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Benchmark Intro

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In Computer Architecture, Hennessy and Patterson classify benchmarks according to the following hierarchy, from best to worst.

  1. Real applications
  2. Modified applications (eg. with I/O removed to make it CPU-bound).
  3. Kernels (key fragments of real applications).
  4. Toy benchmarks (eg. sieve of Erastosthenes).
  5. Synthetic benchmarks (code created artificially to fit a profile of particular operations, eg. Dhrystone)

Then there are microbenchmarks, which typically measure a single short-running operation by repeating it many times. One might put microbenchmarks level with toy benchmarks -- they don't contain code from a real program, but at least they measure something that will occur in real programs, unlike synthetic benchmarks.

People may argue about exactly which level a particular benchmark belongs to. For example, an implementation of a crypto algorithm could be considered a small but real application, or it could be considered a kernel. Such a difference of opinion probably doesn't matter, the classification serves as a rule of thumb at best.