What is the best Central Processing Unit (CPU) for virtualization? – Updated, 2022

There are many factors to consider when selecting the right CPU (Central Processing Unit) for virtual infrastructures, including features and hardware specifications. Not to mention, setting up the CPU resources properly is also essential.

It is equally important to choose a CPU for virtualization and configure it correctly as it is to choose memory, storage and network resources. An incompatible processor or one that is incorrectly configured could adversely affect the other three components.

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CPU, memory, storage, and network resources also play an important role in VM performance. Over provisioning and hyper-threading of processor resources can have detrimental effects. Prior to implementing best practices to avoid this, you must first choose a central processing unit that meets your needs.

Outside of cost, CPU selection is heavily influenced by the types of workloads being performed. Memory management optimization is a better fit for some processors, while I/O devices support is a better fit for others.

How does CPU virtualization work?

CPU virtualization involves abstracting a physical processor’s resources into a logical representation for use by different workloads. In a virtualized environment, software called a hypervisor abstracts those resources so that IT teams can provision and use them more efficiently.

When choosing a CPU for virtualization, consider the type of workloads you will run and the goals you aim to achieve.

Depending on the workload, a VM can be assigned one or more virtual CPUs (vCPUs). Regardless of whether you use physical or virtual machines, the underlying processor resources are the same. The hypervisor abstracts each physical CPU into a vCPU that can be assigned to workloads easily. Virtualized resources can be assigned and reallocated more easily.

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Here are some things to consider when choosing and configuring a virtualization CPU.

Compare AMD vs. Intel processors.

There are different types and uses of processors, such as those created by Intel and AMD, based on acronyms representing commands and instructions used by these processors. There are several Intel VT implementations, including VT-x, VT-i, VT-d, and VT-c. AMD also offers AMD-V and AMD-Vi.

It is important to determine the specific features you want to implement in your virtual environment before choosing a CPU. Choosing a hypervisor and the processors that it supports can influence the choice of processor for virtualization.

VMs can be protected from malware using Intel and AMD’s no-execute (NX) and execute disable (XD) memory-space isolation features. CPUs with NX and XD bits refuse to run code in protected areas.

Virtualization also requires the Load AH from Flags (LAHF) and Save AH to Flags (SAHF) CPU commands and virtualization extensions. LAHF and SAHF commands allow you to control the contents of registers, while virtualization extensions optimize resource usage. Virtual workloads run at their best when the right hardware is selected.

Disabling hyperthreading will boost performance.

The next step is to utilize your central processing unit efficiently. Determine which features to take advantage of and which may cause future performance problems. Hyper-threading is a CPU feature that organizes and schedules application threads, but it may not be the best way to boost performance. The use of hyper-threading avoids resource waste by providing a second pipeline for instructions.

Using this approach, there is only one execution engine on the CPU core, so resource contention may occur, resulting in performance bottlenecks. When purchasing a CPU for virtualization, if possible, consider purchasing more cores rather than hyper-threading. In some cases, it may be more efficient to buy more CPU cores and disable hyper-threading, then to use hyper-threading to share fewer cores between workloads.

The presence of multiple cores can improve overall CPU power and performance, even if you do not experience hyper-threading performance issues.

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Use SLAT to minimize virtualization overhead.

The overhead of translating between physical and virtual memory spaces is another one of the main issues with virtualization. The software layer can reduce the resources available to VMs by adding overhead. This overhead is reduced by SLAT, a processor feature that Intel calls Extended Page Tables and AMD calls Nested Page Tables.

SLAT eliminates repetitive work by caching the hypervisor’s most recent virtual-to-physical page table mappings. The Central processing unit and memory resources are not required for translation if the mapping information exists in the cache. It depends on the workload whether the overhead is significant. To take advantage of this feature, some systems require SLAT support to be enabled in the BIOS.

Provide sufficient virtual CPU resources.

With growing workloads, it is necessary to allocate processor resources and implement CPU virtualization creatively. Various applications have different computing requirements. A virtual machine usually uses one vCPU, but for more labor-intensive workloads, such as database servers or e-mail servers, you might need as many as four vCPUs.

Create as many virtual processors as the application requires in terms of physical processors. The application may require two physical CPUs, so assign it two vCPUs and monitor its performance to determine if it requires more.

To balance the load, assign vCPUs from different cores if the workload is particularly demanding. Using affinity and anti-affinity rules allows a single machine to specify which processors it should and should not use.

Review hardware specs with goals in mind

Think about CPU, memory, storage, and network I/O when selecting a physical server for virtualization. Consolidating servers requires these elements. You should

consider the number of cores, internal cache size, and CPU speed when evaluating CPU specifications.

When choosing a Central processing unit for virtualization, you should consider your virtual infrastructure goals and the types of workloads you run. Reduce the footprint by going with a larger number of cores over faster clock speeds. However, if workload performance is more important, then fewer cores and faster clock speeds may be more appropriate.

Additionally, more memory and storage help with server consolidation, but make sure you size memory and storage according to your needs to avoid wasting resources. Make sure your network bandwidth is sufficient to support your virtual workloads as well.

The Best CPUs for virtualization

Intel, AMD, and IBM are the major processor vendors. However, here are our best:

Intel’s 3rd Generation Xeon Scalable processors. Six to 40 cores and six to 80 threads are available in the 5000 series processors. Platinum is ideal for enterprise-level data centres. Bronze serves basic server deployment needs, Silver and Gold offer higher memory speeds and power, and Platinum offers more security features.

AMD EPYC 3rd generation processor. Depending on the processor model, the 7003 series can have up to 64 cores and 128 threads. In addition, AMD offers a TCO Estimation Tool that can help you choose the processor that is most appropriate for your virtualization needs.

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