The Aftermath of the First Article

We received a flood of mails and posts from our readers requesting that we test the Apple machines with Linux too and questioned why we hadn't done that in the first article. We have to point out that the objective of the first article was to compare the platforms, and therefore, it is only natural to use Mac OS X on the Apple machine. Very few Apple machines run Linux, but in this article, we test this combination to shed more light on our findings.

Secondly, we spent most of our time trying out different MySQL setups to find out whether or not the poor MySQL numbers were a result of bad tuning. We tested and tried with, for example, the "skip-locking", "key_buffer" and "thread_cache" parameters, but none of them could help the Apple platform to perform significantly better. The out-of-the-box MySQL setup on Tiger is not very different from a typical SUSE Linux out-of-the-box installation, except that skip-locking is not enabled on the Apple platform. The reason seems to be that quite a few Xserves are used in clusters. Enabling "Skip-locking" gives a 1-3% performance boost to the Xserve and PowerMacs. We can say with 99% certainty that the MySQL configuration was not the cause of the poor MySQL performance.

The vast majority of the reactions of the Apple user community were very positive, despite our low server benchmark numbers. Many Apple users told us that they were glad that we had pointed out that Mac Os X still needs a bit of performance tunings. Anand reported the same thing as what many Apple users pointed out, which is that the responsiveness of the OS is not spectacular:
"The overall responsiveness of the system was decent, but go back to using a top-of-the-line PC in Windows for a few minutes, and you definitely feel a bit sluggish on the G5"
We still receive suggestions because of the first article, and one question that was asked a lot was: "why not test with different compilers?" The reason was that gcc was the default compiler on both Mac OS X and Linux. Testing with compilers would widen the scope of this kind of article too much, and we wanted to use the same compiler on all CPUs. That being said, we retested with the gcc 4.0 compiler because the 3.3 version performed pretty poorly on the Power FX platform.

I would like to thank the readers for the valuable feedback. In this second part, we'll correct the inaccuracies in the first.

Scope and Focus

Again, we are focusing on workstation and server applications, especially the open source ones (MySQL, Apache) as Apple is touting heavily the importance of their move to an "open source foundation".

The 64 bit Apple Machines were running OS X Server 10.4.1 (Tiger) and Yellow Dog 4.0 Linux version 2.6.10-1.ydl.1g5-smp. The reason we chose Yellow dog is that Terrasoft, the company behind this Linux version, optimises only for the G5. So, Yellow dog is by far the most PowerPC optimized Linux distribution out there.

Our x86 machines are still running a 64 bit server version of a popular Open Source Operating Unix system: SUSE Linux SLES 9 Service Pack 1 (kernel 2.6.5).

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  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, September 2, 2005 - link

    Sorry couldn't resist :-). (for the rest of the world, pannekoek is dutch for Pancake)

    Desktop performance is ok, as desktop apps are similar to the workstation apps we tested in the first article. Those apps spend from 5-20% in the OS, while server apps spend up to 80% of their time in the OS!

    However, I should point out that we tested Mac OS X SERVER, so it is a problem for the Xserves.
    Reply
  • Pannenkoek - Friday, September 2, 2005 - link

    I stand corrected then. However, my reasoning still applies, it's just that Apple relies even more on its brand than on technology to sell server systems apparently. Who runs Mac OS servers anyway, it's an oxymoron. ;-)

    P.S. Do not mock my nick, it served well in beating godlike UT bots, and should be honoured as much as Loque.
    Reply
  • Tanclearas - Thursday, September 1, 2005 - link

    "Apple told us that the problem lies in the Apachebench (the client side), which stalls from time to time and thus, generates too low of a load on the (Apache) server."

    How does this explanation make any sense? Linux obviously doesn't have a problem with these "stalls".
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, September 2, 2005 - link

    What follows is not what Apple said, but my interpretation...

    They are probably pointing out that the version for Mac OS X has a Mac OS X specific bug. Of course, who is to blame? I am sceptical like you.
    Reply
  • mariush - Thursday, September 1, 2005 - link

    Page 4 :

    We used the following on the Opteron based PCs:

    Gcc -O2 -mcpu=G5 flops.c -o flops

    And, on the G5 machines, we used:

    Gcc -O2 -march=k8 flops.c -o flops

    I think it's the other way around.
    Reply
  • Houdani - Thursday, September 1, 2005 - link

    Aye, was gonna point that out also.

    In addition, on page 3 should you list the Yellow Dog Linux along with OSX in the Software section for the Apple PowerMac G5?
    Reply
  • Shinei - Thursday, September 1, 2005 - link

    My question is, would the memory latencies be so high for the 970FX if high-end RAM was used for the Linux tests (like, say, some TCCD or BH-5 at 2-2-2-5), instead of the standard 3-3-3-8 SPD that ships with the G5 system? Or is there some limitation to the G5 motherboard that prevents posting with performance RAM as a way for Apple to ensure that only certain, accepted DIMMs are used with their computers?
    Anyway, these results are very telling about what the OSX86 Macs are going to perform like--that is to say, ~25% slower than the equivalent Windows/Linux boxes running the same hardware...
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Sunday, September 4, 2005 - link

    quote:

    My question is, would the memory latencies be so high for the 970FX if high-end RAM was used for the Linux tests (like, say, some TCCD or BH-5 at 2-2-2-5), instead of the standard 3-3-3-8 SPD that ships with the G5 system? Or is there some limitation to the G5 motherboard that prevents posting with performance RAM as a way for Apple to ensure that only certain, accepted DIMMs are used with their computers?


    That doesn't matter since they are testing workstations, Irwindale and Opteron is also using CAS3 RAM. No workstations/servers use 2-2-2-5 RAM.


    The poor scores of OS X compared to Linux makes sense. G5 was rumored to be fast in speccpu benchmarks but came out to be slower. Must be that rumor systems were benched with Linux and the production was benched with OSX.

    I am impressed with OS X's features though.
    Reply
  • Jedi2155 - Thursday, September 1, 2005 - link

    The G5 motherboard has the limitations due to Apple's way to insure you only buy certified ram. The SPD settings must be perfect. Reply
  • ceefka - Thursday, September 1, 2005 - link

    I am humbled by the sheer expertise of Johan. Amazing work, Johan!

    This makes me even more curious about Intel's contribution to the next generation of Macs. How will they compare to the best G5s?
    Reply

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