Last updated: $Date: 2011-09-07 11:08:21 -0400 (Wed, 07 Sep 2011) $ by $Author: CloyceS $
(To check for possible updates to this document, please see http://www.spec.org/cpu2006/Docs/ )
This document provides background information about the SPEC CPU2006 benchmark suite. SPEC hopes that this material will help you understand what the benchmark suite can, and cannot, provide; and that it will help you make efficient use of the product.
Overall, SPEC designed SPEC CPU2006 to provide a comparative measure of compute intensive performance across the widest practical range of hardware. The product consists of source code benchmarks that are developed from real user applications. These benchmarks depend on the processor, memory and compiler on the tested system.
This document is organized as a series of questions and answers.
Q1. What is SPEC?
Q2. What is a benchmark?
Q3. Should I benchmark my own application?
Q4. If not my own application, then what?
Q5. What does SPEC CPU2006 measure?
Q6. Why use SPEC CPU2006?
Q7. What are the limitations of SPEC CPU2006?
Overview of usage
Q8. What is included in the SPEC CPU2006 package?
Q9. What does the user of the SPEC CPU2006 suite have to provide?
Q10. What are the basic steps in running the benchmarks?
Q11. What source code is provided? What exactly makes up these suites?
Q12. Some of the benchmark names sound familiar; are these comparable to other programs?
Q13. What metrics can be measured?
Q14. What is the difference between a "base" metric and a "peak" metric?
Q15. What is the difference between a "rate" and a "speed" metric?
Q16. Which SPEC CPU2006 metric should be used to compare performance?
CPU2006 vs. CPU2000
Q17. SPEC CPU2000 is already available. Why create SPEC CPU2006? Will it show anything different?
Q18. What happens to SPEC CPU2000 after SPEC CPU2006 is released?
Q19. Is there a way to translate SPEC CPU2000 results to SPEC CPU2006 results or vice versa?
Q20. What criteria were used to select the benchmarks?
Q21. Weren't some of the SPEC CPU2006 benchmarks in SPEC CPU2000? How are they different?
Q22. Why were some of the benchmarks not carried over from CPU2000?
Q23. Why does SPEC use a reference machine? What machine is used for SPEC CPU2006?
Q24. How long does it take to run the SPEC CPU2006 benchmark suites?
Q25. What if the tools cannot be run or built on a system? Can the benchmarks be run manually?
Q26. Where are SPEC CPU2006 results available?
Q27. Can SPEC CPU2006 results be published outside of the SPEC web site? Do the rules still apply?
Q28. How do I contact SPEC for more information or for technical support?
Q29. Now that I have read this document, what should I do next?
Note: links to SPEC CPU2006 documents on this web page assume that you are reading the page from a directory that also contains the other SPEC CPU2006 documents. If by some chance you are reading this web page from a location where the links do not work, try accessing the referenced documents at one of the following locations:
SPEC is the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation. SPEC is a non-profit organization whose members include computer hardware vendors, software companies, universities, research organizations, systems integrators, publishers and consultants. SPEC's goal is to establish, maintain and endorse a standardized set of relevant benchmarks for computer systems. Although no one set of tests can fully characterize overall system performance, SPEC believes that the user community benefits from objective tests which can serve as a common reference point.
A benchmark is "a standard of measurement or evaluation" (Webster’s II Dictionary). A computer benchmark is typically a computer program that performs a strictly defined set of operations - a workload - and returns some form of result - a metric - describing how the tested computer performed. Computer benchmark metrics usually measure speed: how fast was the workload completed; or throughput: how many workload units per unit time were completed. Running the same computer benchmark on multiple computers allows a comparison to be made.
Ideally, the best comparison test for systems would be your own application with your own workload. Unfortunately, it is often impractical to get a wide base of reliable, repeatable and comparable measurements for different systems using your own application with your own workload. Problems might include generation of a good test case, confidentiality concerns, difficulty ensuring comparable conditions, time, money, or other constraints.
You may wish to consider using standardized benchmarks as a reference point. Ideally, a standardized benchmark will be portable, and may already have been run on the platforms that you are interested in. However, before you consider the results you need to be sure that you understand the correlation between your application/computing needs and what the benchmark is measuring. Are the benchmarks similar to the kinds of applications you run? Do the workloads have similar characteristics? Based on your answers to these questions, you can begin to see how the benchmark may approximate your reality.
Note: A standardized benchmark can serve as reference point. Nevertheless, when you are doing vendor or product selection, SPEC does not claim that any standardized benchmark can replace benchmarking your own actual application.
SPEC CPU2006 focuses on compute intensive performance, which means these benchmarks emphasize the performance of:
It is important to remember the contribution of the latter two components. SPEC CPU performance intentionally depends on more than just the processor.
SPEC CPU2006 contains two suites that focus on two different types of compute intensive performance:
Each of the suites can be used to measure along the following vectors as well:
Compilation method: Consistent compiler options across all programs of a given language (the base metrics) and, optionally, compiler options tuned to each program (the peak metrics). See Q14, below, for more information.
Speed or throughput: Time for completion of a set of individual tasks (the SPECspeed metrics) or total throughput for a set of multiple, concurrently executing tasks (the SPECrate metrics). See Q15, below, for more information.
SPEC CPU2006 is not intended to stress other computer components such as networking, the operating system, graphics, or the I/O system. For single-CPU tests, the effects from such components on SPEC CPU2006 performance are usually minor. For large rate runs, operating system services may affect performance, and the I/O system - number of disks, speed, striping - can have an effect. Note that there are many other SPEC benchmarks, including benchmarks that specifically focus on graphics, distributed Java computing, webservers, and network file systems.
SPEC CPU2006 provides a comparative measure of integer and/or floating point compute intensive performance. If this matches with the type of workloads you are interested in, SPEC CPU2006 provides a good reference point.
Other advantages to using SPEC CPU2006 include:
As described above, the ideal benchmark for vendor or product selection would be your own workload on your own application. Please bear in mind that no standardized benchmark can provide a perfect model of the realities of your particular system and user community.
SPEC provides the following on the SPEC CPU2006 media (DVD):
Briefly, you need a Unix, Linux, Mac OS X, or Microsoft Windows system with compilers; 8GB of free disc space; and a minimum of 1GB of free memory - although more may be required, as described in system-requirements.html
Installation and use are covered in detail in the SPEC CPU2006 User Documentation. The basic steps are:
If you wish to generate results suitable for quoting in public, you will need to carefully study and adhere to the run rules.
CINT2006 and CFP2006 are based on compute-intensive applications provided as source code. CINT2006 contains 12 benchmarks: 9 use C, and 3 use C++. The benchmarks are:
|400.perlbench||C||PERL Programming Language|
|445.gobmk||C||Artificial Intelligence: go|
|456.hmmer||C||Search Gene Sequence|
|458.sjeng||C||Artificial Intelligence: chess|
|462.libquantum||C||Physics: Quantum Computing|
|471.omnetpp||C++||Discrete Event Simulation|
CFP2006 has 17 benchmarks: 4 use C++, 3 use C, 6 use Fortran, and 4 use a mixture of C and Fortran. The benchmarks are:
|433.milc||C||Physics: Quantum Chromodynamics|
|447.dealII||C++||Finite Element Analysis|
|450.soplex||C++||Linear Programming, Optimization|
Descriptions of the benchmarks, with reference to papers, web sites, and so forth, can be found in the individual benchmark descriptions (click the links above). Some of the benchmarks also provide additional details, such as documentation from the original program, in the nnn.benchmark/Docs directories in the SPEC benchmark tree.
The numbers used as part of the benchmark names provide an identifier to help distinguish programs from one another. For example, some programs were updated from SPEC CPU2000 and need to be distinguished from the previous version. Note: even if a program has the same name as in a previous suite - for example, 176.gcc vs. 403.gcc - the updated workload and updated source code mean that it is not valid to compare SPEC CPU2006 results to results with older SPEC CPU benchmarks.
Many of the SPEC benchmarks have been derived from publicly available application programs. The individual benchmarks in this suite may be similar, but are NOT identical to benchmarks or programs with similar names which may be available from sources other than SPEC. In particular, SPEC has invested significant effort to improve portability and to minimize hardware dependencies, to avoid unfairly favoring one hardware platform over another. For this reason, the application programs in this distribution may perform differently from commercially available versions of the same application.
Therefore, it is not valid to compare SPEC CPU2006 benchmark results with anything other than other SPEC CPU2006 benchmark results.
After the benchmarks are run on the system under test (SUT), a ratio for each of them is calculated using the run time on the SUT and a SPEC-determined reference time. From these ratios, the following metrics are calculated:
CINT2006 (for integer compute intensive performance comparisons):
CFP2006 (for floating point compute intensive performance comparisons:
In all cases, a higher score means "better performance" on the given workload.
In order to provide comparisons across different computer hardware, SPEC provides the benchmarks as source code. Thus, in order to run the benchmarks, they must be compiled. There is agreement that the benchmarks should be compiled the way users compile programs. But how do users compile programs?
Some users might experiment with many different compilers and compiler flags to achieve the best performance, and may be willing to develop multi-step make processes and "training" workloads.
Other users might prefer the relative simplicity of using a single set of switches and a single-step make process.
In addition to the above, a wide range of other types of usage models could also be imagined, ranging in a continuum from -Odebug at the low end, to inserting directives and/or re-writing the source code at the high end. Which points on this continuum should SPEC CPU2006 allow?
SPEC recognizes that any point chosen from that continuum might seem arbitrary to those whose interests lie at a different point. Nevertheless, choices must be made.
For CPU2006, SPEC has chosen to allow two types of compilation:
The base metrics (e.g. SPECint_base2006) are required for all reported results and have stricter guidelines for compilation. For example, the same flags must be used in the same order for all benchmarks of a given language. This is the point closer to those who might prefer a relatively simple build process.
The peak metrics (e.g. SPECint2006) are optional and have less strict requirements. For example, different compiler options may be used on each benchmark, and feedback-directed optimization is allowed. This point is closer to those who may be willing to invest more time and effort in development of build procedures.
Note that options allowed under the base metric rules are a subset of those allowed under the peak metric rules. A legal base result is also legal under the peak rules but a legal peak result is NOT necessarily legal under the base rules.
A full description of the distinctions and required guidelines can be found in the SPEC CPU2006 Run and Reporting Rules.
There are several different ways to measure computer performance. One way is to measure how fast the computer completes a single task; this is a speed measure. Another way is to measure how many tasks a computer can accomplish in a certain amount of time; this is called a throughput, capacity or rate measure.
For the SPECrate metrics, multiple copies of the benchmarks are run simultaneously. Typically, the number of copies is the same as the number of CPUs on the machine, but this is not a requirement. For example, it would be perfectly acceptable to run 63 copies of the benchmarks on a 64-CPU machine (thereby leaving one CPU free to handle system overhead).
Note: a speed run which uses a parallelizing compiler to distribute one copy of a benchmark over multiple CPUs is still a speed run, and uses the SPECspeed metrics. You can identify such runs by the field "Auto Parallel".
It depends on your needs. SPEC provides the benchmarks and results as tools for you to use. You need to determine how you use a computer or what your performance requirements are and then choose the appropriate SPEC benchmark or metrics.
A single user running a compute-intensive integer program, for example, might only be interested in SPECint2006 or SPECint_base2006. On the other hand, a person who maintains a machine used by multiple scientists running floating point simulations might be more concerned with SPECfp_rate2006 or SPECfp_rate_base2006.
Technology is always improving. As the technology improves, the benchmarks should improve as well. SPEC needed to address the following issues:
As of summer, 2006, many of the CPU2000 benchmarks are finishing in less than a minute on leading-edge processors/systems. Small changes or fluctuations in system state or measurement conditions can therefore have significant impacts on the percentage of observed run time. SPEC chose to make run times for CPU2006 benchmarks longer to take into account future performance and prevent this from being an issue for the lifetime of the suites.
As applications grow in complexity and size, CPU2000 becomes less representative of what runs on current systems. For CPU2006, SPEC included some programs with both larger resource requirements and more complex source code.
SPEC felt that there were additional application areas that should be included in CPU2006 to increase variety and representation within the suites. For example, video compression and speech recognition have been added, and molecular biology has been significantly expanded.
CPU2000 has been available for six years and much improvement in hardware and software has occurred during this time. Benchmarks need to evolve to keep pace with improvements.
SPEC will begin the process of retiring CPU2000. Three months after the announcement of CPU2006, SPEC will require all CPU2000 results submitted for publication on SPEC's web site to be accompanied by CPU2006 results. Six months after announcement, SPEC will stop accepting CPU2000 results for publication on its web site.
There is no formula for converting CPU2000 results to CPU2006 results and vice versa; they are different products. There probably will be some correlation between CPU2000 and CPU2006 results (i.e., machines with higher CPU2000 results often will have higher CPU2006 results), but there is no universal formula for all systems.
SPEC encourages SPEC licensees to publish CPU2006 numbers on older platforms to provide a historical perspective on performance.
In the process of selecting applications to use as benchmarks, SPEC considered the following criteria:
Although some of the benchmarks from CPU2000 are included in CPU2006, they all have been given different workloads and/or modified to use newer versions of the source code. Therefore, for example, results with the CPU2000 benchmark 181.mcf may be strikingly different from results with the CPU2006 benchmark 429.mcf.
Some benchmarks were not retained because it was not possible to create a longer-running or more robust workload. Others were left out because SPEC felt that they did not add significant performance information compared to the other benchmarks under consideration.
SPEC uses a reference machine to normalize the performance metrics used in the CPU2006 suites. Each benchmark is run and measured on this machine to establish a reference time for that benchmark. These times are then used in the SPEC calculations.
SPEC uses a historical Sun system, the "Ultra Enterprise 2" which was introduced in 1997, as the reference machine. The reference machine uses a 296 MHz UltraSPARC II processor, as did the reference machine for CPU2000. But the reference machines for the two suites are not identical: the CPU2006 reference machine has substantially better caches, and the CPU2000 reference machine could not have held enough memory to run CPU2006.
It takes about 12 days to do a rule-conforming run of the base metrics for CINT2006 and CFP2006 on the CPU2006 reference machine.
Note that when comparing any two systems measured with the CPU2006, their performance relative to each other would remain the same even if a different reference machine was used. This is a consequence of the mathematics involved in calculating the individual and overall (geometric mean) metrics.
This depends on the suite and the machine that is running the benchmarks. As mentioned above, the reference (historical) machine takes on the order of 12 days; contemporary machines might take on the order of a couple days. Again, though, it depends on which metrics are run.
To generate rule-compliant results, an approved toolset must be used. If several attempts at using the SPEC-provided tools are not successful, you should contact SPEC for technical support. SPEC may be able to help you, but this is not always possible -- for example, if you are attempting to build the tools on a platform that is not available to SPEC.
If you just want to work with the benchmarks and do not care to generate publishable results, SPEC provides information about how to do so.
Results for measurements submitted to SPEC are available at http://www.spec.org/cpu2006.
Yes, SPEC CPU2006 results can be freely published if all the run and reporting rules have been followed. The CPU2006 license agreement binds every purchaser of the suite to the run and reporting rules if results are quoted in public. A full disclosure of the details of a performance measurement must be provided on request.
SPEC strongly encourages that results be submitted for publication on SPEC's web site, since it ensures a peer review process and uniform presentation of all results.
The run and reporting rules for research and and academic contexts recognize that it may not be practical to comply with the full set of rules in some contexts. It is always required, however, that non-compliant results must be clearly distinguished from rule-compliant results.
SPEC can be contacted in several ways. For general information, including other means of contacting SPEC, please see SPEC's Web Site at:
General questions can be emailed to: email@example.com
CPU2006 Technical Support Questions can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you haven't bought CPU2006, it is hoped that you will consider doing so. If you are ready to get started using the suite, then you should pick a system that meets the requirements as described in
and install the suite, following the instructions in
Questions and answers were prepared by Kaivalya Dixit of IBM, Jeff Reilly of Intel Corp, and John Henning of Sun Microsystems. Dixit was the long-time President of SPEC, Reilly is Chair of the SPEC CPU Subcommittee, and Henning is Vice-Chair/Secretary of the SPEC CPU Subcommittee.
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