FreeBSD on Amazon AWS EC2 long standing performance problems

Gunther Schadow raj at
Fri Feb 5 14:53:47 UTC 2021

Hi, I've been with FreeBSD since 386BSD 0.0new. Always tried to run
everything on it. I saw us lose the epic race against Linux over the
stupid BSDI lawsuit. But now I'm afraid I am witnessing the complete
fading of FreeBSD from relevance in the marketplace as the performance
of FreeBSD on AWS EC2 (and as I see in the chatter from other "cloud"
platforms) falls far behind that of Linux. Not by a few % points, but
by factors if not an order of magnitude!

The motto "the power to serve" meant that FreeBSD was the most solid
and consistently performing system for heavy multi-tasking network
and disk operation. A single thread was allowed to do better on another
OS without us feeling shame, but overall you could rely on FreeBSD
being your best choice to overall server performance.

The world has changed. We used to run servers on bare metal in a cage
in physical data center. I did that. A year or two of instability with
the FreeBSD drivers for new beefy hardware didn't scare me off.

Now the cost and flexibility calculations today changed the market
away from bare metal to those "cloud" service providers, Amazon AWS
(>38% market share), Azure (19% market share), and many others. I
still remember searching for "hosting" providers who would
offer FreeBSD (or any BSD) as an option and it was hard to find. On
Amazon AWS we have the FreeBSD image ready to launch, that is good.

But the problem is, it's disk (and network?) performance is bad (to
horrible) and it's really sad and embarrassing. Leaving FreeBSD beaten
far behind and for realistic operations, it's impossible to use, despite
being so much better organized than Linux. I have put significant
investment into a flexible scalable FreeBSD image only to find now that I
just cannot justify using FreeBSD when Linux out of the box is several
times faster.

There have been few problem reports about this over many years, and
they all end the same way: either no response, or defensive response
("your measures are invalid"), with the person reporting the problem
eventually walking away with no solution. Disinterest. I can link to
those instances. Examples:

My intention is not to rant, vent, proselytize to Linux (I hate Linux)
but to see what is wrong with FreeBSD? And how it can be fixed? Why does
it seem nobody is interested in getting the dismal AWS EC2 performance
resolved? This looks to me like a vicious cycle: FreeBSD on AWS is
bad so nobody will use it for any real work, and because nobody uses it
there is no interest in making it work well. In addition there is no interest
on the side of FreeBSD people to make it better. It's got to be the lack
of interest, not of anyone not having access to the AWS EC2 hardware.

What can be done? I am trying to run a company, so I cannot justify playing
with this for much longer shooting in the dark. If I wasn't the boss myself,
my boss would have long told me to quit this nonsense and use Linux.
If I saw interest, I could justify holding out just a little longer. But
I don't see any encouraging feedback. Is there anyone at all in the FreeBSD
dev or as an organization interested in actually being competitive
in the AWS EC2 space (and other virtualization "clouds")? If so, how many?
How can this be fixed? How can I help? I cannot justify spending too much
more of my own time on it, but I could help making resources available
or paying for someone who has both a sense of great urgency to redeem
FreeBSD and the know-how to make it happen.


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