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Review: Mac OS X limits server performance

updated 09:50 am EDT, Wed June 15, 2005

OS X server review

AnandTech has posted a lengthy . Lmbench was used to test MySQL performance and measure the bottlenecks at the Unix operating system and CPU level. "Mac OS X is incredibly slow, between 2 and 5(!) times slower, in creating new threads, as it doesn't use kernel threads, and has to go through extra layers (wrappers). No need to continue our search: the G5 might not be the fastest integer CPU on earth - its database performance is completely crippled by an asthmatic operating system that needs up to 5 times more time to handle and create threads."

by MacNN Staff




  1. Jonas Maebe

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Factual errors

    Although I am curious why Mac OS X performed so badly in the database ad webserver tests, the reasons they give are wrong. Mac OS X most certainly does use kernel threads. In fact, every process under Mac OS X is nothing but a glorified Mach thread.

    And the slowness is also not due the fact that they use Mach, because they are not using it like a traditional microkernel (where every service runs in a separate memory space), but everything runs in one single address space (even the Mach and BSD personalities run in the same address space).

    Some more detailed comments can be found at

  1. TwinFeats

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Thread creation

    I've been a developer a long, long time, and I found the reading of this article quite amusing! Let's first accept the premise that the performance issues are indeed due to thread creation. This is the "Doctor, doctor - it hurts when I do this" syndrome. I haven't created threads willy-nilly in a application in at least 15 years, it's just not a good idea. Any system resource that required overhead to create you should try to only create once, then reuse - it's call pooling. Databases do it all the time with connection pooling. The interpretation of the test results is flawed because the test application was not measuring anything other than poor application design.

  1. elvis2000

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Old news

    Interesting how MacNN posts this only *after* Apple's Intel announcement. This is old news.

  1. Ben Lawson

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Debunked last week

    This article was discussed in other places last week. It seems that the testers don't understand some important characteristics of how Mac OS X operates. They have inadvertently(?) created an artificial test condition that actually highlights their lack of insight...

    Intelligently designed server applications run very well on Mac OS X. Badly designed ones... don't.

  1. marcelol

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Just as expected

    ore drivel from the reviewer crowd that thinks that they can just walk up, throw something down onto a box, and say "go". Sure, on the desktop, for the user, stuff just runs ( I love being a Mac person again and being able to say that, after 20 years on PC's. Hey...I have a household to support ), but on a server, there are always things that need to be tuned to the environment they're being run in. Has anyone looked at how many different things you can ( and usually HAVE to ) do to Oracle to get best performance out of it ( no matter what platform you're running on ) ?

    What possible brain-deficiency related thing made them think that their little test case even made sense ? And frankly, I STILL question what even GAVE THEM the idea that they were prepared for this ? Has Anandtech EVER done any sort of review of anything else Mac related ( I don't think so, but I could be wrong on that ) ?

    But I digress, I think they need to go back to school, and rethink their approach. Come back to us after you've actually thought the assignment through boys.

  1. cyngus

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Poor Article

    This one was posted on Slashdot a while ago. The reviewer's methodology is horrible, and he does nothing to try to isolate the source of the performance difference, even on the small array of micro tests he does. The reviewer also does not fully understand the Mac OS threading model and his understanding of what an OS is, is poor at best.

  1. eddd

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Just as expected

    Anandtech is generally quite positive when it comes to the Mac, and is nearly always fair. Anand Shimpi keeps a Mac runing as one of his personal machines, and continually shows admiration and respect for the machine and OS.

    That said, he's only a kid. And although extremely bright, he's not the last word in computing (although treated as such by many PC folk).

  1. giantmike

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: marcelol

    For a list of Mac articles at Anandtech, see this link:

  1. wadesworld

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Let's not put our head-in-the-sand. The fact that you can't get good performance out of the box *is* a problem.

    But the only people that can address it is the MySQL and Apache developers.

  1. LordJohnWhorfin

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Let's face it

    Performance sucks. There is absolutely no reason why MySQL performance should be any worse out of the box than it is on Linux. The old saw "it wasn't optimized for OSX" is just a load of c***. The fact that microkernel architectures are a performance sink has been known for years (google Linus vs. Tanenbaum if you don't believe me). OSX is currently carrying the baggage of its NeXT origin. It's time for Apple to admit there's a problem, and FIX it. When they start delivering Intel-based machines the lackluster performance of the machines is going to become a very serious issue, because it's going to be trivial to benchmark OS performance (if you can run OSX, Linux, FreeBSD and Windows on the same machine, and run MySQL on all environments, it's easy to rate OS performance objectively).

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