an Algorithmic advance

The Guardian (Manchester); 14 June 1990; Claire Neesham; p. 31

ALGORITHMICS, a UK consultancy, has jumped on the benchmarking bandwagon with a series of tools designed to plug the gap between the SPECmark suite and the old synthetic benchmarks. Like the benchmarks from SPEC, the Systems Performance Evaluation Co-operative, Algorithmics' tests are based on applications programs which do sufficiently complicated jobs thoroughly to test the processer. But unlike them, they avoid programs that are floating-point intensive. Thus they are suitable for assessing processor performance in a non-scientific environment. One of the limitations of SPECmarks is that they come with a licensing agreement which prohibits purchasers from distributing the software outside their own organisation. Therefore it is only possible to test a machines if buyers own them or can persuade suppliers to deliver them to their offices. Dominic Sweetman, a director of Algorithmics, believes the danger in this approach is that the benchmarks will be run mainly by manufacturers who will become experts in tweaking systems to give the highest SPECmark. And these won't necessarily be the configurations available to users. Sweetman hopes his test tools will be used by owners on as many machines as possible. In particular he wants someone to do a comparison between a mainframe class machine and a new IBM RS/6000 workstation. At present the Algorithmics benchmarks, like the SPECmarks, are Unix based. Where six of the SPECmark routines are in Fortran, the ones Algorithmics has chosen are all written in C. All the programs (except Dhrystone) produce files, which means the processor and memory is doing real work, as well as ensuring that the machine doesn't crash during the test. So far Algorithmics has run its benchmarks on a variety of Intel 80386- and 80486-based micros and several Risc workstations including the new DECStation 5000. However, IBM was unable to provide access to an RS/6000, and Motorola UK was unable to provide a 68040-based system sufficiently bug free to run Unix. From Algorithmics' comparison of an Intel 80486 system provided by Intel UK and the R3000 and R2000 Risc systems, it appears the 80486 performance at 25MHz is closer to the R2000, a two year old Risc, rather than the newer R3000.. Algorithmics' suite is available now for a media charge of 75 (tel 071 700-3301). Buyers are then free to distribute the programs as they wish. Sweetman wants users to return their results to the consultancy so it can publish them

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