Measure performance with Spec95

Try on some new Specs before looking at your next Unix or Open
VMS workstation.

The System Performance Evaluation Corp.'s new Spec95 benchmark suite has replaced the
1992 Spec tests of integer and floating-point computing performance. The updates will be
administered by the National Computer Graphics Association of Fairfax, Va.

Specint92 and Specfp92 have been two of the most popular benchmarks in the computer
industry. Some federal procurement offices specify minimum Spec results when they purchase
new Unix machines.

Now Specint92 will be known as Spec CINT95, and Specfp92 as Spec CFP95. The C indicates
component-level testing of the computer's processor, memory architecture and compiler;
these benchmarks don't measure input-output from disk drives or network connections.
Tested systems must have at least 64M of memory.

The new INT95 test suite consists of eight applications written in C: a game, a
database program, a graphics compression-decompression program and other
processor-intensive measures.

The new FP95 tests are 10 Fortran applications for mesh generation, differential
equations, electromagnetic particle simulation and other computation-intensive measures.

The Spec group tries to make its tests as unbiased as possible so people can compare
real-world performance by different systems. Computer manufacturers run the Spec benchmark
tests on their products and report the results themselves. Because others can repeat the
tests, the vendors have to be somewhat wary of fudging results.

But "tweaking" a Spec test is another matter.

The Spec sponsors recognize there's more to system performance than processor speed.
Because the tests involve memory architecture and compiler use, computer makers quickly
learned how to change their systems and compilers to boost test results.

That's one of the reasons the group updated the 1992 tests. Several makers had enhanced
their systems to boost results substantially over the original 1989 Specmark tests.

The Spec group wants to phase out use of Specint92 and Specfp92 by June. Most computer
makers are expected to continue quoting their 1992 Spec test results for several months,
however, waiting to see what competitors post before making their own results public.

Agency procurement officers might want to insist on Spec INT95 and Spec FP95 results
when shopping for new Unix systems. The tersts will also operate on Microsoft Windows NT
machines by the end of this year. A good though time-consuming alternative is to set up an
internal benchmark suite using actual in-house applications.

If you'd rather run the Spec tests on your own, the benchmark CD-ROM is priced at $600
for new customers and $300 to holders of Spec92 licenses. For more information, call
703-698-9604, ext. 325, or send e-mail to

About the Author

Shawn McCarthy, a former writer for GCN, is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunities at IDC.

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