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Linux kernel performance is as good as ever, benchmarks show

Nov 5, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

Phoronix has published the results of benchmarks performed on 26 Linux kernels dating back five years, from Linux 2.6.12 to a pre-release version of the upcoming Linux 2.6.37. Despite the addition of numerous features over the years, the results show remarkable consistency.

With last month's release of Linux 2.6.36, the kernel saw a reduction in net lines of code for the first time in years. The kernel received a trimming to address concerns about "bloat" that have been raised in recent years by Linux creator Linus Torvalds.

Yet despite feature creep in recent years, the Linux kernel's performance has remained remarkably sustained, according to Phoronix. The publication applied a series of benchmarks from its Phoronix Test Suite on 26 kernels ranging from the circa-2005 Linux 2.6.32 to a pre-release version of the upcoming 2.6.37.

According to the publication, the general consensus among the testers prior to the benchmark results was that Linux would have shown more of a performance slowdown over the years. Yet, most of the results looked like the 3D renderer test shown below.

Most of the Phoronix benchmark results mirrored this flat-line chart from the entirely CPU-based TTSIOD 3D renderer test
Source: Phoronix
(Click to enlarge)

While the majority of tests revealed a pretty much flat-line evolution over the years, a few such as an Apache web-page serving test (pictured below) fluctuated significantly with the changing file-systems over the years. Yet the results ended up almost exactly where they started.

What a wild ride it's been — Apache web-page serving on Linux kernels over the years
Source: Phoronix
(Click to enlarge)

A few benchmarks showed significant improvements, such as the Apache compilation test (pictured below). Others, such as the loopback TCP network test show major slowdowns (see farther below). For the most part, however, changes were slim.

Phoronix' results for compiling Apache show kernel performance improvements over the years.
Source: Phoronix
(Click to enlarge)

"As the Linux kernel aged, the performance improved in some areas like with John The Ripper, Himeno, code compilation performance, PostMark, FS-Mark, and the Threaded I/O Tester," stated Phoronix.

"Where the Linux kernel is left being slower at this point is with GnuPG, Loopback TCP Network Performance, IOzone, and in other areas on a more miniscule scale," the story continued. "For many of the application benchmarks the Linux kernel advancements caused little performance change, at least for a multi-core x86_64 system running in a virtual machine."

One of the largest drops in performance came on this Loopback TCP networking test, though recent kernels have shown an uptick.
Source: Phoronix
(Click to enlarge)

In order to complete the time-consuming tests in a reasonable time-frame, Phoronix used a system running a top-of-the-line Intel Core i7 970 processor. All tests were run in a 64-bit Fedora Core 4 virtual machine using KVM virtualization. The system ran Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit with the Linux 2.6.35 kernel, along with 3GB of DDR3 system memory, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 460, and a 64GB OCZ Vertex SSD (solid state drive), says Phoronix.

Further information

The Phoronix story reporting on its Linux kernel benchmarks may be found here.

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