Benchmarking Ruby 2.1 and Rubinius 2.0

, ruby

A few days ago a the first preview version of ruby 2.1 was released.

It has many interesting improvements in the language, but the key ones are:

  • Refinements
  • Decimal Literals
  • Frozen string literals
  • Required keyword arguments
  • Method definition returns Method Name
  • String#scrub
  • Named captures in StringScanner

Some of this improvements are more exciting than others (thumbs up to frozen string, thumbs down to refinements), but as Yukuhiro Matsumoto said in his talk at the Baruco, which I attended, the main changes in this new release are internal, with the new generational garbage collector as the king of the party.

I don’t want to repeat content on the web, Konstantin Haase already wrote a great article explaining all the new features. Check it out for more detailed information.

It promises better memory handling and lower GC runtime, which its suposed to lead to better overall performance.

I was curious about the numbers but I had not found any updated benchmark out there, so I run the benchmark myself to see it with my own eyes.

For that task, I used the popular ruby-benchmark-suite, which is quite old but has lots of tests and has become almost a standard.

The benchmark was run in my 2012 macbook air, with a core i7 2.0GHZ (2 physical core, 4 logical cores due to hyperthreading) and 8GB of ram. It takes about 25 minutes per implementation, just in case you want to run it too.

Just to clarify some details about how I performed the calculation in the bottom of the table, when I sumarize the victories I just count the victories of each implementation, so raising an exception is a failure, but when measuring the total time, if any of the implementations failed on that benchmark then its time is not computed in the total time of any implemetation.

These are the results of the three MRI implementations:

From this results we can say that, in general, ruby 2.1 is faster. It is the fastest implementation in more tests than 1.9 and 2.0 together, even considering that it fails in some benchmarks.

The total time taken by ruby 2.1 is also noticeable lower. Is about a 23% lower than 2.0 and a 27% lower whan 1.9.3. As I see, the main reason of this huge diference is that some specific tasks, ruby 2.1 is several times faster than previous implementations, by example in the micro/bm_gc_array.rb benchmark there is a 500% performance gain.

Probably in real word examples the performance gain will be around 5%, which is anyway a significant improvement.

But it turns out that 2 days ago, while I was writting this post rubinius 2.0 was released.

Rubinius is by far my favourite alternative ruby implementation and I was excited about that anouncement. How will rubinius perform against the other implementations? And jruby?

I’ve run the same benchmark on rbx-2.0.0 working in ruby 2.1 mode and also against jruby 1.7.4 running on java 1.7.0_40-b43, but in this case in ruby 2.0 mode.

All the cutting edge versions avaliable right now.

Wow!! I didn’t expect that. Rubinius wins in twice as many tests as the second one (ruby 2.1) and also beats jruby in all the multithreaded tests.

Both, jruby and rubinius outperforms MRI’s implementations by an order of magnitude when it comes to parallel processing, that was expected, but rubinius also doubles the performance on other math tasks. And jruby also performs very well, and probably would perform better in a computer with more than 2 cores.

Even if ruby 2.1 has the lower total time, this benchmark suite was written 4 years ago. The computer world have changed since then. Parallel computing is now the present, and I think that both rubinius and jruby have a brilliant future when it comes to scale our applications to the multi-core world we live now.


After some controversy yesterday, I’ve repeated the benchmark with some minor changes to make the bechmark more realistic. As always, is impossible to a syntetic benchmark like this to be trustworthy when it comes to reproduce the real performance that you will get in your applications.

I’ve updated the input size of many benchamarks that runned too fast (in less than a second) to make then more long living. Not in every test, because sometimes it was not straightforward. I also set the flag JRUBY_OPTS=-X+C which forces jruby to use the JIT compiler even if the script is very simple.

First of all, notice that with the new input sizes some tests that did not fail in the first run failed in some implementations.

With the new benchmark the landscape changed a bit, but no so much. And the alternative implementations shine even more.

Rubinius still is the implementation that wins in more tests, but ruby 2.1 is not longer the second one. Now jruby has the honor. And also jruby wins an almost all the macro benchmarks, which are the most complex and generic ones.

On the other handle, ruby 2.1 still has the lower total time but jruby is just behind, very close. The diference of time between jruby and rubinius has increased so the longer tests and the JIT compiler favor jruby more than rbx.

I want to emphasize this because I feel that the more complex and long-living the applications are, the more advantage will the alternative implementations take from that situation.