Thursday, November 15, 2007

The MARK on the BENCH - and the mythical event per second

Recent news item from BEA is talking about a benchmark and cites some EPS (Event Per Second) figures. Unlike some vendors that just cite numbers, there is also a white paper describing the benchmark. I don't wish to refer to the BEA benchmark specifically, but to share some insights about benchmarks in general. Benchmarks have a positive side, in which they are enable either to compare different products based on the same criteria, or to evaluate some properties of a product, even when not comparing it to others. Currently there is no "standard" benchmark in the event processing area, thus, vendors are inventing their own benchmark, carefully designed to expose much of the strengths, and none of the weaknesses of their products, and create benchmarks that may be non reproducible in other environments, or with some change in the application. Thus, to make any significant comparison between different products, standard benchmarks need to be constructed. Standard benchmarks, by themselves, may be double-edge sword, since we have benchmark-driven industry, vendors will invest a lot of resources into optimizing for the standard benchmark, however - this may not help a specific application, since its requirements may be far enough from the benchmark. Event Processing is heterogeneous area, which means that a single benchmark will not be sufficient - we need a collection of benchmarks, and each customer will have to chose the one or more benchmarks that are closer to its requirements. The standard benchmark should come from a vendor-neutral organization. I know of some academic work in this area, but more needed to be done.
And a word of caution - all the benchmarks refer to performance characteristics such as latency and throughput. But as noted in a previous post on the mythical event per second, I doubt if these are the main decision criteria in most applications - thus benchmarks should refer to other dimensions (functions, consumability, other non functional requirements), while, there are certainly cases that the high performance characteristics are critical, in general, I think this is over-hyped a bit. more - later.

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