What we now know as the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community started many years ago as the HDXPRT Development Community forum. At the time, the community was much smaller, and HDXPRT was our only benchmark. When a member wanted to run the benchmark, they submitted a request, and then received an installation DVD in the mail.
With hundreds of members, more than a half dozen active benchmarks, and the online availability of all our tools, the current community is a much different organization. Instead of the original forum, most of our interaction with members takes place through the blog, the monthly newsletter, direct email, and our social media accounts. Because of the way the community has changed, and because the original forum is no longer very active, we believe that the time and resources that we devote to maintaining the forum could be better spent on building and maintaining other community assets. To that end, we’ve decided to end support for the original BenchmarkXPRT forum.
As always, community members’ voices are an important consideration in what we do. If you have any questions or concerns about the decision to close down the original forum, please let us know as soon as possible.
On another note, we want to thank the community members who’ve participated in the HDXPRT 4 Community Preview. Testing has gone well, and we’re planning to release HDXPRT 4 to the public towards the end of next week!
Happy 2019! January is already a busy time for the XPRTs, so we want to share a quick preview of what community members can expect in the coming months.
The MobileXPRT 3 community preview (CP) is still open, but draws to a close on January 18th. If you are not familiar with the updates and changes we implemented in the newest version of MobileXPRT, you can read more in the blog. Members can access this APK on the MobileXPRT tab in the Members’ Area. We also posted an installation guide that provides both a general overview of the app and detailed instructions for each step. The entire process takes about five minutes on most devices. If you haven’t already, give it a try!
We also recently published the first AIXPRT Request for Comments (RFC) preview build, an early version of one of the tools we’re developing to evaluate machine learning performance. You can find more details in Bill’s most recent blog post and on AIXPRT.com. 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. To gain access to the AIXPRT repository, please send us a request.
Work on the HDXPRT 4 CP candidate build continues, and we hope to publish the preview for community members this month. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work to get this right. We think it will be worth the wait.
On a general note, I’ll be travelling to CES 2019 in Las Vegas next week. CES is a great opportunity for us to survey emerging tech and industry trends, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts from the show. If you’ll be there and would like to discuss any aspect of the XPRTs in person, let me know.
There’s a lot going on with the XPRTs, so we want to offer a quick update.
On the HDXPRT 4 front, we’re currently testing community preview candidate builds across a variety of laptops and desktops. Testing is going well, but as is often the case prior to a release, we’re still tweaking the code as necessary when we run into bugs. We’re excited about HDXPRT 4 and look forward to the community seeing how much faster and easier to use it is than previous versions. You can read more about what’s to come in HDXPRT 4 here.
On the MobileXPRT 3 front, proof-of-concept testing for the new and updated workloads went well, and we’re now working to implement the new UI. Below, you can see a mockup of the new MobileXPRT 3 start screen for phones. The aesthetic is completely different than MobileXPRT 2015, and is in line with the clean, bright look we used for WebXPRT 3 and HDXPRT 4. We’ve made it easy to select and deselect individual workloads by tapping the workload name (deselected workloads are grayed out), and we’ve consolidated common menu items into an Android-style taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Please note that this is an early view and some aspects of the screen will change. For instance, we’re certain that the final receipt-scanning workload won’t be called “Optical character recognition.”
We’ll share more information about HDXPRT 4 and MobileXPRT 3 in the coming weeks. If you have any questions about HDXPRT or MobileXPRT, or would like to share your ideas, please get in touch!
Last week, I hosted a Webinar on HDXPRT. We’ll make a recording of it available on the site fairly soon. Multiple members attended. As I was going through the slides and discussing various aspects of the benchmark, a member asked about installing the benchmark from a USB key or a server. My response was the simple truth: we hadn’t considered that approach. As I then elaborated, we clearly should have thought about it, because those capabilities would be useful in just about every production lab out there, including ours here at PT. I concluded by saying that we’d look into it.
I’m not naming the member simply because with big companies I’m never sure if doing that will be good or will cause someone trouble, and I don’t want to cause hassle for anyone. He should, though, feel free to step forward and claim the well-deserved credit for the suggestion.
Less than a week after the Webinar, I’m happy to be able to report that the team has done more than look into these capabilities; it’s implemented them! So, the next Beta release, Beta 2, which we’ll be releasing any time now (maybe even before we post this blog entry), lets you install the benchmark from a network share or a USB key.
I know this is a relatively small thing, but I think it bears reporting because it is exactly the way the community should work. A member brought the benefits of his experience to bear in a great bit of feedback, and now the benchmark is better for it—and so are all of us who use it.
Keep the good ideas coming!
Mark Van Name
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Computer system performance evaluation has a long and complex history. Many of the earliest tests were simple, short code snippets, such as Whetstone, that did little more than give an indication of how fast a particular computer subsystem was able to operate. Unfortunately, such simple benchmarks quickly lost their value, in part because they were very crude measures, and in part because software tools on the things they were measuring could easily optimize for them. In some cases, a compiler could even recognize a test and “optimize” the code by simply producing the final result!
Over time, though, benchmarks have become more complex and more relevant. Whole organizations exist and have existed to build benchmarks. Notable ones include the Ziff-Davis Benchmark Operation (ZDBOp), which the Ziff-Davis computer magazines funded in the 1990s and which Mark and I ran; the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC), which its member companies fund and of which PT is a member; and the Business Applications Performance Corporation (BAPCo), which its member companies fund. Each of these organizations has developed widely used products, such as Winstone (ZDBOp), SPEC CPU (SPEC), and SYSmark (BAPCo). Each organization has also always faced challenges. In the case of ZDBOp, for example, Ziff Davis could no longer support the costs of developing its benchmarks, so they discontinued the group. SPEC continues to develop good benchmarks, but its process can sometimes yield years between versions.
The goal with HDXPRT and the HDXPRT Development Community (HDC) is to explore a new way to develop benchmarks. By utilizing the expertise and experience of a community of interested people, we hope to be able develop benchmarks in an open and collaborative environment while keeping them timely.
HDXPRT 2011 is the first test of this approach. We believe that it and subsequent versions of it, as well as other benchmarks, will give the industry a new model for creating world-class performance measurement tools.
If you’re not a member of the HDC, please consider joining us and helping define the future of performance evaluation.
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