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Category: Datacenter

The ongoing evolution of the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community

This November will mark the tenth anniversary of the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community, which we originally called the HDXPRT Development Community. Since the early days of HDXPRT, our community has grown to include about 275 members from over 85 companies and organizations, and we’ve added seven benchmarks to the XPRT family. We initially mailed HDXPRT DVDs to testers interested in a new way to evaluate PC performance, and now thousands of users around the world download our benchmarks and rely on them to help measure the performance of everything from tablets to laptops to high-end datacenter hardware.

As the XPRTs continue to grow and evolve, we’ve worked to make sure that the resources that we offer—and the ways we offer them—continue to meet the needs of XPRT testers and community members. As we expand in the AI and datacenter spaces with AIXPRT and CloudXPRT, our user group is becoming larger and more diverse than ever. We have already made some changes to better serve this expanding group, and will be making additional changes over the months ahead.

The first set of changes relate to our community membership model. Originally, membership in the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community required a $20 fee and provided access to preview versions of new benchmarks, the ability to submit ideas for future benchmarks, and regular updates through our monthly newsletter and community announcements. To remove the financial obstacle to joining, we introduced a fee waiver process a few years ago.

Also, we know that some OEM employees and members of the tech press are interested in the XPRTs, but are unable to join the community for one reason or another. With these people in mind, we recently experimented with making the CloudXPRT Preview publicly available. Releasing preview builds to all who are interested makes it more likely that users will incorporate the XPRTs into their test suites, and we have decided to adopt this practice for other benchmarks going forward.

In the coming months, we’ll be updating parts of our website to increase access to XPRT content. For example, certain content such as source code for most of the XPRTs is currently available only to members. We plan to remove the login requirement for access to this material.

Please keep in mind that membership in the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community continues to offer exclusive opportunities. Members can join groups such as the CloudXPRT Results Review Group and offer direct input into the design of future benchmarks. Members also receive our monthly newsletters.

If you have any questions about the XPRTs or community membership, please feel free to ask!

Justin

Improving the CloudXPRT results viewer

This week, we made some changes to the CloudXPRT results viewer that we think will simplify the results-browsing experience and allow visitors to more quickly and easily find important data.

The first set of changes involves how we present test system information in the main results table and on the individual results details pages. We realized that there was potential for confusion around the “CPU” and “Number of nodes” categories. We removed those and created the following new fields: “Cluster components,” “Nodes (work + control plane),”  and “vCPUs (work + control plane).” These new categories better describe test configurations and clarify how many CPUs engage with the workload.

The second set of changes involves the number of data points that we list in the table for each web microservices test run. For example, previously, we published a unique entry for each level of concurrency a test run records. If a run scaled to 32 concurrent instances, we presented the data for each instance in its own row. This helped to show the performance curve during a single test as the workload scaled up, but it made it more difficult for visitors to identify the best throughput results from an individual run. We decided to consolidate the results from a complete test run on a single row, highlighting only the maximum number of successful requests (throughout). All the raw data from each run remains available for download on the details page for each result, but visitors don’t have to wade through all that data to find the configuration’s main “score.”

We view the development of the CloudXPRT results viewer as an ongoing process. As we add results and receive feedback from testers about the data presentation formats that work best for them, we’ll continue to add more features and tweak existing ones to make them as useful as possible. If you have any questions about CloudXPRT results or the results viewer, please let us know!

Justin

The CloudXPRT Preview results submission schedule

A few weeks ago, we shared the general framework of the periodic results publication process we will use for CloudXPRT. Now that the CloudXPRT Preview is live, we’re ready to share more details about the results review group; the submission, review, and publication cycles; and the schedule for the first three months.

The results review group
The CloudXPRT results review group will serve as a sanity check and a forum for comments on each month’s submissions. All registered BenchmarkXPRT Development Community members who wish to participate in the review process can join the group by contacting us via email. We’ll confirm receipt of your request and add you to the review group mailing list. Any non-members who would like to join the review group can contact us and we’ll help you become community members.

The submission, review, and publication cycle
We will update the CloudXPRT results database once a month on a published schedule. While testers can submit results through the CloudXPRT results submission page at any time, two weeks prior to each publication date, we will close submissions for that review cycle. One week prior to each publication date, we will email details of that month’s submissions to the results review group, along with the deadline for sending post-publication feedback.

Schedule for the first three publication cycles
We will publish results to the database on the last business day of each month and will close the submission window at 11:59 PM on the business day that falls two weeks earlier (with occasional adjustments for holidays). The schedule will be available at least six months in advance on CloudXPRT.com.

The schedule for the first three cycles is as follows:

July
Submission deadline: Friday 7/17/20
Publication date: Friday 7/31/20
August
Submission deadline: Monday 8/17/20
Publication date: Monday 8/31/20
September
Submission deadline: Wednesday 9/16/20
Publication date: Wednesday 9/30/20

As a reminder, members of the tech press, vendors, and other testers are free to publish CloudXPRT results at any time. We may choose to add such results to our database on the monthly publication date, after first vetting them.

We look forward to reviewing the first batch of results! If you have any questions about CloudXPRT or the results submission or review process, let us know!

Justin

The CloudXPRT Preview is here!

The CloudXPRT Preview installation packages are now available on CloudXPRT.com and the BenchmarkXPRT GitHub repository! The CloudXPRT Preview includes two workloads: web microservices and data analytics (you can find more details about the workloads here). Testers can use metrics from the workloads to compare IaaS stack (both hardware and software) performance and to evaluate whether any given stack is capable of meeting SLA thresholds. You can configure CloudXPRT to run on local datacenter, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, or Microsoft Azure deployments.

Several different test packages are available for download from the CloudXPRT download page. For detailed installation instructions and hardware and software requirements for each, click the package’s readme link. The Helpful Info box on CloudXPRT.com also contains resources such as links to the CloudXPRT master readme and the CloudXPRT GitHub repository. Soon, we will add a link to the CloudXPRT Preview source code, which will be freely available for testers to download and review.

All interested parties may now publish CloudXPRT results. However, until we begin the formal results submission and review process in July, we will publish only results we produce in our own lab. We anticipate adding the first set of those within the coming week.

We’re thankful for all the input we received during the initial CloudXPRT development process, and we welcome feedback on the CloudXPRT Preview. If you have any questions about CloudXPRT, or would like to share your comments and suggestions, please let us know.

Justin

More details about CloudXPRT’s workloads

About a month ago, we posted an update on the CloudXPRT development process. Today, we want to provide more details about the three workloads we plan to offer in the initial preview build:

  • In the web-tier microservices workload, a simulated user logs in to a web application that does three things: provides a selection of stock options, performs Monte-Carlo simulations with those stocks, and presents the user with options that may be of interest. The workload reports performance in transactions per second, which testers can use to directly compare IaaS stacks and to evaluate whether any given stack is capable of meeting service-level agreement (SLA) thresholds.
  • The machine learning (ML) training workload calculates XGBoost model training time. XGBoost is a gradient-boosting framework  that data scientists often use for ML-based regression and classification problems. The purpose of the workload in the context of CloudXPRT is to evaluate how well an IaaS stack enables XGBoost to speed and optimize model training. The workload reports latency and throughput rates. As with the web-tier microservices workload, testers can use this workload’s metrics to compare IaaS stack performance and to evaluate whether any given stack is capable of meeting SLA thresholds.
  • The AI-themed container scaling workload starts up a container and uses a version of the AIXPRT harness to launch Wide and Deep recommender system inference tasks in the container. Each container represents a fixed amount of work, and as the number of Wide and Deep jobs increases, CloudXPRT launches more containers in parallel to handle the load. The workload reports both the startup time for the containers and the Wide and Deep throughput results. Testers can use this workload to compare container startup time between IaaS stacks; optimize the balance between resource allocation, capacity, and throughput on a given stack; and confirm whether a given stack is suitable for specific SLAs.

We’re continuing to move forward with CloudXPRT development and testing and hope to add more workloads in subsequent builds. Like most organizations, we’ve adjusted our work patterns to adapt to the COVID-19 situation. While this has slowed our progress a bit, we still hope to release the CloudXPRT preview build in April. If anything changes, we’ll let folks know as soon as possible here in the blog.

If you have any thoughts or comments about CloudXPRT workloads, please feel free to contact us.

Justin

CloudXPRT development news

Last month, Bill announced that we were starting work on a new data center benchmark. CloudXPRT will measure the performance of modern, cloud-first applications deployed on infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platformson-premises platforms, externally hosted platforms, and hybrid clouds that use a mix of the two. Our ultimate goal is for CloudXPRT to use cloud-native components on an actual stack to produce end-to-end performance metrics that can help users determine the right IaaS configuration for their business.

Today, we want to provide a quick update on CloudXPRT development and testing.

  • Installation. We’ve completely automated the CloudXPRT installation process, which leverages Kubernetes or Ansible tools depending on the target platform. The installation processes differ slightly for each platform, but testing is the same.
  • Workloads. We’re currently testing potential workloads that focus on three areas: web microservices, data analytics, and container scaling. We might not include all of these workloads in the first release, but we’ll keep the community informed and share more details about each workload as the picture becomes clearer. We are designing the workloads so that testers can use them to directly compare IaaS stacks and evaluate whether any given stack can meet service level agreement (SLA) thresholds.
  • Platforms. We want CloudXPRT to eventually support testing on a variety of popular externally hosted platforms. However, constructing a cross-platform benchmark is complicated and we haven’t yet decided which external platforms the first CloudXPRT release will support. We’ve successfully tested the current build with on-premises IaaS stacks and with one externally hosted platform, Amazon Web Services. Next, we will test the build on Google Cloud Hosting and Microsoft Azure.
  • Timeline. We are on track to meet our target of releasing a CloudXPRT preview build in late March and the first official build about two months later. If anything changes, we’ll post an updated timeline here in the blog.

If you would like to share any thoughts or comments related to CloudXPRT or cloud benchmarking, please feel free to contact us.

Justin

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