The Benchmark harness

The benchmarks in the DaCapo suite are packaged into a jar file, and run via a benchmark harness which simplifies the execution of the benchmark and provides hooks to user-specified callbacks, warm-up iterations, validation etc. This page describes the benchmark harness, initially in general terms so that users of the suite can understand the DaCapo benchmark methodology more thoroughly, and later in sufficient detail for people interested in maintaining the suite or writing their own benchmarks.

Benchmark Execution

The harness permits benchmarks to be run multiple times for a single invocation of the program, in order to allow (for example) adaptive compilers to reach a steady state before timing the execution of a benchmark. The number of iterations is given by the -n or -two command line flags. The first n - 1 iterations are considered warmup iterations, and the final iteration is considered the timing iteration.

Before executing the first (warmup) iteration of a benchmark, the test data (if any) is extracted from the dacapo jar file, into a scratch directory, and any per-benchmark preparation takes place. During each iteration of the benchmark, some optional pre-iteration work takes place, then the pre-iteration user callback is invoked and the body of the benchmark is executed. When this completes, the post-iteration user callback is invoked, and the per-benchmark validations take place. Some post-iteration work is then done (eg deleting output files), and the next iteration is executed. Different methods of the user callback are invoked for warmup iterations and the final timing iteration.

Benchmark internals

From the benchmark developer's perspective, a benchmark consists of several components: The build.xml should contain targets that a) download the source from its home server, and b) build it from source, and package its test data, harness etc into the suite. Test data should be zipped into a file called <benchmark>.zip, which will be automatically extracted into the scratch directory at runtime.

The benchmark harness is conventionally called <Benchmark>Harness, and is in the package dacapo.<benchmark>. This class must extend the abstract dacapo.Benchmark class, and many benchmarks simply need to provide a trivial constructor, and an iterate method that performs one iteration of the script. The methods of the Benchmark class, in conjunction with the configuration file, perform most of the tasks required by a typical benchmark.

Configuration file

Each benchmark must supply a configuration file, in the cnf/ directory, called <benchmark>.cnf. The contents of this file are as follows:
benchmark <benchmark> class <class>;
This specifies the name of the benchmark (which must correspond to the name of the file), and the class that implements its harness.
size <size> args <parameter>...
  output <output-file>... ;
A size clause is required for each size of workload that the benchmark provides. By convention, each benchmark provides a small, default and large workload, but several provide additional workloads and there is no restriction on size names or how many there can be. The parameters specified (as a comma-separated list of quoted strings) by the args keyword are available to the benchmark harness in an array of strings, retrieved by the method call getArgs(size).

Each size can specify a set of output files, as a comma-separated list. Each output file gives its name (as a quoted string), and then optionally a list of attributes against which the output file can be validated. Currently the available attributes are:
digest An SHA-1 digest of the file
bytes The size of the file in bytes
lines The size of the file in lines
If an attribute is specified for a file, then it will be checked. All named output files ae deleted after each iteration whether they have a validation attribute specified or not. The special file names "$stdout" and "$stderr" refer to standard and error output respectively (System.out and System.err). These currently only support the digest validation attributes.

The configuration file also contains a structured description of the benchmark in the following format:

  long "Long description",
  short "...",
  url "...",
  copyright "...",
  version "...";