HP ZBook Studio G7 Aims To Attract Linux Developers, Data Scientists
The HP ZBook Studio G7 aims to attract Linux developers and data scientists by not only offering a powerful hardware combination and by pre-loading Ubuntu 20.04 LTS but in also shipping a variety of tools and other software packages pre-configured for a modern developer and data scientist workload. We have been testing the HP ZBook Studio G7 for the better part of two months for this Linux-loaded mobile workstation and in this article is a look at this new HP device along with plenty of benchmarks, including Windows vs. Linux performance tests and more.
Nearly one year ago we looked at the HP ZBook 17 G6 that was interesting for the time albeit as tested had shipped with Windows. Now we are up to the HP ZBook Studio G7 with the latest-generation hardware and HP's new Linux software stack.
It was back in December that HP announced they would begin preloading Ubuntu 20.04 on select laptops. Unlike many laptop vendors simply loading a stock Ubuntu LTS and calling it a day or possibly changing the background and a few other cosmetic changes, the "Z by HP Data Science Software" pre-install contains much more... In fact, over 40GB worth of extras.
Shipping by default on the HP ZBook with Linux are popular data science packages like PyTorch, TensorFlow, Keras, and more. There is also Docker, integration around the major public cloud providers, and plenty of extras. With the HP ZBook Studio G7 relying on NVIDIA graphics given the data science focus, the proprietary driver is also pre-configured along with NVIDIA CUDA, RAPIDS, and related NVIDIA libraries needed for acceleration with various AI / machine learning workloads and more.
For anyone who has setup an AI/ML stack knows, it can be time consuming and a bit of a nuisance with ensuring the NVIDIA support is in place and working, all the libraries are jiving nicely, etc. It's a pity that many of these libraries and tools don't deploy in a more straight-forward manner to begin with, but in any case it's great that Z by HP Data Science Software offers up the most popular tools and software packages that are ready to go from first-boot. HP is off to a great start with this Z by HP Data Science Software stack and they made it clear on calls with me they are planning to do more. Moving ahead they will work to keep some of the key software versions up-to-date even with sticking to the Ubuntu 20.04 LTS base and making other changes/improvements as a result of customer feedback. HP is also engaged with Canonical on any improvements/optimizations from the Ubuntu side.
While this pre-loaded stack is great, as mentioned it comes to over 40GB in size... While having Git, Docker, and many of the libraries are safe bets for installing by default, it would be great if at first boot on the new laptop HP allowed for more customizations. For example, Visual Studio Code is among the developer tools pre-installed that may be of interest to some but not others. Visual Studio Code and other applications are much easier to install for even beginner Linux users than say a deep learning library. It would be great if on first-boot was a basic HP utility to guide the user through a setup process with customizing the software stack for their own individual workflow - selecting their desired integrated development environment, what libraries and tools they actually use, what public cloud provider integration they want, etc, rather than to ship this massive package set by default. Particularly for applications where multiple options are available and developers tending to have their own preferences, this would be of much help.
Additionally, such a first-run customization wizard could allow for -more- libraries to be initially deployed. For example, right now this stack doesn't ship with any of Intel's great oneAPI libraries or other increasingly popular tools like the OpenVINO toolkit. With HP offering the HP ZBook Studio G7 catering to data scientists (and in effect, developers), it would be great if they really went wild with their software stack and customizations.
At this point the underlying Ubuntu 20.04 LTS operating system itself is largely unmodified besides the likes of using the OEM kernel build and having the NVIDIA graphics driver pre-installed, etc. Given HP's clout, the ZBook Studio G7 is powered by Intel, the specific target of HP ZBook Studio G7 data science customers, it would be great if they also collaborated with Intel (and in particular, Intel's Clear Linux crew) on driving more optimizations lower on the stack. As we have continued to show in benchmarks over the years, Intel's Clear Linux optimizations can really pay off in areas like deep learning workloads and other common developer tasks. Or even running Clear Linux within Docker for deploying some of these workloads can also still yield a significant speed-up.
In any case, the work being carried out for the Z by HP Data Science Software stack is interesting and great seeing a major OEM doing more than basic cosmetic alterations but really driving down on providing a data scientist / developer offering.