MacBook Pro Firefox Build Times Comparison

November 05, 2013 at 10:00 AM | categories: Mozilla, build system

Many developers use MacBook Pros for day-to-day Firefox development. So, I thought it would be worthwhile to perform a comparison of Firefox build times for various models of MacBook Pros.

Test setup

The numbers in this post are obtained from 3 generations of MacBook Pros:

  1. A 2011 Sandy Bridge 4 core x 2.3 GHz with 8 GB RAM and an aftermarket SSD.

  2. A 2012 Ivy Bridge retina with 4 core x 2.6 GHz, 16 GB RAM, and a factory SSD (or possibly flash storage).

  3. A 2013 Haswell retina with 4 core x 2.6 GHz, 16 GB RAM, and flash storage.

All machines were running OS X 10.9 Mavericks and were using the Xcode 5.0.1 toolchain (Xcode 5 clang: Apple LLVM version 5.0 (clang-500.2.79) (based on LLVM 3.3svn)) to build.

The power settings prevented machine sleep and machines were plugged into A/C power during measuring. I did not use the machines while obtaining measurements.

The 2012 and 2013 machines were very vanilla OS installs. However, the 2011 machine was my primary work computer and may have had a few background services running and may have been slower due to normal wear and tear. The 2012 machine was a loaner machine from IT and has an unknown history.

All data was obtained from mozilla-central revision d4a27d8eda28.

The mozconfig used contained:

export MOZ_PSEUDO_DERECURSE=1 mk_add_options MOZ_OBJDIR=@TOPSRCDIR@/obj-firefox.noindex

Please note that the objdir name ends with .noindex to prevent Finder from indexing build files.

I performed all tests multiple times and used the fastest time. I used time command for obtaining measurements of wall, user, and system time.


Configure Times

The result of mach configure is as follows:

Machine Wall time User time System time
2011 29.748 17.921 11.644
2012 26.765 15.942 10.501
2013 21.581 12.597 8.595

Clobber build no ccache

mach build was performed after running mach configure. ccache was not enabled.

Machine Wall time User time System time Total CPU time
2011 22:29 (1349) 145:35 (8735) 12:03 (723) 157:38 (9458)
2012 15:00 (900) 94:18 (5658) 8:14 (494) 102:32 (6152)
2013 11:13 (673) 69:55 (4195) 6:04 (364) 75:59 (4559)

Clobber build with empty ccache

mach build was performed after running mach configure. ccache was enabled. The ccache ccache was cleared before running mach configure.

Machine Wall time User time System time Total CPU time
2011 25:57 (1557) 161:30 (9690) 18:21 (1101) 179:51 (10791)
2012 16:58 (1018) 104:50 (6290) 12:32 (752) 117:22 (7042)
2013 12:59 (779) 79:51 (4791) 9:24 (564) 89:15 (5355)

Clobber build with populated ccache

mach build was performed after running mach configure. ccache was enabled and the ccache was populated with the results of a prior build. In theory, all compiler invocations should be serviced by ccache entries.

This measure is a very crude way to measure how fast clobber builds would be if compiler invocations were nearly instantaneous.

Machine Wall time User time System time
2011 3:59 (239) 8:04 (484) 3:21 (201)(
2012 3:11 (191) 6:45 (405) 2:53 (173)
2013 2:31 (151) 5:22 (322) 2:12 (132)

No-op builds

mach build was performed on a tree that was already built.

Machine Wall time User time System time
2011 1:58 (118) 2:25 (145) 0:41 (41)
2012 1:42 (102) 2:02 (122) 0:37 (37)
2013 1:20 (80) 1:39 (99) 0:28 (28)

binaries no-op

mach build binaries was performed on a fully built tree. This results in nothing being executed. It's a way to test the overhead of the binaries make target.

Machine Wall time User time System time
2011 4.21 4.38 0.92
2012 3.17 3.37 0.71
2013 2.67 2.75 0.56

binaries touch single .cpp

mach build binaries was performed on a fully built tree after touching the file netwerk/dns/nsHostResolver.cpp. ccache was enabled but cleared before running this test. This test simulates common C++ developer workflow of changing C++ and recompiling.

Machine Wall time User time System time
2011 12.89 13.88 1.96
2012 10.82 11.63 1.78
2013 8.57 9.29 1.23

Tier times

The times of each build system tier were measured on the 2013 Haswell MacBook Pro. These timings were obtained out of curiosity to help isolate the impact of different parts of the build. ccache was not enabled for these tests.

Action Wall time User time System time Total CPU time
export clobber 15.75 66.11 11.33 77.44
compile clobber 9:01 (541) 64:58 (3898) 5:08 (308) 70:06 (4206)
libs clobber 1:34 (94) 2:15 (135) 0:39 (39) 2:54 (174)
tools clobber 9.33 13.41 2.48 15.89
export no-op 3.01 9.72 3.47 13.19
compile no-op 3.18 18.02 2.64 20.66
libs no-op 58.2 46.9 13.4 60.3
tools no-op 8.82 12.68 1.72 14.40

Observations and conclusions

The data speaks for itself: the 2013 Haswell MacBook Pro is significantly faster than its predecessors. It clocks in at 2x faster than the benchmarked 2011 Sandy Bridge model (keep in mind the 300 MHz base clock difference) and is ~34% faster than the 2012 Ivy Bridge (at similar clock speed). Personally, I was surprised by this. I was expecting speed improvements over Ivy Bridge, but not 34%.

It should go without saying: if you have the opportunity to upgrade to a new, Haswell-based machine: do it. If possible, purchase the upgrade to a 2.6 GHz CPU, as it contains ~13% more MHz than the base 2.3 GHz model: this will make a measurable difference in build times.

It's worth noting the increased efficiency of Haswell over its predecessors. The total CPU time required to build decreased from ~158 minutes to ~103 minutes to 76 minutes! That 76 minute number is worth highlighting because it means if we get 100% CPU saturation during builds, we'll be able to build the tree in under 10 wall time minutes!

I hadn't performed crude benchmarks of high-level build system actions since the MOZ_PSEUDO_DERECURSE work landed and I wanted to use the opportunity of this hardware comparison to grab some numbers.

The overhead of ccache continues to surprise me. On the 2013 machine, enabling ccache increased the wall time of a clobber build by 1:46 and added 13:16 of CPU time. This is an increase of 16% and 17%, respectively.

It's worth highlighting just how much time is spent compiling C/C++. In our artificial tier measuring results, our clobber build time was ~660 wall time seconds (11 minutes) and used ~4473s CPU time (74:33). Of this, 9:01 wall time and 70:06 CPU time was spent compiling C/C++. This represents ~82% wall time and ~94% CPU time! Please note this does not include linking. Anything we can do to decrease the CPU time used by the compiler will make the build faster.

I also found it interesting to note variances in obtained times. Even on my brand new 2013 Haswell MacBook Pro where I know there aren't many background processes running, wall times could vary significantly. I think I isolated it to CPU bursting and heat issues. If I wait a few minutes between CPU intensive tests, results are pretty consistent. But if I perform CPU intensive tests back-to-back, the run times often vary. The only other thing coming into play could be page caching or filesystem indexing. I accounted for the latter by disabling Finder on the object directory. And, I'd like to think that flash storage is fast enough to remove I/O latency from the equation. Who knows. At the end of the day, laptops aren't servers and OS X is a consumer OS, so I don't expect ultra consistency.

Finally, I want to restate just how fast Haswell is. If you have the opportunity to upgrade, do it.