Linux and the Alpha
The Alpha architecture is designed for performance and its implementations do indeed make for very fast systems. Since its chips run at very high clock frequencies, the Alpha usually benefits the most from simple techniques that improve the memory-system behavior of a given program or algorithm. A few of these techniques have been demonstrated in this article and shown to achieve performance improvements anywhere in the range of 10% to 1700%. Fortunately, the same techniques also seem to benefit the other CPU architectures. This is good news since it means that usually one optimized implementation will perform well across a broad range of CPUs.
The biggest hurdle to developing high-performance applications under Linux is the current lack of sophisticated performance analysis tools. The relative lack of such tools is not surprising; while most commercial Unix vendors have tools for their own architecture, few, if any, are multi-platform. To some degree this is inherent in the problem, but there is no question it would not be very difficult to create even better portable performance-analysis tools.
Linux is what makes low-cost Alpha-based Unix workstations a reality. While Digital UNIX currently comes with better compilers, runtime libraries and more tools for the Alpha, the price difference is such that one can easily make up for the performance difference by spending a little more money on a faster machine. Also, development of gcc and better libraries doesn't stand still. However, since most work is done on a voluntary basis, it does take some time. Even so, Linux is already a highly competitive platform for integer-intensive applications. For floating-point intensive and especially FORTRAN applications, things are not yet so mature. Fortunately, if one cannot afford to wait for a better compiler, there is always the option of purchasing one of the commercial FORTRAN compilers available for Linux/Alpha.
The author would like to thank Richard Henderson of Texas A&M University and Erik Troan of Red Hat Software for reviewing this paper on short notice. Their feedback greatly improved its quality. Errors and omissions are the sole responsibility of the author. This article was first given as a speech at Linux Expo 97 on April 5.
Win an iPhone 6
Enter to Win
|Non-Linux FOSS: Install Windows? Yeah, Open Source Can Do That.||Nov 24, 2015|
|Cipher Security: How to harden TLS and SSH||Nov 23, 2015|
|Web Stores Held Hostage||Nov 19, 2015|
|diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development||Nov 17, 2015|
|Recipy for Science||Nov 16, 2015|
|Firefox's New Feature for Tighter Security||Nov 13, 2015|
- Non-Linux FOSS: Install Windows? Yeah, Open Source Can Do That.
- Cipher Security: How to harden TLS and SSH
- Simple Photo Editing, Linux Edition!
- Web Stores Held Hostage
- Firefox's New Feature for Tighter Security
- Libreboot on an x60, Part II: the Installation
- It's a Bird. It's Another Bird!
- diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development
- How Will the Big Data Craze Play Out?
- November 2015 Issue of Linux Journal: System Administration