Intel's Linux OS Shows The Importance Of Software Optimizations, Further Optimized Xeon "Ice Lake" In 2021

Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 6 January 2022 at 08:00 AM EST. Page 1 of 4. 17 Comments.

As part of the various end-of-year Linux comparisons that I've made a habit of over the past 17 years, with the EOY 2021 benchmarking I was rather curious to see how Intel's Clear Linux distribution has evolved Xeon Scalable "Ice Lake" performance since that platform launched in Q2'2021. It turns out there have been some terrific optimizations squeezed out of that latest-generation Xeon Scalable platform on Intel's Clear Linux. In this article is a look at the Ubuntu and Clear Linux performance on the flagship Xeon Platinum 8380 2P reference server back around the time Ice Lake launched and then again using the latest software packages that closed out 2021.

This round of testing was looking at the default, out-of-the-box performance of the following operating systems on the Intel Xeon Platinum 8380 2P reference server:

- Ubuntu 20.04.2 LTS
- Ubuntu 21.04
- Ubuntu 22.04 LTS Daily (2 January)
- Clear Linux 34630
- Clear Linux 35470

With that we have a look at how the latest Ubuntu (non-LTS) as of this past spring ran on Ice Lake when it first came through compared to the current LTS and then the latest daily packages for how Ubuntu 22.04 LTS is shaping up as a end-of-year look for that popular distribution. Plus most interestingly is the state of Intel's rolling-release Linux distribution from when Ice Lake premiered to now at the end of 2021.

Through this testing the Intel Xeon Platinum 8380 2P with its combined 80 cores / 160 threads was used for testing with 512GB (16 x 32GB DDR4-3200) memory and Intel 800GB P5800x Optane NVMe storage. All of the Linux distributions were tested in their clean install, out-of-the-box state with a wide variety of workloads.

49 different benchmarks were run across these Linux operating systems for seeing how the software performance evolved since Ice Lake's launch. Intel's own Linux distribution came out ahead of Ubuntu in 95% of the benchmarks... In particular, 65% of the time the latest Clear Linux release tested was the fastest.

Or if taking the geometric mean of all 49 benchmarks ran across the five Linux OS releases, this is how things pan out. Since Xeon Scalable "Ice Lake" launched, Intel's Clear Linux distribution has advanced the performance by about 4% on average. That's quite healthy for the geometric mean across the many different benchmarks meanwhile going from Ubuntu 21.04 to 22.04 daily meant just a 1% improvement. Intel's Linux OS in this out-of-the-box comparison now holds a stunning 58% advantage over the latest state of Ubuntu on this flagship Xeon Platinum 8380 2P server in its out-of-the-box state.

That's the high level look, let's jump into some of the individual results.

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