In an April 27, 1999 article entitled
"Will Mindcraft II Be Better?" Linux Today presented a one-sided
report clearly designed to destroy Mindcraft's credibility and to
falsely make our reports look wrong. I want to set the record
straight with this rebuttal, so I'll point out what's right and
wrong with the Linux Today article. Unfortunately, it takes more
words to right a wrong than it does to make someone look wrong, so
please bear with me.
Mindcraft did the tests stated in the article under contract
with Microsoft in a Microsoft lab.
Many have tried to imply that something is wrong with
Mindcraft's tests because they were done in a Microsoft lab. You
should know that Mindcraft verified the clients were set up as we
documented in our report and that Mindcraft, not Microsoft, loaded
the server software and tuned it as documented in our report. In
essence, we took over the lab we were using and verified it was set
Mindcraft did conduct a second test with support from Linus
Torvalds, Alan Cox, Jeremy Allison, Dean Gaudet, and David Miller.
Andrew Tridgell provided only one piece of input before he left on
vacation. Mindcraft received excellent support from these leading
members of the Linux community. I thank them for their help and
very much appreciate it.
Jeremy Allison was correct that the I made the initial contact
at the suggestion of a journalist, Lee Gomes from the Wall Street
Jeremy was right that we were under an NDA and, as stated above,
the tests were run at a Microsoft lab.
What was not mentioned in the article was the excellent support
Red Hat provided for our second test. Doug Ledford, from Red Hat,
answered my questions on the phone, always called back when I left
messages, and participated in the email correspondence with the
above named Linux experts.
Unfortunately, Mr. Whitinger and Mr. Johnson by not even
attempting to contact Mindcraft to get information from us. It
seems as though they wanted to write a one-sided story from the
beginning. The following points will give you the other side of
Linus is attributed as saying ".... that nobody in the Linux
community is really working on the Mindcraft test per se, because
Mindcraft hasn't allowed them access to the test site." It's clear
from the emails we exchanged that the Linux experts did make
suggestions on tunes for Linux, Apache, and Samba. They also
provided a kernel patch that was not readily available. We applied
all tunes they suggested and the kernel patch. Here are some of the
things that happened:
Red Hat provided version 1.0 of the MegaRAID driver during our
tests and used it, even though it meant retesting.
We sent out our Apache and Samba configuration files for review
and received approval of them before we tested. (We actually got
better performance in Apache when we made some changes to the
approved configuration file on our own).
Whenever we got poor performance we sent a description of out
how the system was set up and the performance numbers we were
measuring. The Linux experts and Red Hat told us what to check out,
offered tuning changes, and provided patches to try. We had several
rounds of messages between us in which Mindcraft answered the
questions they posed.
According to the article, Linus complained about the opaqueness
of our test. This is a strange complaint since he and all of the
Linux experts knew the exact configuration of the system we were
testing and knew the benchmarks we were running. The NetBench and
WebBench benchmarks are readily available on the Web for free and
are probably some of the best documented benchmarks available. We
withheld no technical details from him or the other Linux
Jeremy Allison directly contradicts Linus later in the article
when he says "...I can confirm that we have reproduced Mindcraft's
NT server numbers here in our lab." Clearly, Jeremy was tracking
what we were doing and had the lab to verify our results.
The article says that all emails to the Linux experts came from
a Microsoft address. That's wrong. On April 16, 17, 18, and 19 I
sent emails to them from Mindcraft's office on a Mindcraft IP
address. Emails sent during the second test were sent from a
Microsoft IP number.
Mr. Whitinger and Mr. Johnson are wrong about the email alias of
"will" belonging to me. It belongs to a person who is not a
Mindcraft employee. He is someone who did a posting to a newsgroup
about Linux on the system we were going to use for testing. He
wanted to remain as anonymous as possible because he didn't want to
get a ton of flamming email (based on the email Mindcraft has
received, his expectation was underestimated). I see no need to
reveal who he is now because his worst nightmare will come true and
because he had nothing to do with our test.
Jeremy did give me excellent support both on the phone and via
email. I applied all of his suggestions. If he gave me all of the
tuning parameters he used for the February
1, 1999PC Week article showing Samba performance on a
VA Research system, they should have been applicable to the system
I was using. That certainly is true for systems as similar as those
two when running Windows NT Server.
The Crux of The Matter
The whole controversy over Mindcraft's benchmark report is about
three things: we showed that Windows NT Server was faster than
Linux on an enterprise-class server, Apache did not outperform IIS,
and we didn't get the same performance measurements for Samba that
Jeremy got in the PC Week article or his lab. Let's look
at these issues.
Comparing the performance of a
resource-constrained desktop PC with an enterprise-class server is
like saying a go-kart beat a grand prix race car on a go-kart race
Smart Reseller reported a head-to-head test of Linux and Windows
NT Server in a January
25, 1999 article; they tested performance on a
resource-constrained 266 MHz desktop PC. One cannot reasonably
extrapolate the performance of a resource-constrained desktop PC to
an unconstrained, enterprise-class server with four 400 MHz Xeon
In a February
1, 1999 article, PC Week tested the file server
performance of Linux and Samba on an enterprise-class system. They
did not compare it to Windows NT Server on the same system. Jeremy
Allison helped with these tests comparing the Linux 2.2 kernel with
the Linux 2.0 kernel. I'll show you below
what he thinks about Windows NT Server on an enterprise-class
If you doubt our published Apache performance, Dean Gaudet, who
wrote the Apache
Performance Notes and who supported our testing, gives some
insights in a recent newsgroup
posting. In response to a request for tuning Apache for Web
benchmarks, Dean wrote, " Unless by tuning you mean 'replace apache
that's actually fast' ;)
"Really, with the current multiprocess apache I've never really
been able to see more than a handful of percentage improvement from
all the tweaks. It really is a case of needing a different server
architecture to reach the loads folks want to see in
In other words, Apache cannot achieve the performance that
companies want to see in benchmarks. That's probably why none of
the Unix benchmarks results reported at SPEC use Apache.
Jeremy Allison believes,
according to the Linux Today article, that if we do another
benchmark with his help, "...this doesn't mean Linux will
neccessarily [sic] win, (it doesn't when serving Win95
clients here in my lab, although it does when serving NT
clients)..." In other words, in a fair test we should find
Windows NT Server outperforming Linux and Samba on the same system.
That's what we found.
Jeremy's statement in the Linux Today article that "It is a
shame that they [Mindcraft] cannot reproduce the PC Week Linux
numbers ..." shows a lack of understanding of the NetBench
benchmark. If he looked at the NetBench
documentation , he would find a very significant reason why
Mindcraft's measured Samba performance was lower:
We used 133 MHz Pentium clients while Jeremy and PC
Week used faster clients, although we don't know how much
faster because neither documented that. We believe that PC
Week uses clients running with at least a 266 MHz Pentium II
CPU. Because they use clients that are at least twice as fast and
because so much of the NetBench measurements are affected by the
clients, this can account for most of the difference in the
can only compare results if you used the same testbed each time you
ran that test suite." Understanding and Using NetBench
In addition, the following testbed and server differences add to
the measured performance variances:
Mindcraft used a server with 400 MHz Xeon processors while PC
Week used one with 450 MHz Xeon processors. Jeremy did not disclose
what speed processor he was using.
Mindcraft used a server with a MegaRAID controller with a beta
driver (which was the latest version available at the time of the
test) for our first test while the PC Week server used an
eXtremeRAID controller with a fully released driver. The MegaRAID
driver was single threaded while the eXtremeRAID driver was
Mindcraft used Windows 9x clients while Jeremy and PC
Week used Windows NT clients. According to Jeremy, he gets
faster performance with Windows NT clients than with Windows 9x
Given these differences in the testbeds and servers, is it any
wonder we got lower performance than Jeremy and PC Week
If you scale up our numbers to account for their speed
advantage, we get essentially the same results.
The only reason to use Windows NT clients is to give Linux and
Samba an advantage, if you believe Jeremy's claim. In the real
world, there are many more Windows 9x clients connected to file
servers than Windows NT clients. So benchmarks that use Windows NT
clients are unrealistic and should be viewed as benchmark-special
The fact that Jeremy did not publish the details of the testbed
he used and the tunes he applied to Linux and Samba is a violation
of the NetBench license. If he had published the tunes he used, we
would have tried them. What's the big secret?
Jeremy states in the article "The essense of scientific testing
is *repeatability* of the experiment..." I concur with his
assertion. But a scientific test would use the same test apparatus
set up and would use the same initial conditions. Jeremy's
unscientific test did not use the same testbed or even one with
client computers of the same speed we used. We reported enough
information in our report so that someone could do a scientific
test to determine the accuracy of our findings. Jeremy did not.
Given the warning in the NetBench documentation against
comparing results from different testbeds, it is Jeremy and Linus
that are being unscientific in their thrashing of Mindcraft's
results. Mindcraft never compared its NetBench results to those
produced on a different testbed.
Mindcraft has been in business for over 14 years doing various
kinds of testing. For example, from May 1, 1991 through September
30, 1998 Mindcraft was accredited as a POSIX Testing Laboratory by
the National Voluntary Laboratory Program (NVLAP),
part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology
). During that time, Mindcraft did more POSIX FIPS certifications
than all other POSIX labs combined. All of those tests were paid
for by the client seeking certification. NIST saw no conflict of
interest in our being paid by the company seeking certification and
NIST reviewed and validated each test result we submitted. We apply
the same honesty to our performance testing that we do for our
conformance testing. To do otherwise would be foolish and would put
us out of business quickly.
Some may ask why we decided not to renew our NVLAP
accreditation. The reason is simple, NIST stopped its POSIX FIPS
certification program on December 31, 1997. That program was picked
up by the IEEE and on November 7, 1997 the IEEE announced that they
recognized Mindcraft as an Accredited POSIX Testing Laboratory. We
still are IEEE accredited and are still certifying systems for
POSIX FIPS conformance.
We've received many emails and there have been many postings in
newsgroups accusing us of lying in our report about Linux and
Windows NT Server because Microsoft paid for the tests. Nothing
could be further from the truth. No Mindcraft client, including
Microsoft, has ever asked us to deliver a report that lied or
misrepresented the results of a test. On the contrary, all of our
clients ask us to get the best performance for their product
and for their competitor's products. They want to
know where they really stand. If a client ever asked us to rig a
test, to lie about test results, or to misrepresent test results,
we would decline to do the work.
A few of the emails we've received asked us why the company that
sponsored a comparative benchmark always came out on top. The
answer is simple. When that was not the case our client exercised a
clause in the contract that allowed them to refuse us the right to
publish the results. We've had several such cases.
Mindcraft works much like a CPA hired by a company to audit its
books. We give an independent, impartial assessment based on our
testing. Like a CPA we're paid by our client. NVLAP approved test
labs that measure everything from asbestos to the accuracy of
scales are paid by their clients. It is a common practice for test
labs to be paid by their clients.
Considering the defamatory misrepresentations and bias in the
Linux Today article written by Mr. Whitinger and Mr. Johnson, we
believe that Linux Today should take the following actions in
fairness to Mindcraft and its readers:
Remove the article from its Web site and put an apology in its
place. If you do not do that, at least provide a link to this
rebuttal at the top of the article so that your readers can get
both sides of the story.
Disclose who Mr. Whitinger and Mr. Johnson work for. Were they
paid by someone with a vested interest in seeing Linux outperform
Windows NT Server?
Disclose who owns Linux Today and if it gets advertising revenue
from companies who do not a vested interest in seeing Linux
outperform Windows NT Server.
Provide fair coverage from an unbiased reporter of Mindcraft's
Open Benchmark of Windows NT
Server and Linux. For this benchmark, we have invited Linus
Torvalds, Jeremy Allison, Red Hat, and all of the other Linux
experts we were in contact with to tune Linux, Apache, and Samba
and to witness all tests. We have also invited Microsoft to tune
Windows NT and to witness the tests. Mindcraft will participate in
this benchmark at its own expense.
The NetBench document entitled Understanding and Using
NetBench 5.01 states on page 24, " You can only
compare results if you used the same testbed each time you ran that
test suite [emphasis added]."
Understanding and Using NetBench 5.01 clearly gives
another reason why the performance measurements Mindcraft reported
are so different than the ones Jeremy and PC Week found.
Look what's stated on page 236, "Client-side caching occurs when
the client is able to place some or all of the test workspace into
its local RAM, which it then uses as a file cache. When the client
caches these test files, the client can satisfy locally requests
that normally require a network access. Because a client's RAM can
handle a request many times faster than it takes that same request
to traverse the LAN, the client's throughput scores show a definite
rise over scores when no client-side caching occurs. In
fact, the client's throughput numbers with client-side caching can
increase to levels that are two to three times faster than is
possible given the physical speed of the particular
network [emphasis added]."
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