PfSense inside VMWare or Xen?

  • Greetings to all.

    I've got the following hardware that I'd like to install pfSense on.

    The machine is a P4/2.8ghz (HT, 800mhz FSB) with 768MB of RAM and a 160GB SATA hard drive. It has an onboard Intel gigabit chipset (can't remember the model though- I'm sure the e1000 drivers support it) and two Pro 1000/GT's.

    I'd like to run Fedora Core 6 as a host operating system along with FreeNX for my own remote access. I'm planning on using one of the Pro/1000's connected to the internet for this purpose. The other Pro/1000 and onboard NIC will be used for pfSense as a firewall/gateway.

    So my question is this- given that I want to virtualize pfSense, which would provide the best I/O performance and least network latency- VMWare Server or Xen?

    I know VMware Server tends to bog down with heavy I/O loads (at least, from experience running a terminal server on it at work), but at the same time- I'm just a home user- maybe playing the odd HL2 game or hosting a server at max 40kbytes/sec upload and ~300kbytes/sec download. I've never personally used Xen so I don't know how fast it is or how it handles with something like this.

    So which would be the better? Or is it going to be slow regardless of which way I virtualize it?


  • I've never used Xen so I can't speak for it.

    VMware's biggest performance hit in virtualization is disk I/O, like you said. If you're running a virtualized terminal server in VMware Server, wow, yeah I bet performance is horrid. TS is one of those specialized workloads that runs like crap even under ESX, if you need to scale up to many simultaneous users. It's not specific to VMware either.

    pfsense uses very, very minimal disk I/O while running so that really doesn't matter. Even if there was a huge I/O performance difference between Xen and VMware (which I VERY seriously doubt), I doubt if it would make even a measurable difference with pfsense.

    I would guess that VMware is better, just because their products are more mature and they're by far the leader in the virtualization industry for a reason, but I don't know that you'll find anyone that's actually tried it on both and did a comparison between the two. That may be left as an exercise for you.

  • VMWare will perform better on your hardware.  I don't believe that 2.8ghz CPU has the Intel VT-x hardware and since FreeBSD 6.2 won't run as a Xen domU (or even dom0) pfSense will perform at uhh… 0% on it ;)


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