Benchmark results part 7: Uncached NCP, Linux vs NetWare


The run is complete, and I now have a true apples-to-apples comparison of NCP performance. The result is a rather surprising one! In every single test, NCP-on-Linux out-performed NCP-on-NetWare. The lowest margin was 1%, and the highest margin was 9%, so the advantage isn't stellar. On the other hand, NCP started life on NetWare so you would expect it to do better on that platform.

T'ain't so.

One small trend did show up in the test data. Tests that involved a write component showed a slight, 1-3%, increase over the NetWare data. Tests that involved a read component showed a little better performance, 6-8%. The reasons for this are unclear, but it is very consistent.

Write Tests

The Writer test showed the best performance gain in the range of file-sizes 2M and under, and record-sizes 32K and under. The average improvement in this range was a rather respectable 5%, which is much higher than the overall average for the test of 1%. Performance seems to be affected more by file-size than by record-size, as the range of improvement over record-size was smaller than the range of improvement over the file-sizes. There is a hint in the data that 4K record-sizes for files larger than 16M are much better handled on NetWare, but that data was not gathered.

The Re-Write test showed similar patterns to the Write test, but slightly faster. As the description of the test says, a re-write doesn't affect meta-data to the same degree that a new file would. As with the Writer test, the best performance gain was in the range of file-sizes 2M and under, and record-sizes 32K and under. In that range the improvement was also 5%. Overall, the test showed a 2% improvement for running NCP on Linux. An interesting outlier in the data is the file-size of 8M, which turned in the worst result of the test at a -3%.

The Random Write test showed a 2% improvement in performance over NCP-on-NetWare. The best consistent performance was at the 64K and 256K file-sizes, each with a performance increase of 11%.

The Record Rewrite test showed the best performance of the write tests, at 3%. Every single record size tested showed at least a .5% improvement over NetWare. The best record-size was 4K, with a performance boost of 10%, and the worst was 16M, with performance just a hair over parity with NetWare. On the file-size front the results were very scattershot, with the best performance (21%) being turned in at the 128K file-size, and the worst (-5%) at the 4M file-size. The 'sweet spot' identified in the Writer test had an average improvement of 12%.

There were some trends over all of the writer tests as well. In every case, file-sizes of 16M and larger turned in a positive performance difference when run against NCP-on-Linux. The sweet-spot, file size of 2M or smaller and record size of 32K and smaller, turned in performance markedly better than the overall performance for that test.

Read Tests

The Reader test turned in an overall performance gain of 6% over NetWare. The tendency of the Writer report to show a decrease in performance at the 4K record size doesn't show up here. In fact, the number two and number three highest performance gain values on the chart were in the 4K record size column at the 2M (+38%) and 16M (+31%) file sizes. The 2M file-size showed the highest variability in performance as it had both the highest and lowest performance values on the chart. The 2M file-size with a 256K record size showed a -41% performance hit, and the 2M file-size with a 512K record size showed at +52% performance gain. The overall average for that file-size was 6%.

The Re-Reader test turned in a performance gain of 8%, which is presumably due to server-side caching of data being faster on Linux than on NetWare. There were two far outliers in the data which turned in performances 100% or better than the NetWare data. Looking at the raw data, these two results were due to NCP-on-NetWare turning in really bad numbers for 512K file-size and 8K record size, and 1M file-size and 64K record-size. Other than these two, the data is pretty even. As with the Reader test, the 4K record-size turned in very good numbers, especially at larger file-sizes.

The Random Read test turned in a performance gain of 6% over NCP-on-Netware. This was a hair faster than the initial Reader test, which shows that server-side caching still has a role to play. The range of values on this test was narrower than that reported by the Re-Reader test. There were no real 'hot spots' on the chart. The 4K record-size continued to show the largest variability.

The Backward Read test turned in the best value of the lot with a performance increase of 8% over NCP-on-NetWare. This test also had a far outlier at the 512K file-size/64K record-size level, where the NCP-on-NetWare test turned in an abysmal number. That value was excluded from the averaging, otherwise the performance increase of the test would have been a 9% and change. This test also showed a very strong value for the 4K record size, with an average performance increase of 21%. Another interesting result on this test is that the sweet spot identified in the Writer tests shows up on this one, with an average performance increase of 14%.

Unlike the Writer tests, the Reader tests didn't have any trouble at the 4K record-sizes on larger files. Overall performance was better than NetWare by a noticeable margin. There were a few exceptions, but generally speaking the results were consistent.


It is clear from the data that Novell has somehow managed to make NCP-on-Linux better than it was on NetWare. NetWare's historic claim as the end-all-be-all of File Servers may finally be coming to an end. Now to compare NCP-on-Linux (uncached) vs CIFS-on-Linux (uncached).

Part 8: NCP vs CIFS on Linux