Linux developers have set up a Linux Kernel Performance Project to halt the operating system's slipping performance.
"The project allows us to do systematic performance evaluations to ensure that all the releases have the highest possible performance kernels," Ken Chen, a software developer with the Intel Open Source Technology Center, said during a presentation at the LinuxWorld conference in Boston.
As the open source operating system evolves and features are added, developers can inadvertently affect the system's performance for certain applications, according to Chen. "It is not intentional to cause the regression, but it is an oversight," he explained.
Linux performance for database transactions, for instance, dropped by about six per cent between kernel 2.4.18 and the current 2.6.15. At times performance has dropped by as much as 23 per cent, according to data collected by the project.
Other performance benchmarks have also shown a performance decline. Without the performance project, those drops would not get noticed until after the software was completed.
Developers on average make 2,000 changes to the Linux kernel every month, making it hard to track which changes are causing a performance degradation, Cheng explained.
"Every week we take a snapshot of the Linux development kernel and run benchmarks and look at the results. If there are any performance regressions, it will be a lot easier to identify where they are coming from," he said.
The test lab is headed up by Intel and uses only Intel hardware for now, but Chen said that the project is open to accept hardware donations from other vendors.
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