Intel's Clear Linux In 2021 Still Squeezing More Performance For Xeon Scalable
Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 29 March 2021. Page 1 of 3. 9 Comments

With Intel set to announce 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable "Ice Lake" CPUs next week, it's a good time for looking back to see how the Linux performance has evolved since the introduction of 2nd Gen Xeon Scalable "Cascade Lake" processors back in 2019. In this article is a look at the Xeon Platinum 8280 performance back at launch under both Ubuntu and Clear Linux compared to the current state of both distributions on the same hardware. There are also additional tests with those latest Linux images seeing how Ubuntu 21.04 is shaping up against Intel's own performance-optimized Clear Linux.

In curious to see how the performance has evolved for Intel Xeon Scalable Casscade Lake servers since the launch back in early 2019, this article today is benchmarking against that initial launch state using Ubuntu 19.04 and Clear Linux 28660. The "2021" tests are then using a recent daily development snapshot of Ubuntu 21.04 and Clear Linux 34420 as the latest of that Intel rolling-release, performance-optimized platform. This allows looking at the performance improvements made by Ubuntu and Intel's aggressively-tuned distribution, the new package updates over the past two years, various security mitigations introduced since the launch of Cascade Lake, etc.

The Xeon server used throughout all of this Linux benchmarking today was the dual Intel Xeon Platinum 8280 running within the Gigabyte S451-3R0 Storage Server. That Gigabyte Storage Server has been in our labs now for two years running for many of our Cascade Lake / Cascade Lake Refresh benchmarks and continues performing very well and reliably. The server was equipped with 12 x 32GB DDR4-2933 memory, Samsung 970 PRO 512GB NVMe solid-state storage, and the default operating system states as mentioned.

Following those "2019 vs. 2021" Linux benchmarks on the Xeon Platinum 8280 2P, many more benchmarks were run just looking at the Intel Xeon Scalable performance between the in-development Ubuntu 21.04 and Intel's latest Clear Linux for today's performance. Package versions for these fresh Linux distributions are similar while Clear Linux continues with more aggressive compiler defaults, using the performance governor by default, transparent huge pages are set to always, and a variety of other optimizations to different packages from applying LTO and FMV to AVX tuning and various kernel patches.


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