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Test Driving GNU Hurd, With Benchmarks Against Linux

Michael Larabel

Published on 18 July 2011
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 2 of 4 - 17 Comments

There are exceptions and rough spots within Hurd's support, such as Java not yet being available, but that's being worked on as part of this year's Google Summer of Code.

Debian GNU/Hurd does not yet have a working graphical desktop environment. GNU Hurd is reported to work with an old XFree86 release, but not yet X.Org nor to mention the only very antiquated hardware support. Debian GNU/Hurd is using the GRUB2 boot-loader with GNU Mach 1.3.99 and Hurd 0.3.

The Phoronix Test Suite 3.4-Lillesand release in September will provide the official support for the GNU Hurd operating system, but the current Lillesand Git code does provide the decent level of support as used for the testing in this article. Due to running in a virtual machine and the current limitations of GNU Hurd, most of the tests used in this article were CPU-focused. The performance was compared to Debian GNU/Linux using the same Wheezy packages, namely the GCC 4.6.1 compiler and other key developmental packages. Debian GNU/Linux in the Wheezy world is currently using the Linux 2.6.39 kernel with an EXT4 file-system.

All of the tests we hoped to be able to run were unfortunately not compatible with the Hurd. The Debian GNU/Linux and Debian GNU/Hurd testing was done from QEMU/KVM virtual machines on a Lenovo ThinkPad W510 with an Intel Core i7 720 with 4GB of RAM and a 160GB solid-state drive while running Ubuntu 10.10 with the Linux 3.0 development kernel. The same set of KVM options was passed to each 32-bit VM instance and there was 2GB of memory and a 14GB disk allocated when running each instance independently.

Tests included 7-Zip Compression, CacheBench, C-Ray, LAME MP3 encoding, and Himeno via the Phoronix Test Suite. As GNU Hurd matures -- hopefully this decade too -- we will have a greater set of compatible test profiles. When SMP support arrives there will also be many more relevant tests as then we can begin seeing more serious performance out of GNU Hurd, of course when newer hardware support arrives too. Originally, the intent was also to benchmark Debian GNU/kFreeBSD in this testing mix as well, but the current Wheezy installer was broken and would end up crashing during the process.

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