The FAQs About the APC Project

Q. Why was the APC project group formed?

A. Within the Graphics Performance Characterization (GPC) group there was a strong belief that it is important to benchmark graphics performance based on actual applications. Application-level benchmarks exist, but they are not standardized and they often do not fully represent the graphics functionality required by the actual application. The APC group feels that end users will benefit from a broad-ranging set of standardized benchmarks for graphics-intensive applications.

Q. What companies are members of the APC project group?

A. Current members include Compaq, Digital Equipment Corp., Dynamic Pictures Inc., Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Intergraph, Real 3D, Silicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems.

Q. Is it appropriate that vendors should drive this effort?

A. Industry vendors have the highest level of interest in developing these benchmarks, but the APC group's development process stems from interaction with user groups, publications, application developers and others. There is sometimes a perception that "vendor-driven" benchmarks are less objective. In fact, these types of consortium-developed benchmarks are likely to be the most objective, since there is a natural system of checks and balances due to the specific market interests of different vendors.

Q. Why did the APC project group decide to join the GPC Group?

A. This initiative stemmed from members of the GPC Group seeing a common need for better application benchmarks. The GPC Group, with its affiliation with SPEC (Standard Performance Evaluation Corp.), already has systems in place for running such a project and ensuring standardization of the workloads, measurement criteria, review processes, and reporting formats. This saves a great deal of administrative time and resources, allowing the project group to concentrate more fully on developing and maintaining benchmarks.

Q. How is the group identifying applications in various market segments?

A. We are using existing market data, member company knowledge, and ISV input to determine relevant market segments and important applications in those segments. These applications will be updated over time as user needs change and new applications become available.

Q. Will the application benchmarks be required to run on all platforms?

A. They should run on a reasonable number of platforms, but they do not have to run on all platforms. Many applications are targeted to a specific level of hardware, such as PCs or high-end workstations. It would not be appropriate to require a vendor to run a benchmark that is not designed for its platform.

Q. How is the group identifying appropriate workloads for selected applications?

A. APC project group members are sponsoring applications and working with end users, user groups, publications and ISVs to select and refine workloads, which consist of data sets and benchmark script files. Workload development is being driven by end users and ISVs, not vendors. Workloads will evolve over time in conjunction with end usersí needs.

Q. What are the APC project groupís priorities in selecting benchmarks?

A. Number one is to select benchmarks that are useful to end users who are evaluating and selecting platforms. Secondly, the applications must use graphics prominently in at least some phase of user interaction. The workload will be selected to capture this phase. There are several existing application benchmarks that are called "graphics-oriented, " but whose test results do not reflect the benefits that come from improvements vendors are making in raw graphics performance. The APC group focuses on benchmarks that tax the graphics subsystem, including hardware, software and the OS.

Q. How will the group define, publish, measure, report and review results?

A. This is where our GPC Group affiliation pays benefits. We will adopt existing GPC Group processes as much as possible to minimize work and reduce the learning curve. Performance measurements must be accurate and repeatable across diverse computing environments. Reporting schemes will be designed to meet end usersí needs.

Q. How will APC results be verified and published?

A. Again, we will take advantage of standardized practices used within the GPC Group. We intend to develop a review process, and a set of universal reporting and display tools for publishing results in this Web site.

Q. Will benchmark tools be freely available to the public?

A. Yes. We will make certain a wide audience has easy access to the workloads and the benchmark results published by the APC project group. These tools will be made available for free downloading through this Web site, which will allow independent reproduction of results and analysis of workloads. Obviously, anyone who wants to run the benchmarks will need copies of the applications.

Q. Applications often support different features on different platforms. This is especially true on the high end, where vendors seek to add value by providing advanced features. How will the APC group accommodate advanced feature sets in its application benchmarks?

A. The project group wants to make certain that we avoid " least-common-denominator" tests. We are developing benchmarks based on "core" functionality, which represents the end usersí "musts" for running the application. All vendors reporting on a benchmark must support this functionality, although it is the reporting vendorís choice about whether to implement the functions through hardware or software. In addition to core functionality, we expect to provide an " enhanced" aspect of the benchmark. The enhanced aspect would make it clear that there is extended functionality and performance available that has value to end users. An example of enhanced functionality might be the ability to do 3D texture mapping.

Q. Where is more information about membership and application benchmarking available?

A. Information is available through the APC project groupís e-mail alias:

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