Jeff Mahoney, Kernel Engineering Team Lead, SUSE Labs
Matthias G. Eckermann, Senior Product Manager SUSE Linux Enterprise
Our excitement this week is about the record-breaking results the HP ConvergedSystem 900 for SAP HANA achieved running the SPECjbb2013 benchmark. The Converged System results are about 210% better than the previous record holder.
The ConvergedSystem 900 ran SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP3 — and the blazing fast results were no accident. At HP’s request, SUSE tweaked the Linux kernel to meet their needs. HP’s research was initially focused on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12, due this autumn, for its new CS900 for SAP HANA system, but it became clear that our customers could benefit from those improvements sooner.
HP approached SUSE and we agreed to adapt SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP3 to meet HP’s accelerated timeline. HP made collaboration easy by being proactive in their analysis, the development process, and the presentation of their results to demonstrate success. We accepted many of the scalability enhancements into our kernel, but the biggest improvements involved modifying core data structures. Typically, those changes would have been prohibited from being incorporated into a released product due to the risk of breaking installations utilizing third-party drivers. But, having seen extremely compelling results, we decided to introduce a new kernel package, called “kernel-bigsmp”. This new kernel allows our customers to evaluate the performance benefits without risking their existing installations.
Though straight-line performance is getting all the headlines, the actual changes are focused on scalability – the ability for a large system to stay out of its own way. Collectively, improvements in mutex lock scaling, per-thread memory-management caching, subsystem lock usage changes, and several smaller enhancements add up to stunning results.
This new kernel isn’t just a one-off intended to showcase great benchmark numbers. It’s been incorporated as a fully supported component of SLE11 SP3, will be available for all customers, and will receive maintenance updates concurrently with the kernels we already ship. While the new kernel is required to provide these scalability improvements in SLE11 SP3, the changes have already been integrated into the default kernels in the upcoming SLE11 SP4 and SLE12 releases.
The scalability enhancements are only part of the story. New hardware comes with new challenges, and SUSE was able to help HP and our customers minimize the hiccups that can happen with bringing new systems online. The SUSE SolidDriver team contributed another big win, creating new boot media (using the kISO process) that included the new kernel with fixes necessary for hardware initialization and third-party drivers for optimal system behavior. Once booted, the installation for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server proceeds as smoothly as it always does.
During the process, HP provided patches. SUSE’s R&D evaluated them for inclusion, and our Level 3/Maintenance team did a great job integrating them and posting the results, typically within a day. HP appreciated our quick turnarounds and engineering evaluation of each change — especially considering other Linux vendors would have needed a six-month window to evaluate and respond.
Our customers have access to a record breaking combination of hardware and software.
We adapt. You succeed.
SPEC and the benchmark name SPECjbb are registered trademarks of the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC). See http://spec.org/jbb2013/. The stated HP results are submitted to SPEC; the stated competitive results are published as of 2014-06-10.