Bare Metal Benchmarking Alpine Linux 3.11 Against Ubuntu 19.10 + Clear Linux
Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 20 December 2019. Page 1 of 3. 15 Comments

While Alpine Linux has traditionally been a lightweight Linux distribution focused on use within containerized environments, with yesterday's release of Alpine Linux 3.11 brought GNOME and KDE support for those wanting to use this distribution as a desktop/workstation OS. Curious, I had to give it a try and of course run some general Alpine Linux 3.11 benchmarks up against Clear Linux and Ubuntu 19.10 for seeing how its performance is on bare-metal hardware.

At this stage, Alpine Linux isn't really a desktop contender. While eager to toy with it, they -- at least not yet -- do not provide any desktop installation images and thus you are left with their basic/extended text-based environments to install Alpine Linux and after which you can install GNOME or KDE (or Xfce) through their APK packaging system.

Though it's not very end-user friendly in that Alpine Linux doesn't ship with kernel mode-setting by default and thus additional hoops to jump through there as well for getting the accelerated display/graphics support in place, among other challenges. With Alpine Linux using OpenRC rather than systemd, there is also additional steps there too for getting GNOME up and running around udev. At least they do maintain detailed Wiki pages so for those interested in a holiday adventure can see the GNOME setup guide, KDE, and Radeon graphics, among others.

So it's possible to get it all up and running with Alpine Linux 3.11 as a desktop with this OS tailored around OpenRC + Musl libc + Busybox, just be prepared to spend some time setting it all up. Hopefully in the future they will consider spinning a desktop ISO for those wanting a quick desktop environment for working on their containers with the same base OS. But in being curious about the Alpine Linux 3.11 out-of-the-box performance when running on bare metal hardware rather than a container, I ran some benchmarks on the same system between it and Ubuntu 19.10 and Clear Linux 31950.

An Intel Core i9 9900KS + ASUS PRIME Z390-A + 16GB RAM + Samsung 970 EVO 250GB were used for testing Alpine Linux 3.11, Ubuntu 19.10, and Clear Linux 31950 at their defaults. A range of benchmarks were run via the Phoronix Test Suite.


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