for $180 that had the following specs:   Continue reading “Home Lab on the Cheap: HP Z420 from eBay”

Virtualization on macOS: Parallels vs VMware Benchmarks

Currently there are two main commercial players in the virtualization market on macOS providing type-2 hypervisors, Parallels and VMware. These products allow one to run additional operating system instances on top of their current OS, providing the host system has the necessary resources available. For example, a user with a MacBook may want to run apps that are only available on Windows, alongside their Mac apps. Running an instance of Windows 10 in a virtual machine on top of Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion allows them to do that.

Type-2 hypervisors, like Parallels and Fusion on Mac, VMware Workstation on Windows, or VirtualBox on both platforms, are those that run on top of a base desktop or server operating system such as Windows or macOS. Type-1 hypervisors run on bare-metal, without a thick operating system in between, and include Microsoft’s Hyper-V and VMware’s ESXi. In general, type-1 hypervisors provide better performance, but have much more specific hardware requirements. Generally, type-2 hypervisors will also provide extra integration features, such as sharing host folders with guest VMs, or displaying an app running in the guest VM right on the host desktop, as if it was running right on the host OS. Rather than a feature comparison though, this test will focus on performance of the guest virtual machines.

For this test, I used an iMac from Late-2013 (see specs below) running macOS Mojave (10.14.2) to test out which of the type-2 hypervisors provided better performance. First, I installed VMWare Fusion 11, created virtual machines running Windows 10 version 1809, and ran a series of benchmarks to test virtual machine performance. After the tests on Fusion were completed, the VMs were destroyed and Fusion completely removed from the system. Next Parallels Desktop version 14 was installed, VMs created to identical specs, and the same benchmarks run in the same order.

iMac 27″ (Late-2013) Host Specs
CPU Intel Core i7-4771; 4-core/8-thread; 3.5GHz / 3.9GHz turbo; 8MB L3 cache; 84W TDP
RAM 24GB DDR3-1333
Storage 500GB SATA SSD
GPU Nvidia GTX 775M 2GB GDDR5 – 1344 CUDA cores; 256-bit memory bus; Kepler architecture

Continue reading “Virtualization on macOS: Parallels vs VMware Benchmarks”