VirtualBox Network Performance Comparison

Overtime, virtualization becomes more and more wide-spread in all types of IT infrastructures. When using virtual servers, it is very important to know how fast a virtual server will perform comparing to the performance provided by the physical hardware platform and how much of the performance will be lost when moving applications from a physical server to a virtual server.

Virtual vs. Physical Network Performance

The purpose of this benchmark is to compare the network performance of virtual machines running different guest operating systems to the network performance of the physical hardware platform using the Oracle VirtualBox virtualization product.

VirtualBox Host Server Configuration
  • 8-Core Intel CPU
  • 32 GB of system memory
  • SSD disk for the operating system
  • SSD disk for guest virtual machines
  • Intel Gigabit Ethernet network card
  • Server 2012 64-Bit operating system
  • VirtualBox v4.3.30 64-Bit
VirtualBox Virtual Machines Configuration
  • 2 Virtual CPUs
  • 2 GB of system memory
  • Virtual hard disk located on SSD
  • Virtual Intel Gigabit network card (bridged mode)
Desktop Guest Operating Systems
  • Windows XP 64-Bit
  • Windows Vista 64-Bit
  • Windows 7 64-Bit
  • Windows 8 64-Bit
  • Windows 10 64-Bit
Server Guest Operating Systems
  • Server 2003 64-Bit
  • Server 2008 64-Bit
  • Server 2008 R2 64-Bit
  • Server 2012 64-Bit
  • Server 2012 R2 64-Bit

For this benchmark, we have used two identical servers, each one equipped with an 8-Core Intel CPU, 32 GB of system memory, an SSD disk for the host operating system and a separate SSD disk for all guest virtual machines. Both servers were connected to a managed Gigabit Ethernet switch using Intel Gigabit network cards.

VirtualBox Network Performance Desktop Operating Systems

Both servers were running the Windows Server 2012 (64-Bit) operating system and VirtualBox v4.3.30 (64-Bit) has been installed on one of the servers hosting all the tested guest virtual machines. All guest operating systems were configured to use 2 CPUs, 2 GB of system memory and a virtual Intel Gigabit Ethernet network card.

VirtualBox Network Performance Server Operating Systems

Network performance tests were performed using the DiskBoss internal network benchmark tool, which is capable of measuring the network performance using a number of parallel TCP/IP streams and different transfer data blocks. An initial network performance test has been performed between the two physical servers and then completely identical network performance tests were performed between the first physical server and each guest virtual machine running on the second server.

VirtualBox Host Performance Utilization Desktop Operating Systems

Each virtual machine has been tested separately and no other applications were running on the physical server during the network performance test. All tests were performed twice: with the first test sending 10 GB of data to the target virtual machine and the second test receiving 10 GB of data from the target virtual machine.

VirtualBox Host Performance Utilization Server Operating Systems

According to the performance results, newer operating systems such as Windows 8, Windows 10 and Server 2012 provide a significantly higher network performance for all types of operations. For example, Windows 10 and Server 2012 can utilize up to 95% of the network performance provided by the physical hardware platform while Windows XP and Server 2003 can utilize approximately 70% of the available network performance.

VirtualBox Average Performance Utilization Desktop Operating Systems

In general, the network performance greatly depends on the size of transfer data blocks and in our specific configuration the physical network performance gradually increases from 289 Mbps for 1 KB data blocks to 871 Mbps for 128 KB data blocks.

VirtualBox Average Performance Utilization Server Operating Systems

Virtual machines are even more heavily impacted by the size of network transfer blocks. For example, the efficiency of network transfer operations in the Windows 10 operating system gradually increases from 85 percent for 1 KB data blocks to 98 percent for 128 KB data blocks.

VirtualBox v4.1 vs. v4.3 Network Performance

Finally, in order to investigate how different versions of VirtualBox may impact the network performance, all the quest virtual machines were retested on the same physical hardware platform using an older VirtualBox v4.1.18. As it is clear from the performance results, VirtualBox v4.3.30 is up to 20% faster in all types of network operations comparing to VirtualBox v4.1.18.

VirtualBox v4.1 vs. v4.3 Network Performance Utilization

* This performance review has been prepared for information purposes only and we strongly advise you to make your own performance evaluations using your specific hardware components and datasets.