Atomic Hosting or Virtualisation?

Hi all,

we have a slight dilema and I thought it would be good to see if anyone “out there” had any thoughts or experience they could help us with.

The company we use for hosting and who we are very happy with, Bytemark,  provide the hardware and support services that this and other sites of ours run on.  We are getting to a stage now where our server is quite sluggish at times and has a lot of old baggage that we could really do with cleaning up.

Our plan is to get a second server and then to migrate just the services we need in a controlled fashion. Once that is accomplished and we are happy, we can then shutdown the old (this one) machine and stop paying for it.

Unfortunately for us, Bytemark have several attractive options for hosting (all on Linux only BTW).

We currently use a virtual machine package. I am not sure of the physical hardware it runs on but the performance of the VM has not been too bad at all, although the cumulative affect of a couple of years of running multiple web sites, test applications, development services, email and such like has taken it’s toll.

We could just go for another VM with perhaps a bit more RAM to give us some breathing space.

The alternative, for not much more cash, is to get a dedicated host. It has a great deal more RAM (2G) and disk space than the VM offering, but the processor is one of the new, low-power Intel Atom 230s.

I am concerned that the processing capability of the Atom will not be up to much. From the reviews and benchmarks I have read it certainly isn’t a Core2 and that’s for sure! One test (on Tom’s Hardware) noted that the LAN running hard (just a 100Mb) was eating upwards of 20% of the processor cycles just dealing with the traffic. If you start adding a few php web sites and MySQL databases what’s going to happen then?

The upside of the Atom is the low power consumption and small footprint. But this benefit is probably negated by Virtualisation anyway.

So, my question(s)…

Does anyone have an opinion they’d like to air? I’m personally more in favour of the VM solution currently, I feel that the much higher performing underlying hardware, even though it is being shared with other VMs, will probably give us better throughput than the Atom even though that would be dedicated hardware and have more RAM. Am I wrong or misguided? Any links to good comparisons you could suggest? Any real world experience to guide us?

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