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Building The Linux Kernel In 60 Seconds

Intel

Published on 11 December 2011 07:48 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Intel
45 Comments

In less than one minute, it's now possible to build the Linux kernel from source on a desktop.

Besides finishing up the Phoronix Test Suite 3.6-Arendal release this weekend, on Saturday I began running some new Intel CPU benchmarks. In building the Linux 3.1 kernel for x86_64 in a default configuration (make defconfig), I've now managed to trim down the compile time to less than sixty seconds on a single-socket desktop system. Similar speeds can be achieved out of multi-socket servers and other configurations, but this is the first time I'm seeing such kernel build speeds out of a single processor -- the AMD FX-8150 Bulldozer doesn't come close.

What's the magic behind this? Unfortunately it's not due to some crazy new compiler optimizations for GCC (or LLVM/Clang would be more likely) or any magical change in the Linux kernel build infrastructure, but it's thanks to the Sandy Bridge Extreme Edition. The Intel Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition is one hell of a mighty processor.

Building The Linux Kernel In 60 Seconds

A full Linux review will be published in the next few days, but the 3960X a phenomenal six-core processor with Hyper Threading to provide a total of 12 threads. The CPU operates with a 3.3GHz base frequency, 3.9GHz Turbo Boost, 15MB of L3 cache, 256KB of L2 cache per core, and has a quad-channel DDR3 memory controller. This Sandy-E processor is even a measurable upgrade over the Core i7 990X "Gulftown" Extreme Edition CPU that was Intel's thousand-dollar CPU up until now. The Intel Core i7 3960X was launched last month, but due to being out of the country, I didn't have a chance to play with Sandy-E until now. Intel sent out the i7-3960X, their flagship Intel X79 motherboard, and a water cooling system to Phoronix for some Linux testing.

Building The Linux Kernel In 60 Seconds

Paired with the Intel Core i7 3960X was a OCZ Vertex 3 Serial ATA 3.0 solid-state drive, 16GB of RAM (quad-channel 4 x 4GB DDR3-1600MHz), and AMD Radeon HD 6950 Cayman graphics. On the software side I'm testing against an Ubuntu 12.04 LTS development snapshot with the Linux 3.2 kernel and GCC 4.6. In this configuration the Linux 3.1 kernel with its default config builds in just less than a minute (about 58 second average) -- that's without any overclocking!

Building The Linux Kernel In 60 Seconds

Stay tuned for more information in the coming days. The Core i7 3960X is a mighty impressive performer under Linux. Being able to build a default Linux kernel, Mesa / Gallium3D, and other large software stacks so quickly may also open up some new possibilities on the Phoronix Test Suite / OpenBenchmarking.org / Phoromatic side for more interesting automated bisecting efforts of performance and functional regressions and automatically finding performance optimizations and other auto-tuning tasks.

Building The Linux Kernel In 60 Seconds

While the Intel Core i7 3960X packs a hell of a punch, its TDP is only 130 Watts (5 Watts more than AMD's FX-8150 Bulldozer and the same thermal rating as the previous-generation Core i7 990X Gulftown), but its price-tag of $1050 USD will keep it out of the hands of most Linux desktop users.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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