My Problem With Intel’s Haswell Processors
This week, Intel formally announced its Haswell processors. In the mobile world, this is a big deal because unlike the previous generation of processors (Ivy Bridge), this new one promises things like better battery life and better graphics. I’m all for better battery life. Part of that is they had to redesign the ultra low voltage (ULV) chips that go in many computers. They have a lower power consumption than Ivy Bridge. By the numbers I’ve seen in preliminary tests, Intel really did improve battery life.
My excitement, however, is short lived. As usual, I’m enticed by new and shiny laptops – most notably the upcoming Vaio Pro 11 or Vaio Pro 13. The Pro 11 reminds me of a cross between my old Vaio G, the older Vaio T (not the new cheapie one), and maybe a bit of the X505 thrown in for good measure. Why is my enthusiasm dampered? Virtualization.
Here’s why: one of the things I love being able to do is run Hyper-V (and sometimes ESX) under VMware Workstation. I use Hyper-V for most of my demos, but it’s easier to show some things Hyper-V related under VMware since I can virtualize the hypervisor and have nested virtual machines. Besides the standard virtualization (VT-x in the Intel world), what allows you to run a hypervisor and nested 64-bit guests is the Intel VT-x with Extended Page Tables (EPT) feature of the processor. EPT = second level address translation (SLAT) for you geeky types. This requirement is documented by VMware here.
Cue the sad trombone. According to Intel’s whiz-bang Virtualization Technology web page, with the new Haswell chips, only some of the desktop processors got SLAT support; no mobile processor did. Don’t believe me? Click here.
This is a real setback for those of us who do complex demos from time to time like nested VMs. Remoting back home is not always an option. I’m going to have to seriously consider getting another backup Ivy Bridge machine (even if it’s a small form backup like the NUC) because outside of video, I won’t easily be able to demo some things anymore starting with Haswell.
I’m also bemoaning the fate of things like ethernet ports and VGA, but those can be solved with adapters. You can’t add a feature to a processor.
My woes here really fall into 1% of the user base for a mobile processor. I realize this. But if you’re like me, this is a pause before you get all giddy over Haswell.
EDIT: See my follow up post http://www.sqlha.com/2013/06/13/haswell-and-ept-update/. Intel posted the wrong info initially.