The architecture of the new UltraSparc chips is quite interesting. You can check out the OpenSparc website if you are really interested, but it allows each CPU to run four separate, autonomous threads, or strands, as Sun calls them. Because of this, an 8 CPU box, like the perl.org T2000, behaves like a 32 CPU box. I have to say that running
gmake –j33 when developing Perl is a real time saver.
More importantly, of course, is that it has helped us to close out a few old bugs as well as help us find a few new ones. Nicholas fixed some parallel build issues that prevented the gmake gymnastics above. He is also playing with parallel testing with harness in the Perl distribution. With multiple CPU cores becoming more common (I’m expecting to see a good number of MacBooks at YAPC::NA) this will be helpful to a lot of Perl developers.
The new bugs involved a couple of additional build issues. First, Perl’s tests were making the assumption that the UNIX init proc had a pid of 1. That’s not necessarily the case on the T2000. Second, I found that the make used to build some of core modules switched from gmake to Sun make. This isn’t very helpful when you are trying to use gmake’s parallel make capabilities. I’ve got a patch that Nicholas suggested to fix this. Now, I just need to complete testing on before I commit it into the core.
Now, that we’ve kind of broken it in, I’m going to try to do some benchmarking on the box to try a few comparisons that have popped up on the perl5-porters mailing list in the recent past. One interesting one that Jim Cromie discussed was using Perlbench to compare multiple runs of a single Perl against itself. The idea is that Perl should perform with some regular consistency. One that I’m interested is comparing the performance of a big 16 CPU Itanium box against the T2000’s 8 CPUs that behave like 32 CPUs. I really want to see how the virtual CPUs compare against the real thing. Finally, I’m hoping that this platform will help point out the poor performing places in the Perl core so that I can help speed up Perl a bit in a few places. Hopefully, I won’t need a crash course in Sparc Assembly Language to do this.