Running Intel's Clear Linux On AMD EPYC Rome? Still Significant Performance Uplift Over Ubuntu
Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 5 September 2019. Page 6 of 6. 19 Comments

Of the nearly eighty benchmarks carried out between Ubuntu and Clear Linux, this Intel Linux distribution on the AMD server ended up delivering the best performance 70% of the time. Ubuntu 19.04 was the fastest just 22% of the time and Ubuntu 19.10 daily won 8% of the tests.

Lastly a look at the geometric mean for those benchmark runs on all platforms:

Of the dozens of test results, the geometric mean showed Clear Linux came out to being 9.2% faster than Ubuntu 19.04 but that of course varied a great deal depending upon the particular workloads. Around 10% performance uplift is significant by itself but with similar tests on Intel Core/Xeon processors we have commonly found 20~30% improvements out of Clear Linux.

Stay tuned to see how RHEL 8.0, openSUSE, and other Linux distributions as well as FreeBSD compare when run on this AMD EPYC 7742 2P server. These Clear Linux results do show the significant upside that can be had when properly tuning the open-source software for modern CPU microarchitectures. Unfortunately besides Clear Linux there still aren't many Linux distributions doing such extensive tuning as well as ultimately contributing of patches back upstream. The closest to Clear Linux would be the likes of Gentoo or Arch Linux with their encouraging of CFLAGS/CXXFLAGS tuning and other tunables but without the resources to invest in aggressive, original optimization work like is seen by Intel's engineers with Clear Linux beyond the low-level changes. At the same time this testing continues to debunk the myth that general purpose Linux distributions couldn't pursue similar optimizations for losing out on AMD hardware support or old hardware for that matter -- thanks to function multi-versioning and the like, Clear Linux does continue to support x86_64 hardware past Sandy Bridge (SSE 4.1 and UEFI support are the main low-end requirements).

With time and increasing resources we'll see if AMD explores any similar route for helping their customers on the software side (besides non-public optimization guides) to ensure they exploit the full performance potential of their hardware but anyhow for those interested you can run Clear Linux on AMD EPYC Rome hardware today to great results.


About The Author
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.


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