Defining The Phoronix Test Suite
It's going on four years that we have been providing benchmarks under Linux at Phoronix, and through this time the process has evolved as more applications have come about that gauge Linux system performance and meet our criteria for use in hardware reviews. While our internal process is continually refined, we have received requests for creating a Linux benchmarking manifest so that interested parties are able to easily reproduce our tests for comparative purposes and know everything that's involved. With that said, we are now working to establish the Phoronix Test Suite that will consist both of detailed documentation defining our hardware benchmarking protocols and free software that automates much of this work.
The Phoronix Test Suite documentation will cover the benchmarks we use for testing the different areas of the desktop computer (graphics, CPU, memory, system, and disk) with the general steps needed to carry out these tests and produce meaningful results along with sharing precautions and other information. While a majority of the benchmarks published at Phoronix are looking at quantitative performance, the Phoronix Test Suite will also consist of qualitative tests for those that may be more interested in just knowing whether a particular piece of software will work in their hardware/software configuration rather than the throughput. Initially the Phoronix Test Suite will be desktop/workstation oriented, but later on will be focusing up a complementary set of tests for Linux servers and mobile devices.
While some of the available Linux benchmarks are straight forward, the Phoronix Test Suite documentation will cover the finer details and caveats in some particular environments. For example, when using the ATI Linux driver with some particular games, the amount of video memory present in the system needs to be manually set as an argument prior to starting the game due to missing vRAM detection code. Among the applications/games used day in and day out for Phoronix benchmarking -- and will comprise the Phoronix Test Suite -- are such titles as Doom 3, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, RAMspeed, hdparm, LAME MP3 encoding, Gzip compression, and GCC compilation tests.
While we have long used scripts for automating many of our tests, the Phoronix Test Suite software will standardize these operations and facilitate an easier end-user experience through establishing a common interface. Each benchmark is composed as an XML profile with the Phoronix software containing no benchmark-specific information but serving as a parser, test executor, and rendering the information to a GTK display. The Phoronix Test Suite software also supports such tasks as querying the number of CPU cores present in the system for automatically switching to an SMP binary (in select benchmarks) and adjusting the number of concurrent jobs in the compilation tests.
The Phoronix Test Suite software and benchmarking profiles will adhere by the documented testing standards. In addition to the benchmarking itself, we will also be open sourcing our internal XML+XSL results viewer for archiving the results, graphing, and other utilities. The Phoronix Test Suite software once released will be available under a free software license. The screenshots in this article are from early development work. Once available, this software will be housed at the Phorogit repository (www.phorogit.com).
In addition to providing the public with the Phoronix Test Suite so that end-users may more easily benchmark their own Linux systems, this is a way for the community to push vendors -- both ISVs and IHVs -- for greater Linux testing upon a standardized set of tests with a regularly updated specification that focus upon the latest trends in the computing industry. Over the past four years the Linux ecosystem has changed as well where for a large part it's becoming rare to find Linux incompatible hardware, but it's becoming a matter of having vendors optimize their drivers and ensuring a quality experience across a wide array of applications on this free software platform. The Phoronix test documentation nor test software is available today, but this article is to inform you of our intentions and that this will serve as a collaborative specification. Please feel free to voice your thoughts or ideas in the Phoronix Forums or contact us directly. The first bits of the Phoronix Test Suite will be available in the near future while the ratified version will come later this year.
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