ICECREAM(7) Icecream User's Manual ICECREAM(7)
Icecream - A distributed compile system
Icecream is a distributed compile system for C and C++.
Icecream is created by SUSE and is based on ideas and code by distcc. Like distcc it takes
compile jobs from your (KDE) build and distributes it to remote machines allowing a paral-
lel build on several machines you've got. But unlike distcc Icecream uses a central server
that schedules the compile jobs to the fastest free server and is as this dynamic. This
advantage pays off mostly for shared computers, if you're the only user on x machines, you
have full control over them anyway.
HOW TO USE ICECREAM
o One machine that runs the scheduler ("./scheduler -d")
o Many machines that run the daemon ("./iceccd -d")
If you want to compile using icecream, make sure $prefix/bin is the first first entry in
your path, e.g. type export PATH=/opt/icecream/bin:$PATH (Hint: put this in ~/.bashrc or
/etc/profile to not have to type it in everytime)
Then you just compile with make -j <num>, where <num> is the amount of jobs you want to
compile in parallel. Don't exaggerate. Numbers greater than 15 normally cause trouble.
WARNING: Never use icecream in untrusted environments. Run the deamons and the scheduler
as unpriviliged user in such networks if you have to! But you will have to rely on homoge-
neous networks then (see below).
If you want funny stats, you might want to run "icemon".
USING ICECREAM IN HETEROGENEOUS ENVIRONMENTS
If you are running icecream daemons (note: they _all_ must be running as root. In the
future icecream might gain the ability to know when machines can't accept a different env,
but for now it is all or nothing ) in the same icecream network but on machines with
incompatible compiler versions you have to tell icecream which environment you are using.
Use icecc --build-native to create an archive file containing all the files necessary to
setup the compiler environment. The file will have a random unique name like
"ddaea39ca1a7c88522b185eca04da2d8.tar.bz2" per default. Rename it to something more
expressive for your convenience, e.g. "i386-3.3.1.tar.bz2". Set ICECC_VERSION=<file-
name_of_archive_containing_your_environment> in the shell environment where you start the
compile jobs and the file will be transfered to the daemons where your compile jobs run
and installed to a chroot environment for executing the compile jobs in the environment
fitting to the environment of the client. This requires that the icecream deamon runs as
If you do not set ICECC_VERSION, the client will use a tar ball provided by the daemon
running on the same machine. So you can always be sure you're not tricked by incompatible
gcc versions - and you can share your computer with users of other distributions (or dif-
ferent versions of your beloved SUSE Linux :)
CROSS-COMPILING USING ICECREAM
SUSE got quite some good machines not having a processor from Intel or AMD, so icecream is
pretty good in using cross-compiler environments similiar to the above way of spreading
compilers. There the ICECC_VERSION varaible looks like <native_filename>(,<plat-
form>:<cross_compiler_filename>)*, for example like this:
How to package such a cross compiler is pretty straightforward if you look what's inside
the tarballs generated by icecc --build-native.
CROSS-COMPILING FOR EMBEDDED TARGETS USING ICECREAM
When building for embedded targets like ARM often you'll have a toolchain that runs on
your host and produces code for the target. In these situations you can exploit the power
of icecream as well.
Create symlinks from where icecc is to the name of your cross compilers (e.g.
arm-linux-g++ and arm-linux-gcc), make sure that these symlinks are in the path and before
the path of your toolchain, with $ICECC_CC and $ICECC_CXX you need to tell icecream which
compilers to use for preprocessing and local compiling. e.g. set it to
ICECC_CC=arm-linux-gcc and ICECC_CXX=arm-linux-g++.
As the next step you need to create a .tar.bz2 of your cross compiler, check the result of
build-native to see what needs to be present.
Finally one needs to set ICECC_VERSION and point it to the tar.bz2 you've created. When
you start compiling your toolchain will be used.
NOTE: with ICECC_VERSION you point out on which platforms your toolchain runs, you do not
indicate for which target code will be generated.
HOW TO COMBINE ICECREAM WITH CCACHE
The easiest way to use ccache with icecream is putting the symlink masquerades into
/opt/icream/bin and putting small wrapper scripts in /opt/ccache/bin
ccache g++ "$@"
Then you can replace /opt/icecream/bin with /opt/ccache/bin in your $PATH and all icecream
calls will go through ccache (and Qt will compile in 62s :)
Note however that ccache isn't really worth the trouble if you're not recompiling your KDE
three times a day from scratch (it adds quite some overhead in comparing the preprocessor
output and uses quite some disc space and I found a cache hit of 18% a bit too few, so I
disabled it again).
You can use the environment variable ICECC_DEBUG to control if icecream gives debug output
or not. Set it to debug to get debug output. The other possible values are error, warning
and info (the -v option for daemon and scheduler raise the level per -v on the command
line - so use -vvv for full debug).
Numbers of my test case (some STL C++ genetic algorithm)
o g++ on my machine: 1.6s
o g++ on fast machine: 1.1s
o icecream using my machine as remote machine: 1.9s
o icecream using fast machine: 1.8s
The icecream overhead is quite huge as you might notice, but the compiler can't interleave
preprocessing with compilation and the file needs to be read/written once more and in
between the file is transfered.
But even if the other computer is faster, using g++ on my local machine is faster. If
you're (for whatever reason) alone in your network at some point, you loose all advantages
of distributed compiling and only add the overhead. So icecream got a special case for
local compilations (the same special meaning that localhost got within $DISTCC_HOSTS).
This makes compiling on my machine using icecream down to 1.7s (the overhead is actually
less than 0.1s in average).
As the scheduler is aware of that meaning, it will prefer your own computer if it's free
and got not less than 70% of the fastest available computer.
Keep in mind, that this affects only the first compile job, the second one is distributed
anyway. So if I had to compile two of my files, I would get
o g++ -j1 on my machine: 3.2s
o g++ -j1 on the fast machine: 2.2s
o using icecream -j2 on my machine: max(1.7,1.8)=1.8s
o (using icecream -j2 on the other machine: max(1.1,1.8)=1.8s)
The math is a bit tricky and depends a lot on the current state of the compilation net-
work, but make sure you're not blindly assuming make -j2 halfs your compilation time.
WHAT IS THE BEST ENVIRONMENT FOR ICECREAM
In most requirements icecream isn't special, e.g. it doesn't matter what distributed com-
pile system you use, you won't have fun if your nodes are connected through than less or
equal to 10MBit. Note that icecream compresses input and output files (using lzo), so you
can calc with ~1MBit per compile job - i.e more than make -j10 won't be possible without
Remember that more machines are only good if you can use massive parallelization, but you
will for sure get the best result if your submitting machine (the one you called g++ on)
will be fast enough to feed the others. Especially if your project consists of many easy
to compile files, the preprocessing and file IO will be job enough to need a quick
The scheduler will try to give you the fastest machines available, so even if you add old
machines, they will be used only in exceptional situations, but still you can have bad
luck - the scheduler doesn't know how long a job will take before it started. So if you
have 3 machines and two quick to compile and one long to compile source file, you're not
safe from a choice where everyone has to wait on the slow machine. Keep that in mind.
NETWORK SETUP FOR ICECREAM (FIREWALLS)
A short overview of the ports icecream requires:
o TCP/10245 on the daemon computers (required)
o TCP/8765 for the the scheduler computer (required)
o TCP/8766 for the telnet interface to the scheduler (optional)
o UDP/8765 for broadcast to find the scheduler (optional)
Note that the SuSEfirewall2 on SUSE < 9.1 got some problems configuring broadcast. So you
might need the -s option for the daemon in any case there. If the monitor can't find the
scheduler, use USE_SCHEDULER=<host> icemon (or send me a patch :)
icecream, scheduler, iceccd, icemon
Stephan Kulow <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Michael Matz <email@example.com>
Cornelius Schumacher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
...and various other contributors.
Icecream April 21th, 2005 ICECREAM(7)