Linux 3.17 To 4.15 Kernel Benchmarks On Intel Gulftown & Haswell

Written by Michael Larabel in Software on 26 January 2018. Page 1 of 3. 3 Comments

Here is a look at how the Linux kernel performance has evolved since the release of Linux 3.17 in October 2014. With all the major kernel releases over the past 3+ years, here is how the performance compares using two very different Intel Gulftown and Haswell systems.

I spent a good portion of the week running some Linux 4.0 to 4.15 benchmarks in large part motivated to see how the Meltdown and Spectre mitigation in Linux 4.15 has impacted the kernel performance in the grand scheme of things. I ended up taking all the kernel testing back to Linux 3.17: unfortunately that's where testing had to end since Linux 3.16 and prior wouldn't boot with the newer Linux user-space due using systemd. So on an Intel Core i7 990X and Core i7 5960X systems I compared the performance using each major Linux x.y.0 release from 3.17.0 to 4.15 Git. The lone exception is having to skip Linux 4.7 because when trying to boot that with EXT4 formatted from Ubuntu 18.04 daily, that kernel could only boot with the file-system in read-only mode.

If there is enough interest on some older systems I may do an even larger kernel comparison while using Ubuntu 12.04 LTS or 14.04 LTS user-space components in order to work on even older kernel releases. Obviously in order to go back to Linux 3.17, I had to use older system components as well for maintaining kernel/driver support. The two systems consisted of:

Core i7 990X - The high-end "Gulftown" processor from 2011. The Core i7 990X is a six-core processor plus Hyper Threading and has a 3.46GHz base clock frequency with 3.73GHz turbo frequency. The i7-990X system was paired with an MSI X58M motherboard, 3 x 4GB DDR3-1666 memory, and PNY CS1211 120GB SATA 3.0 SSD.

Core i7 5960X - The Haswell-E system providing a more recent look at Linux performance potential and as a refresher is an eight core part with Hyper Threading, 3.0GHz base frequency, and 3.5GHz turbo frequency. This system was paired with the ASRock X99 Extreme3 motherboard, 4 x 4GB DDR4-3000 memory, 120GB Intel SSDSC2BW12, and AMD FirePro V7900 graphics card.

On both systems was Ubuntu 18.04 LTS daily with an EXT4 file-system and GCC 7.2.0 compiler. Each major Linux kernel release was obtained from the Ubuntu Mainline Kernel PPA. These benchmarks were carried out using the Phoronix Test Suite.

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