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Experimental 3D acceleration with Virtualization from Parallels and VMware

An Atomic article goes indepth to test out Parallels’ and VMware’s experimental support for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics in Windows XP virtual machines on your Mac


Virtualization makers’ efforts show promising support for the virtualization of graphics acceleration. The one negative to running a Windows 3D game or 3D program under “virtualization” on a Mac is the less than stellar 3D performance. But both Parallels and VMware have beta-level support for true virtualized hardware-accelerated 3D graphics. This technology direction promises to improve and lead to the ability to play leading DirectX-based games and 3D applications built just for Windows.

There are some important distinctions when it comes to 3D games versus 3D programs like CAD and animation program. In the Windows world the vast majority of 3D games utilize Microsoft’s proprietary DirectX technology. On the Mac games use OpenGL, an open-industry standards-based technology for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics. In the professional 3D applications world OpenGL is also the dominant industry standard, as most 3d software companies write cross-platform and many of the largest CAD developers also write for the Mac as well as Windows.

The Atomic article is pointed at Windows games under virtualization. But OpenGL is intrinsic within the acceleration architecture as well. All newer Macs also natively support OpenGL at the graphics card level as this is a core component of the Mac OS.

The Atomic article is excellent on several levels because it does a good walk-thru of setting up your Mac and virtualization environments for optimum performance — which would largely apply to pro 3D apps. It covers memory configurations as well as what type of file format to use under the virtualized host.

A key item the article points out — which will be of value to pro users wanting to test out and run pro 3D Windows apps — is that VMwareFusion allows the user to assign “virtual SMP” on multiple processor cores. Symmetric Multi-Processing is common on many pro 3D apps and the fact that you can tap all the processor cores you have on your Mac under virtualization is a real benefit. To read the full article go here.

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