Ubuntu 12.04 Is ARM-ing Up For Better Performance
As shared on Phoronix in many articles already, Canonical has big plans for Ubuntu in the ARM-space. They are looking forward to making Ubuntu Linux be the first operating system to support the forthcoming ARM Cortex A15, but before that and the other achievements they have planned, they must first ship Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. With Ubuntu 12.04 there is already some exciting improvements on the ARM front, including ARM hard-float support, better OMAP4 support, and other packaging improvements. In this article are some early benchmarks of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" from the PandaBoard ES. For some workloads, Ubuntu 12.04 is remarkably faster than Ubuntu 11.10.
It was back in December that I began benchmarking the PandaBoard ES, a development board based around the Texas Instruments OMAP4660. The OMAP4660 PandaBoard ES packs a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 with each core being able to run up to 1.2GHz, 1080p video support with its PowerVR SGX540 graphics core that is capable of OpenGL ES 2.0/1.1 and OpenGL 1.1 acceleration, 1GB of low-power DDR2 RAM, 10/100 Ethernet, and two USB 2.0 ports. The original PandaBoard is based around the slightly older OMAP4430 SoC that is still a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 part but only runs up to 1.0GHz in speed.
In the PandaBoard ES benchmarks on Phoronix, and in other ARM benchmarks like the recent testing of the NVIDIA Tegra 2 Trim-Slice I have mentioned that the PandaBoard ES support will be bettered in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. Besides the ARM hard-float version of Ubuntu now being available (it's available as a daily build alongside the traditional soft float flavor), 12.04 Precise Pangolin is using the Linux 3.2 kernel that has better support for the OMAP4660 compared to the 3.0 kernel in Ubuntu 11.10. In particular, the Linux 3.2 kernel should run the dual-core A9 fully up to its 1.2GHz rated clock speeds. Also just other ARM optimizations within the GNU Compiler Collection and Linux kernel have landed since the Ubuntu "Oneiric Ocelot" release.
While more benchmarks will come once Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is gold and there is other ARM benchmarking improvements and more tests coming via the Phoronix Test Suite, for now is a look at some tests where simply upgrading to Ubuntu 12.04 makes a big difference for this Texas Instruments OMAP4660 development platform.
The comparison is quite simple and it is comparing the stock Ubuntu 11.10 for the OMAP4 to the OMAP4 daily build of Ubuntu 12.04 Precise from 24 January 2012. The hard-float daily build of Ubuntu was used. The soft float version of Ubuntu could not be used since it was not able to successfully boot on the PandaBoard ES any longer, at least on the daily builds that were tried. The stock settings configuration was used for each platform.