Benchmarking OpenMandriva 4.0 Alpha - The First Linux OS With An AMD Zen Optimized Build
On Christmas Eve marked the long-awaited release of the OpenMandriva Lx 4.0 Alpha and with that new version of the Mandrake/Mandriva-derived operating system came an AMD Zen "Znver1" optimized Linux build. Of course that caught my interest and I was quickly downloading this first Linux distribution with an AMD Ryzen/EPYC optimized binaries to see how it compares to its generic x86_64 operating system installation.
The AMD Zen optimized version of OpenMandriva Lx 4.0 caters its compiler flags to these latest AMD processors and other tuning to try to improve the experience. (There are some more details on the design changes with their Znver1 build in our forums.) This AMD Zen optimized build not only has the stock OS image rebuilt for Zen but a copy of its entire package archive re-built with Zen optimizations as an alternative to their generic Intel/AMD x86_64 package repository. It perhaps would be interesting if they pursued Function Multi-Versioning (FMV) and other compiler techniques for optimizations moving forward. But for users, simply download and install the OpenMandriva Znver1 image and if you are off to the races with AMD Zen optimizations by default.
The concept of an optimized Linux OS build catered towards a particular CPU microarchitecture is not new, but the first time we are seeing a major Linux distribution offer such for AMD Zen. On the Intel side the most prominent example is Intel's own Clear Linux platform out of their Open-Source Technology Center. With Clear Linux they take performance to the extreme of just not catering the CFLAGS/CXXFLAGS and other basic tunables towards recent Intel microarchitectures but with their engineering resources they have also worked on various patches to the Linux kernel, Glibc, GCC, and other key open-source components. The Intel OTC work also ends up landing back upstream in the respective projects but for finding the leading Intel Linux performance is generally first found on Clear Linux. In our comparisons where putting Clear Linux up against a variety of other major Linux distributions, it can usually beat out the competition at least 60% of the time in multi-way Linux OS comparisons when running on recent Intel hardware but even its performance on AMD hardware tends to pack quite a punch too. Thus with seeing the OpenMandriva Lx 4.0 Alpha 1 having a Znver1 build made me quite anxious to run some Christmas day benchmarks.
OpenMandriva Lx 4.0 Alpha 1 has the Linux 4.18 kernel, KDE Plasma 5.14.4, X.Org Server 1.20.3, Mesa 18.3.1 and EXT4 by default. But not all of the OpenMandriva Lx 4.0 tunables are in the name of performance as for example on both Alpha 1 builds they are defaulting to the CPUFreq conservative governor, which tends to be slower than the likes of CPUFreq performance or even ondemand.
For this initial OpenMandriva Lx 4.0 benchmarking, an AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X system was used for this testing powered by the Phoronix Test Suite.