Intel CPUs Get a Power Surge of 14% in Linux

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According to recent news, Intel patched the Thread Director in Linux to improve virtualization performance on hybrid Intel CPUs (via Phoronix). Intel’s performance boosts up to 14% in 3Dmark. However, how much performance users can expect in virtual machines is still being determined.

This improvement mainly applies to virtual machines, making it a significant development for cloud gaming providers.

Understanding Thread Director

Thread Director is a software feature designed to optimize performance on Intel’s hybrid CPUs. These processors combine powerful P-cores with efficient E-cores.

P-cores are the performance cores. It is designed for raw speed and high performance. Compared to E-cores, the P-cores are physically larger and more powerful. It often has a higher clock speed and supports hyperthreading. On the flip side, E-cores are efficient cores that prioritize low power consumption. It is suitable for background tasks like web browsing, email, and document editing.

By combining the P-cores and E-cores, Intel aims to achieve a better overall performance. P-cores can handle demanding tasks, while E-cores efficiently manage background processes. Moreover, it also improves battery life as E-cores consume less power. Lastly, the Thread Director intelligently assigns tasks to the suitable core, ensuring efficient use of resources.

The Linux Patch and its Impact

Previously, Thread Director primarily benefitted the Windows system. However, the new patch targets Linux environments, particularly virtual machines. This means that virtualized workloads running on Intel CPUs with Thread Director enabled can experience significant performance uplift, reaching up to 14% in specific benchmarks.

Benefits of Cloud Gaming

The cloud gaming providers heavily rely on virtual machines to deliver their services. The 14% performance boost translates to smoother gameplay and potentially lower latency for cloud gamers. Moreover, the benefits extend way beyond gaming. Any virtualized environment, from development workstations to enterprise applications, can potentially see performance improvements.

Real-World Performance

It is important to remember that the 14% figure is a theoretical maximum. The performance gains may vary depending on the specific workload and hardware configuration.

The patch notes have performance figures for 3DMark Time Spy and Fire Strike using Core i9-13900K. Most cases saw performance deltas in the plus or minus 3% region. Moreover, according to Tom’s Hardware, six out of 17 tests saw performance gains between 8% and 14%.

It was strange that the Intel team mentioned gaming performance in a patch for virtual machines, but this is not the entire purpose of Thread Director improvements. The patch note says

“We have the use case to run games in the client Windows VM as the cloud gaming solution.”

Intel’s best gaming CPUs are hybrid chips, so cloud gaming providers may want to use those hybrid chips without running into performance issues.

Continuous Optimization Awaits

This patch marks a significant milestone for Intel CPUs on Linux, particularly in virtualized environments. It demonstrates Intel’s commitment to optimizing its processors for diverse use cases and operating systems. With further development and optimization, we can expect even more significant performance gains in the future, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with Intel CPUs on Linux.

So, whether you’re a cloud gamer, a developer, or simply someone who values a responsive and efficient computing experience, this news is a reason to be excited.

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