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Author Archives: Bill Catchings

CloudXPRT is on the way

A few months ago, we wrote about the possibility of creating a datacenter XPRT. In the intervening time, we’ve discussed the idea with folks both in and outside of the XPRT Community. We’ve heard from vendors of datacenter products, hosting/cloud providers, and IT professionals that use those products and services.

The common thread that emerged was the need for a cloud benchmark that can accurately measure the performance of modern, cloud-first applications deployed on modern infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platforms, whether those platforms are on-premises, hosted elsewhere, or some combination of the two (hybrid clouds). Regardless of where clouds reside, applications are increasingly using them in latency-critical, highly available, and high-compute scenarios.

Existing datacenter benchmarks do not give a clear indication of how applications will perform on a given IaaS infrastructure, so the benchmark should use cloud-native components on the actual stacks used for on-prem and public cloud management.

We are planning to call the benchmark CloudXPRT. Our goal is for CloudXPRT to address the needs described above while also including the elements that have made the other XPRTs successful. We plan for CloudXPRT to

  • Be relevant to on-prem (datacenter), private, and public cloud deployments
  • Run on top of cloud platform software such as Kubernetes
  • Include multiple workloads that address common scenarios like web applications, AI, and media analytics
  • Support multi-tier workloads
  • Report relevant metrics including both throughput and critical latency for responsiveness-driven applications and maximum throughput for applications dependent on batch processing

CloudXPRT’s workloads will use cloud-native components on an actual stack to provide end-to-end performance metrics that allow users to choose the best IaaS configuration for their business.

We’ve been building and testing preliminary versions of CloudXPRT for the last few months. Based on the progress so far, we are shooting to have a Community Preview of CloudXPRT ready in mid- to late-March with a version for general availability ready about two months later.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be working on getting out more information about CloudXPRT and continuing to talk with interested parties about how they can help. We’d love to hear what workflows would be of most interest to you and what you would most like to see in a datacenter/cloud benchmark. Please feel free to contact us!

Bill

An update on AIXPRT development

It’s been almost two months since the AIXPRT Community Preview went live, and we want to provide folks with a quick update. Community Preview periods for the XPRTs generally last about a month. Because of the complexity of AIXPRT and some of the feedback we’ve received, we plan to release a second AIXPRT Community Preview (CP2) later this month.

One of the biggest additions in CP2 will be the ability to run AIXPRT on Windows. AIXPRT currently requires test systems to run Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. This is fine for testers accustomed to Linux environments, but presents obstacles for those who want to test in a traditional Windows environment. We will not be changing the tests themselves, so this update will not influence existing results from Ubuntu. We plan to make CP2 available for download from the BenchmarkXPRT website for people who don’t wish to deal with GitHub.

Also, after speaking with testers and learning more about the kinds of data points people are looking for in AIXPRT results, we’ve decided to make significant adjustments to the AIXPRT results viewer. To make it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for, we’ll add filters for key categories such as batch size, toolkit, and latency percentile (e.g., 50th, 90th, 99th), among others. We’ll also allow users to set desired ranges for metrics such as throughput and latency.

Finally, we’re adding a demo mode that displays some images and other information on the screen while a test is running to give users a better idea what is happening. While we haven’t seen results change while running in demo mode, users should not publish demo results or use them for comparison.

We hope to release CP2 in the second half of May and a GA version in mid-June. However, this project has more uncertainties than we usually encounter with the XPRTs, so that timeline could easily change.

We’ll continue to keep everyone up to date with AIXPRT news here in the blog. As always, we appreciate your suggestions. If you have any questions or comments about AIXPRT, please let us know.

Bill

Preparing for the AIXPRT Community Preview

Thanks to everyone who downloaded the AIXPRT Request for Comments (RFC) preview build. Next week, we’re planning to publish the AIXPRT Community Preview (CP). The AIXPRT CP build includes support for the Intel OpenVINO, TensorFlow (CPU and GPU), and TensorFlow with NVIDIA TensorRT toolkits to run image-classification workloads with ResNet-50 and SSD-MobileNet v1 networks. The test reports FP32, FP16, and INT8 levels of precision. As with the RFC build, the test systems must be running Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. The minimum CPU and GPU requirements vary according to the toolkit being used, and we will publish more details about the hardware minimums next week.

As with our other community previews, we think the AIXPRT CP candidate is solid enough to allow folks to start quoting test results. During CP periods, we generally allow members to publish their own results, but wait until the build is available to the public before we post results on our site. Because community feedback is especially important for AIXPRT, we will handle things a bit differently. During the CP period, we’ll publish results that we produce as well as those from other members of the community, which you’ll be able to view at AIXPRT.com.

We’ll also provide detailed instructions for publishing results and sending them to us. Because of the high number of variables in each potential test configuration, we’ll ask testers to disclose more test, software, and hardware information than in the past. We will make this information available along with the results on AIXPRT.com. Our goal is that others can reproduce these numbers and confirm that they get similar results.

Our CP periods typically last four to six weeks before we make the benchmark available to the general public. If that schedule holds, it would place the public AIXPRT release around the end of March. During the CP period, we welcome your thoughts and suggestions about all aspects of the benchmark.

Also, we normally restrict access to our CPs to BenchmarkXPRT Development Community members. However, because we’re seeking broad input from experts in this field, we’ll gladly make the CP available to anyone interested in participating who has a GitHub account. To gain access, please contact us and let us know your GitHub username. Once we receive it, we’ll send you an invitation to join the repository as a collaborator.

Please let us know if you have any questions. We look forward to hearing your feedback.

Bill

The AIXPRT Request for Comments preview build

In the next few days, we’ll be publishing the first AIXPRT tool as a Request for Comments (RFC) preview build, an early version of one of the AIXPRT tools we’re developing to help evaluate machine learning performance.

We’re inviting folks to run the workload and send in their thoughts and suggestions. Only BenchmarkXPRT Development Community members have access to our RFCs and the opportunity to provide feedback. However, because we’re seeking broad input from experts in this field, we’ll gladly make anyone interested in participating a member.

This AIXPRT RFC preview build includes support for the Intel OpenVINO computer vision toolkit to run image classification workloads with ResNet-50 and SSD-MobileNet v1 networks. The test reports FP32 and FP16 levels of precision. The system requirements are:

  • Operating system = Ubuntu 16.04
  • CPU = 6th to 8th generation Intel Core or Xeon processors, or Intel Pentium processors N4200/5, N3350/5, N3450/5 with Intel HD Graphics


We welcome input on all aspects of the benchmark, including scope, workloads, metrics and scores, user experience, and reporting. We will add support for TensorFlow and TensorRT to the AIXPRT RFC preview build during the preview period. We are accepting feedback through January 25th, 2019, after which we’ll collect and evaluate responses before publishing the next build. Because this is an RFC release, we ask that testers do not publish scores or use the results for comparison purposes.

We’ll send out a community announcement when the RFC preview build is officially available, and we’ll also post an announcement and RFC preview build user guide on AIXPRT.com. We’re hosting the AIXPRT RFC preview build in a dedicated GitHub repository, so please contact us at BenchmarkXPRTsupport@principledtechnologies.com to gain access.

This is just the next step for AIXPRT. With your help, we hope to add more workloads and other frameworks in the coming months. We look forward to receiving your feedback!

Bill

XPRTs in the datacenter

The XPRTs have been very successful on desktops, notebooks, tablets, and phones. People have run WebXPRT over 295,000 times. It and other benchmarks such as MobileXPRT, HDXPRT, and CrXPRT are important tools globally for evaluating device performance on various consumer and business client platforms.

We’ve begun branching out with tests for edge devices with AIXPRT, our new artificial intelligence benchmark. While typical consumers won’t be able to run AIXPRT on their devices initially, we feel that it is important for the XPRTs to play an active role in a critical emerging market. (We’ll have some updates on the AIXPRT front in the next few weeks.)

Recently, both community members and others have asked about the possibility of the XPRTs moving into the datacenter. Folks face challenges in evaluating the performance and suitability to task of such datacenter mainstays as servers, storage, networking infrastructure, clusters, and converged solutions. These challenges include the lack of easy-to-run benchmarks, the complexity and cost of the equipment (multi-tier servers, large amounts of storage, and fast networks) necessary to run tests, and confusion about best testing practices.

PT has a lot of expertise in measuring datacenter performance, as you can tell from the hundreds of datacenter-focused test reports on our website. We see great potential in our working with the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community to help in this area. It is very possible that, as with AIXPRT, our approach to datacenter benchmarks would differ from the approach we’ve taken with previous benchmarks. While we have ideas for useful benchmarks we might develop down the road, more immediate steps could be drafting white papers, developing testing guidelines, or working with vendors to set up a lab.

Right now, we’re trying to gauge the level of interest in having such tools and in helping us carry out these initiatives. What are the biggest challenges you face in datacenter-focused performance and suitability to task evaluations? Would you be willing to work with us in this area? We’d love to hear from you and will be reaching out to members of the community over the coming weeks.

As always, thanks for your help!

Bill

Thoughts from MWC Shanghai 2018

Ni hao from Shanghai! It is amazing the change that happens in a year. This year’s MWC Shanghai, like last year’s, took up about half of the Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC). “5G +” is the major theme and, unlike last year, 5G is not something in the distant future. It is now assumed to be in progress.

The biggest of the pluses was AI, with a number of booths explicitly sporting 5G + AI signage. There were also 5G plus robots, cars, and cloud services. Many of those are really about AI as well. The show makes it feel like 5G is everywhere and will make everything better (or at least a lot faster). And Asia is leading the way.

[caption id="attachment_3447" align="alignleft" width="640"]5G + robotics at MWCS 18. 5G + robotics at MWCS 18.[/caption]

Most of the booths touted their 5G support as they did last year, but rather than talking about the future, they tried to say that their 5G was now. They claimed their products were in real-world tests with anticipated deployment schedules. One of the keynote speakers talked about 1.2 billion 5G connections by 2025, with more than half of those in Asia. The purported scale and speed of the transition to 5G is staggering.

[caption id="attachment_3449" align="alignleft" width="640"]The keynote stage, displaying some big numbers. The keynote stage, displaying some big numbers.[/caption]

The last two halls I visited showed that world is not all 5G and AI. These halls looked at current fun applications of mobile technologies and companies developing technologies in the near future. MWC allowed children into one of the halls, where they (and we adults) could fly drones and experience VR technology. I watched in some amusement as people crashed drones, rode bikes with VR gear to simulate horses, were 3D scanned, and generally tried out new tech that didn’t always work.

The second hall included small booths from new companies working on future technologies that might be ready “4 years from now” (4YFN). These companies did not have much to show yet, but each booth displayed the company name and a short phrase summing up their future tech. That led to “Deepscent Labs is a smart scent data company,” ChineSpain is a “Marketplace of experiences for Chinese tourists in Spain,” and “Juice is a tech-based music contents startup that creates an ecosystem of music.” The mind boggles!

The XPRTs’ foray into AI with AIXPRT seems well timed based on this show. Other areas from this show that may be worth considering for the XPRTs are 5G and the cloud. We would love to hear your thoughts on those areas. We know they are important, but do you need the XPRTs and their emphasis on real-world benchmarks and workloads in those areas? Drop us a line and let us know!

Bill

Check out the other XPRTs: