Poor video performance on Server 2008 R2

August 28, 2012 at 08:32:13
Specs: Windows Server 2008 R2, Xeon / 8 GB
The project I am working on uses Matrox Extio F2408 KVM extenders to drive 12 HD monitors from one computer. The time it takes to draw the custom background image (1920x1080) is 500 times slower under Windows Server 2008 R2 versus Windows 7 or XP. Matrox says that Server 2008 is the wrong OS for doing high performance video, but has failed to explain exactly what is so slow about a server OS versus a desktop OS.

Note that we did swap video cards and put an nVidia card in the server. Same slow performance as the Matrox card.

Then, at the suggestion from Matrox, we installed/enabled the Windows Desktop Experience, and the Aero theme. So the desktop looked like Win7 with the fancy graphical effects and stuff. No change in performance of my application.

So, could someone please explain why a server OS is so much slower than desktop OS in general. Also if anyone has tuning tips for improving video performance under Server 2008 R2 I would appreciate it.

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August 28, 2012 at 09:14:00
In general a server OS doesn't need high video performance, so it won't be tuned for this. There are various web sites that tell you how to better tune Windows 2008 for better use as a workstation OS. Google is your friend here.

But I have to wonder why you want to do this. If Matrox tells you that their adapters work better on the cheaper Windows 7, why on earth use the expensive server OS to get poorer performance

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August 28, 2012 at 09:18:39
The project uses dozens of servers (power plant process control). My application is driving the alarm system and displays alarm data across a 12 monitor wide desktop with each monitor having a different background image and dynamic content. My app is the only one on the project with special video needs.

The customer is requiring that every computer be identical server-class computers and that they all run the same OS (Server 2008 R2). They only want to deal with one type of computer hardware and one OS for reasons on training, managing security patches/updates, spares, etc.

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August 28, 2012 at 13:19:36
Then why use a server OS? What you wanted was a workstation OS like Windows 7

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August 28, 2012 at 13:49:22
But, as the OP says, his clients want all machines to run the same OS and that is the OS they have chosen (perhaps applications on the other servers require Server rather than 7). And I guess that means they will want the same configuration on each server so they'll just have to put up with the poor video performance. If they are going to be inflexible they have to accept the consequences of that inflexibility.

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August 29, 2012 at 12:39:33
So, to get back to my original question:

Can someone explain (in detail) why a server OS has such poor video performance? Is it hardware? Chipset? Some kind of tuning deep in the bowels of the OS?

Can someone offer tips on how to tune the OS for better video performance?

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August 29, 2012 at 14:04:35
I would say that Matrox are probably the best people to explain this. They have told you that their products don't perform best with a server OS; they must know why.

Of course, it could be a hardware issue; server hardware isn't designed with video perfomance as a priority. Have you tried Windows 7 on the server just to check if it's a software issue or a hardware one?

I have to say that I'm puzzled as to why your clients are so fussy. A workstation running Windows 7 isn't exactly taxing to maintain. Still, that's their business.

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August 31, 2012 at 10:28:29
Maybe the hardware acceleration settings are all the way down. The exact method is may vary if you're on 2008 or 2008 R2, but generally you go to the screen resolution settings, choose advanced settings, then the troubleshoot tab. If it's not already at full, slide it to full.

I also agree that a hardware limitation should be investigated.

Andrew Leonard
BL Technical Services
Emergency IT Support

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