I Hope You Like Charts: Benchmarks On 4 Clouds

I Hope You Like Charts: Benchmarks On 4 Clouds

2/13/2019 • 8 min read

This is a follow-on post to multi-cloud benchmarks.

Previously, we ran a number of Pilosa specific benchmarks across a variety of configurations of hosts on AWS, Azure, and Oracle cloud. Our broad strokes conclusions were that AWS was the fastest, Oracle was the most cost effective, and that while not far behind, Azure didn’t stand out - if you work on Azure (or any other cloud incidentally) and want to dig into this, we’d love to.

We’ve got a few exciting updates in this second edition:

  1. We’ve added GCP to the mix!
  2. After getting some feedback from the OCI team, we changed the OS image that we’re using which provided a pretty good boost in some benchmarks and solved the mystery of performance differences between the VM.Standard2.16 and the BM.Standard2.52 instances.
  3. We re-ran the AWS c5.9xlarge benchmarks on Amazon Linux to be equitable with the Oracle benchmarks.
  4. We ran some low level memory bandwidth benchmarks.
  5. We’ve updated our tooling to make it significantly easier to add new configurations to our existing results on data.world.


So, if you’ll recall, we had a suite of queries that we ran against Pilosa clusters configured in each cloud, as well as a set of microbenchmarks that just ran on one instance of each cluster.

So, without further ado, here is the full set of configurations that we’ve benchmarked against.

Cloud InstanceType Num OS Cost/ Hr CPUs Mem (GB) NVME SSDs
OCI VM.Standard2.16 3 Oracle Linux 3.06 96 720 0
OCI VM.Standard2.16 3 Ubuntu 3.06 96 720 0
GCP custom-36-73728-discounted 3 Ubuntu 3.18 108 216 0
OCI BM.Standard2.52 1 Oracle Linux 3.32 104 768 0
OCI BM.Standard2.52 1 Ubuntu 3.32 104 768 0
Azure Standard_F32s_v2 3 Ubuntu 4.05 96 192 0
GCP custom-36-73728 3 Ubuntu 4.54 108 216 0
AWS c5.9xlarge 3 Ubuntu 4.59 108 216 0
AWS c5.9xlarge 3 Amazon Linux 4.59 108 216 0
Azure Standard_F16 6 Ubuntu 4.80 96 192 0
OCI BM.HPC2.36 2 Oracle Linux 5.40 144 768 2
OCI BM.HPC2.36 2 Ubuntu 5.40 144 768 2
OCI VM.DenseIO2.16 3 Ubuntu 6.12 96 720 6
AWS r5d.12xlarge 2 Ubuntu 6.91 96 768 4
AWS r5d.12xlarge 2 Amazon Linux 6.91 96 768 4
Azure Standard_E64s_v3 2 Ubuntu 7.26 128 864 0

There are a few nuances to note here. Oracle and Amazon provide custom linux distributions (both based on CentOS), and we’ve run some of the configurations on both Ubuntu and CentOS. Azure and GCP didn’t seem to have hand curated Linux derivatives and they did have official Ubuntu images, so we used those.

Now, Google does some interesting things with GCP: custom instance types, and sustained use discounts.

We created a custom-36-73728 instance to be equivalent to AWS’s c5.9xlarge - we’re even able to specify that we want Skylake class CPUs. Now, the base price for this custom instance is about $1.51/hr which is almost exactly the same as AWS’s c5.9xlarge at $1.53/hr. However, if we run the instance for more than 25% of a month, we start getting discounted automatically. Long story short, if we keep the instance running for a month, the effective price is $1.06/hr — a 30% discount! We look at both the full price and discounted price in our cost/performance comparisons, the discounted price is associated with the instance type called custom-36-73728-discounted.

Note that while all the providers have some form of “reserved” pricing where you can commit in advance to a year or more of usage for a steep discount, Google is the only one I’m aware of with any kind of totally automatic discounting.


Let’s look first at IntersectionCount which is a simple, single-threaded benchmark with no I/O:


Immediately, we can see the Oracle Linux provided a big boost over Ubuntu for the Oracle bare metal instances. BM.HPC2.36 has dethroned c5.9xlarge as the champion of CPU performance - this is pretty surprising as the AWS instance has a faster processor on paper. Is virtualized vs bare metal the culprit? Or perhaps differences in the memory subsytems give OCI the edge here.

Now what about basic disk I/O?


Very interesting! The bare metal HPC instance using Oracle Linux with 1 SSD outperforms the 2 SSD VM instances (running Ubuntu) both on Oracle and AWS. The non-SSD Oracle and AWS instances also show marked improvement running their respective official OS images instead of Ubuntu.

Let’s look at the concurrent import benchmark which tests CPU, Memory, and I/O across multiple cores.


So it seems like the AWS c5.9xlarge holds up a little bit better under these mixed/concurrent conditions. There are quite a few variations on the concurrent import in the raw results, and AWS does quite well in all of them. I suspect that high EBS bandwidth and having multiple SSDs in the r5d case has something to do with this. Possible Oracle’s DenseIO2.16 would have fared a bit better if we’d run it with Oracle Linux.

Cluster Benchmarks

Let’s look at raw performance for the queries - this time around, I’ve posted all of the charts for your perusal, and I’ll just provide some commentary on a few things:









We see all 4 clouds making appearances in the top 3 of these query benchmarks which have no disk I/O component. AWS wins 6 of 8, and Azure comes in first or second in 6. Oracle has 4 top-3 appearances with 1 win, and GCP has 2 3rds and some very close 4ths. To be fair, we’ve only tested one GCP configuration, so they have fewer chances to win.

Cluster Cost/Performance

And now the cost/performance in dollars per megaquery:









GCP shows its true colors! With that automatic discounting, Google’s cloud is extremely cost effective when you’re running instances the majority of the time for periods of 1 month or more.

Another thing to note is the huge difference that Oracle Linux makes for the BM.HPC2.36 instance type. In most cases it’s way ahead of the version running Ubuntu. Except that one GroupBy query where the Ubuntu version gets third and the Olinux version is way up in 10th. Weird.

Memory Bandwidth

On OCI, the VM.Standard2.16 instance type runs on the BM.Standard2.52 hardware. We’d previously been confused when Pilosa seemed to perform better running in a 3-node cluster of VM.Standard2.16 than running on a single BM.Standard2.52 which has slightly more horsepower both in CPU and Memory than all 3 VMs combined. One theory was that the three VMs were allocated on different physical hosts, and had access to more memory bandwidth in aggregate than a single BM.Standard2.52. To test this, we ran a large suite of memory bandwidth benchmarks across several configurations using this really excellent benchmarking tool by Zack Smith.

We ran these with varying amounts of concurrency by running multiple instances of the bandwidth program in parallel and then summing each result as directed by the documentation. However, there doesn’t seem to be any mechanism for ensuring that the same tests are running simultaneously in each instance. Looking at the output, they seem to stay mostly in sync, but one might take the results at higher concurrency levels with a grain of salt. What follows are charts of a small subset of the results - there are more on data.world, and way, way more if you run the entire suite yourself. (one run is 1500 tests, and we ran them all on four different concurrency levels):

Random 1MB reads at concurrency 1, 16, 36, 52





You can really watch the BM.Standard2.52 pull away from the VM.Standard2.16 at higher concurrencies.

Random 1MB writes at concurrency 1 and 52



1 MB writes follow the same pattern.

Sequential 1MB reads at 1 and 52



More of the same. There are lots of other combinations, but the story is pretty similar all over.


Essentially, it doesn’t appear that the performance difference between the VM.Standard2.16 cluster and the BM.Standard2.52 machine are due to memory bandwidth constraints. At high concurrency, we often see BM.Standard2.52 having approximately triple the bandwidth of the VM.Standard2.16 system. So, for now, this mystery remains unsolved - my next theory would be that something in the Golang runtime (perhaps the scheduler) has some performance degredation at high core counts and is more efficient on a machine with 32 logical cores than one with 104. This is pure speculation, however.


Using official Linux images helps pretty consistently on Oracle. The story is a lot more mixed on Amazon. I would love to know what sort of specific tuning is responsible for this, though I’m sure there are myriad kernel parameters that one might tweak to get the most out of a specific hardware configuration in a multi-tenant virtualized environment.

Google’s automatic discounting is a significant advantage, though in my estimation, Oracle still wins on overall cost effectiveness. The GCP instances never overtake OCI by much in the $/MQ department, and the VM.Standard2.16 instances have over 3x (!!) the memory.

Amazon still takes the best overall raw performance though Azure and OCI do pop up. Testing OCI’s DenseIO instances with Oracle Linux and figuring out how to get NVME SSDs on Azure and GCP would likely make for more equitable all-around comparison. It’s worth noting that even without NVME, the AWS instances on EBS still do pretty well.

Future Work

I’d still like to do some more low level benchmarking (like the memory bandwidth stuff) to get baseline performance of each aspect of each configuration’s hardware.

More importantly though, I think, I’d like to do more repeated runs on the same configurations and see what kind of consistency we’re getting. Some of the results presented here are difficult to explain, but repeated runs can yield significant variation.

Even without taking multi-tenancy into account, there are lots of factors that contribute to inconsistency. The language runtime comes immediately to mind - especially with garbage collection, but there are also OS tasks and other user-level programs potentially taking resources and cluttering up the CPU cache. Anything doing I/O is subject to the vagaries of external hardware, which is only exacerbated in the case of network mounted storage.

Banner Photo by Victor Rodriguez on Unsplash

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