Eltechs announced a virtual machine that runs 32-bit x86 Linux applications on ARMv7 SBCs and mini-PCs, and is claimed to be 4.5 times faster than QEMU.
The open source QEMU emulator has long been the go-to app for providing virtual machines (VMs) that mimic target hardware during development or otherwise run software in alien territory. Every now and then, someone comes up with software that claims to perform all or part of QEMU’s feature-set more effectively. In this case, Eltechs has launched its Eltechs “ExaGear Desktop,” a VM that implements a virtual x86 Linux container on ARMv7 computers and is claimed to be 4.5 times faster than QEMU. Despite its “desktop” naming, we can imagine many non-desktop possibilities fpr ExaGear in embedded and IoT applications.
“After installing ExaGear you won’t notice a difference between running x86 applications on ARM and running native ARM applications,” claims Moscow, Russia based Eltechs, which is backed in part by ARM Holdings. The VM works with both Intel and AMD x86 ISAs, ExaGear CEO Vadim Gimpelson told us in an email.
ExaGear Desktop should appeal to those who have purchased an ARM mini-PCs or single board computers and want to run a wider array of software. Now available for a half-off pre-order price of $15, the software lets you run x86 Linux applications simultaneously with native applications running on ARM. The VM also supports the x86-based Wine Windows compatibility platform, so the combination should enable running some x86 Windows applications on ARM-based hardware.
ExaGear is based on binary translation technology, and requires ARMv7, which means that it should run on mini-PCs and SBCs that use Cortex-A8, A7, A9, and A15 system-on-chips. However, it won’t run on the ARM11 (ARMv6) SoC found on the Raspberry Pi. It also does not support applications that require kernel modules. It currently requires Ubuntu (v12.04 or higher), but will soon support another, unnamed Linux distro.
Eltechs posted some charts based on its SysBench benchmarks comparing ExaGear’s x86 apps and native ARM apps on the same Odroid-XU SBC, which features a quad-core, Cortex-A15 Samsung Exynos5 SoC clocked at 1.6Ghz. The benchmarks, performed using SysBench, show ExaGear to perform about the same as native ARM during read and write operations, while slowing down to about half the performance of ARM during memory and mutex operations.
ExaGear x86 vs. native ARM (left), and vs QEMU
(click images to enlarge; source: Eltechs)
Eltechs used the same platform to compare ExaGear with QEMU, Here, the performance advantages, benchmarked with GeoBenchmark, ranged from dramatic when dealing with in-memory operations to virtually identical during heavy disk reads.
Eltechs already offers an ExaGear Mobile product designed to bring desktop PC games to Android devices. The emulator enables three apps found on Google Play. Heretic by Eltechs and Doom by Eletechs each recasts the original versions of these classic games for Android.
A third app, ExaGear Strategies, is an emulator that lets you “run old-school PC strategy games,” says Eltech. The main draw here are the “deeply customized” touchscreen controls, says the company. Last month, Digital Trends gave ExaGear Strategies a fairly positive hands-on review.
Judging from its mission statement, Eltechs is less interested in games than in bringing x86 applications to the new wave of ARM-based servers. Its ExaGear Server emulator is currently in a pilot phase, but already is claimed to offer 80 percent of native ARM application performance on servers.
Pre-orders are now available for Eltechs ExaGear Desktop for $15, half off the retail price of $30, with no payment obligation until availability. The software is expected to be ready in September. More information can be found at the Eltechs ExaGear Desktop.