Single-threaded Integer Performance: 7-Zip

The profile of a compression algorithm is somewhat similar to many server workloads: it can be hard to extract instruction level parallelism (ILP) and it's sensitive to memory parallelism and latency. The instruction mix is a bit different, but it's still somewhat similar to many server workloads. Testing single threaded is also a great way to check how well the turbo boost feature works in a CPU.

And as one more reason to test performance in this manner, the 7-zip source code is available under the GNU LGPL license. That allows us to recompile the source code on every machine with the -O2 optimization with gcc 4.8.2.

We added the 7-zip scores that we could find at the 7-zip benchmark page. But there is more. The numbers on the 7-zip bench page have no software details, so we could not be sure that they would be accurate. So we managed to get a brief session on a POWER8 "for development purposes" server. The hardware specs can be read below:

Yes, we only got access to 1 core (8 threads) and 2 GB of RAM. So real world server benchmarking was out of the question. Nevertheless, it's a start. To that end we tested with gcc 4.9.1 (supports POWER8) and recompiled our source with the "-O2 -mtune="power8" options on Ubuntu Linux 14.10 for POWER. 

LZMA Single-Threaded Performance: Compression

Let us first focus on the new Haswell core inside the Xeon E7, which offers a solid 10% improvement. Turbo boost brings the clockspeed of the Haswell core close enough to the Ivy Bridge core (3.3GHz vs 3.4GHz) and the improved core does the rest. Nevertheless, it is clear that we should not expect huge performance increases with a 10% faster core and 20% more cores.

Back to the more exciting stuff: the fight between Intel and IBM, between the Xeon "Haswell" and the POWER8 chip. The Haswell core is a lot more sophisticated: single threaded performance at 3.3 GHz (turbo) is no less than 50% higher than the POWER8 at 3.4 GHz. That means that the Haswell core is a lot more capable when it comes to extracting ILP out of that complex code.

However, when the IBM monster is allowed to use 8 simultaneous threads spread out over one core, something magical happens. Something that we have not seen in a long, long time: the Intel chip is no longer on top. When you use all the available threading resources in one core, the 3.4 GHz chip is a tiny bit (2%) faster than the best Intel Xeon at 3.3 GHz.

Memory Subsystem: Bandwidth 7-Zip Decompression


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  • MyNuts - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    Charles Babbage would be upset Reply
  • quadibloc - Thursday, May 14, 2015 - link

    I'm shocked to hear that Oracle and IBM are charging more for their SPARC and PowerPC chips, respectively, than Intel is charging for comparable x86 chips - or, at least, I presume they are, if servers using those chips are more expensive. Since x86 has the enormous advantage of being able to run Microsoft Windows, the only way other ISAs can be viable is if they offer better performance or a lower price. Reply
  • Kevin G - Thursday, May 14, 2015 - link

    Actually IBM comes in cheaper than Intel for comparable POWER8 hardware. IBM now is offering the processor to outside system builders so the actual prices are some what known. Tyan used to have the raw prices on their site but I can't find them again.

    Regardless, this article indicates that they top out at $3000 which is less than equivalent Xeon E7's.
  • kgardas - Thursday, May 21, 2015 - link

    Sure, SPARC and POWER are (was in case of POWER) more expensive, but usually hardware price is nothing in comparison with software price if you are running enterprise. Also SPARC is also Oracle preferred over POWER/Itanium by Oracle's price ratios... Anyway, POWER8 looks so powerful that it may even be cheaper software wise in comparison with SPARC, but that would need some clever Oracle DB benchmarking... Reply
  • HighTech4US - Friday, May 15, 2015 - link

    Power 9 will be available when? Reply
  • Phiro69 - Friday, May 15, 2015 - link

    I wanted to compare the E7's in this review to the E5's reviewed a few months back in your benchmark comparison tool, but I'm not seeing any of this data in it? Is it going to be there? Reply

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