I recently got
allocated a subscription (20 cores) to the Windows Azure cloud, yay!
What dawned on me was that I have all these virtual cores but I have no idea
how powerful they are. How many effective servers could I construct out of 20
Which lead to me to ask, just how much power am I given with each core?
Having some time on my hands, I decided to find out.
The Test Environment:
Platform: Windows Azure
Operating System: Windows 2008 R2 DCE (64bit)
Virtual Processor: Single Small Processor Core (reported by MS @ 1.6Ghz).
Data Centre: Northern Europe (UK)
Firstly, let’s get an idea of what this Azure core/ processor is about by
loading up CPUz .
Now if you are unfamiliar with this app, CPUz provides low level information about
the processor, motherboard and memory on the computer you execute it on.
CPUz is quite popular in the overclocking communities and used to verify the
true operating values of your processor.
Alright as we can see here, the processor reported is an AMD Opteron 4171HE
operating at 2.1Ghz to 2.2Ghz. It has speed step type technology active so it
switches from 2.1 to 2.2 constantly and usually when under a bit of load.
For more information on the Opteron 4171 HE processor, checkout this link à http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/K10/AMD-Opteron%204171%20HE%20OS4171FNU6DGO.html
Benchmark SiSoft Sandra – Sisoft lite 2011.b
Ok, next up
some synthetic benchmarks by one of my favourite tools Sisoft Sandra.
Now the word synthetic here does not mean fake or non real, it indicates that the
processor will be tested in a particular area (a very important area) and will
not reflect the exact performance of the processor in all areas (but it’s
usually a good general performance indicator). So keep that in mind.
The memory benchmark result is nothing to write home about with a peak memory
transfer rate of 5.8 gigabytes per second.
Your average modern day computer is scoring around 15-25Gbytes per second.
Next the processor was tested. Again, this single small Azure processor core
performed lower than my expectations.
The result, 7330 Million instructions per second (MIPS). Sounds like a lot but compared
to your low end Intel Core 2 Duo which averages around 21000 MIPS or 21GIPS.
this virtual processor performs about a third of the speed of a Core 2 Duo
So using 2-3 small Azure processor cores ought to be enough for most server
Note that the latest processors are scoring around 40GIPS in this test. So it
would take 7+ small Azure cores to compete with them.
Physical disk performance:
two physical disks available on each Azure Windows virtual machine.
contains the OS and permanent files and drive D: named Temp storage contains well nothing
except a 4GB swap file and free space.
Both disks are reported to be Virtual SSD drives. (As they are being interfaced
through a Virtual Machine driver stack, it’s difficult to know for sure.)
The first test
of this benchmark returned just over 50MB per second but with burst speeds of
up to 500MB per second.
The second and further tests were locked in at 1GB’s per second. (It appears if
caching is enabled on these drives)
Drive D (Temp Storage) in the VM is yielding ridiculous results. 2.4GBytes per
second with a peak rate of 2.53Gbytes at particular sections.
I will need
to perform a second set of tests using a different tool to validate these
HDD Tune 2.55
HDD Tune is utility which provides low level information about your hard
drives, their SMART registers and can perform a HDD benchmark to evaluate the
data transfer rate.
Interesting, here we see the 575MB spike. I tested this multiple times and the
spike is at the same location each time. I tested it a few hours later and the spike
This means that the HDD space that is being allocated to the drive is likely from
several arrays. One of the arrays is like totally underutilised and when I
seek/read from it, it returns data at its optimal rate. The transfer rate is quite
slow compared to your standard HDD (100MBs) however the burst rate is quite
CPU load was actually around 5-10% during this benchmark.
Here again we see the insane performance of Drive D.
I can see why this drive is used to store
the swap file. Its fast, so when swapping to disk, you’re sort of swapping to
the fastest disk money could ever buy you at present.
To give you an example, to achieve the same performance as what is being
reported here, you’d need to stripe 2-3 modern day SSD’s together.
Note the CPU usage was rather high during this benchmark, averaging between 30 to
Just for fun - Benchmark – Super PI - http://superpi.ilbello.com/
Super PI is an application
which is used to benchmark and stress processors.
It works by calculating PI to a specific number of digits after a decimal
Here are the results:
The VM actually did quite decently in this test. The performance was similar to
2x instances of Super PI running on an E6300 @ 1.86Ghz.
Processing speed – Its quite decent. I recommend running 2
or more cores for windows and 1 core with Linux. Upscale from here as you need
more processing power.
Ram – A tad bit slow but you get plenty of it. Should you want to use more,
consider increasing your swap file size as the drive D performance is impressive
enough to provide optimal swapping speed.
HDD – Drive C appears a bit slow (could be an overloaded array) while Drive D
is amazingly fast. Keep in mind that you can utilize the amazing performance of
drive D in certain scenarios by specifically programming against it.
With my 20 core allocation I estimate I can put together about 10 good servers or
5 great performing servers or 2 pretty amazing servers.
As I don’t need great or amazing, 10 good servers will do =)
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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent
my employer's view in any way.