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sheetperf: A Benchmark for Spreadsheet Systems

Spreadsheet systems are used for storing and analyzing data across domains by programmers and non-programmers alike. While spreadsheet systems have continued to support increasingly large datasets, they are prone to hanging and freezing while performing computations even on much smaller ones.

We developed an exhaustive benchmark, sheetperf, to evaluate the performance of spreadsheet systems.

Our sheetperf benchmark

  • measures the scalability of spreadsheet systems for a range of canonical spreadsheet operations, and
  • investigates how a spreadsheet system stores data and whether it adopts optimizations to speed up computation.

Our benchmark has been implemented for three popular spreadsheet systems, Microsoft Excel, LibreOffice Calc, and Google Sheets.

Our paper has more details on the evaluation results.

Design

We construct two different kinds of benchmarks to evaluate these spreadsheet systems: basic complexity testing (BCT), and optimization opportunities testing (OOT).

Basic Complexity Testing (BCT)

The BCT benchmark aims to assess the performance of basic operations on spreadsheets related to opening, structuring, editing, and analyzing data, based on their expected time complexity. The benchmark evaluates the relative performance of the spreadsheet systems on a range of data sizes.

Optimization Opportunities Testing (OOT)

The OOT benchmark investigates whether spreadsheet systems take advantage of techniques such as indexes, incremental updates, workload-aware data layout, and sharing of computation. The OOT benchmark constructs specific scenarios to explore whether such optimizations are deployed by existing spreadsheet systems while performing spreadsheet formula computation.

Implementation Details

For all three spreadsheet systems, the experiments are implemented in their corresponding scripting language: Visual basic (VBA) for Excel, Calc basic for Calc, and Google apps script (GAS) for Google Sheets. The file extension for VBA, Calc basic, and GAS scripts are .cls, .bas, and .gs, respectively. All the experiments are single-threaded.

Experiment files and dataset

For each experiment in Excel, first create an Excel Macro-Enabled Workbook (.xlsm). Macro-Enabled Workbooks can execute embedded macros programmed in VBA. Unlike Excel, LibreOffice Calc macros, programmed in Calc Basic, can be enabled and executed from the default workbook---OpenSpreadsheet Document (.ods). Create the Google App Scripts in G Suite Developer Hub. Given an experiment, all three scripting languages can invoke a formula, e.g., COUNTIF, or operation, e.g., SORT, for their respective systems via an API call. Note that the default library functions of the corresponding scripting languages are used to measure the execution time of each experimental trial. For each experiment, pass the file path of the relevant datasets as an argument for the scripts (macros) of the desktop-based systems, and a URL for GAS in Google Sheets. All the datasets for the Excel and Calc-based experiments should be in xlsx and ods format, respectively. The datasets for the Google Sheets experiments should be uploaded as xlsx files and then manually converted to Google Sheets from the Google Drive menu.

Execution time measurement

For each experiment, all the scripts run ten trials and report the average run time of eight trials while removing the maximum and minimum reported time. Note that the Google Sheets experimental settings are limited by the daily quotas and hard limits imposed by Google Apps Script services on some features, like API calls and the number of spreadsheets created and accessed. Therefore, for experiments with Google Sheets, restrict the number of data points, i.e., row sizes, to fit in the experiment trials for different test cases within the allocated daily quotas

Benchmarking

To get started with the sheetperf benchmark, first clone or down the repository. To clone the repository use: git clone https://github.com/dataspread/spreadsheet-benchmark.git

The /bct and /oot directories contain the BCT and OOT benchmark experiments, respectively. Each benchmark is further categorized based on operations (BCT) or optimizations (OOT) tested. Following is the benchmark organization:

├── bct
│   ├── load
│   ├── query
│   └── update
├── oot
│   ├── data layout
│   ├── incremental update
│   ├── indexing
│   └── shared computation
├── .gitignore
├── randomized_setup.md
├── README.md
└── randomized_script.py

Running an experiment

First, create a /data directory locally (for Excel and Calc) or in Google Drive (for Google Sheets) and save your experimental datasets there. The process of running an experiment varies with each spreadsheet system which we explain next.

Excel

Create a .xlsm file and open the Excel visual basic editor:

Click the "Visual Basic" button on the "Developer" tab.

If the Developer tab is not present, go to File -> Options -> customize ribbon and tick Developer.

You can also open VBA in Excel using Alt + F11 keyboard shortcut.

Load a .cls file from the Import File ... option in the File menu.

Click run to launch an experiment.

Calc

Create a .ods file and create a module for the macro to be placed into:

From menu open Tools->Macros->Organize Macros->Libre Office Basic.

On the following dialog select the library (such as Standard) to create the module. 

Then click new & give it a name (based on your experiment. You can reuse the respective .bas file name)

Double click on the module to open the code editor. Then from the menu select File->Import Basic and select your .bas file.

Click run to launch an experiment.

Google Sheets

Create a new project in the Google Apps Script home. Copy the contents from a .gs file into the GAS script.

To launch the experiment, go to Run->Run function in the menu and select the main function you want to run. You are unable to pass any parameters into the function through this method.

There are three methods we explored in running Google Sheets experiments:

  1. All trials of a given experiment are run during a script execution
  2. One trial per script execution is run via Trigger
  3. One trial per script execution is run via API

Method 1

No changes need to be made for method 1.

Method 2

To randomize the order of dataset sizes that would run the experiment on and avoid hitting the timeout limit, we changed the script to select a random dataset size and run only one trial of the experiment. To avoid having to manually execute the script for each trial, go to Edit->Current project's triggers then click + Add Trigger and configure the settings.

A configuration of hello_world, Head, Time-driven, Minutes Timer, and Every minute will run the current version of the hello_world function every minute. It is recommended that you configure the time interval to be greater than the runtime of your script to avoid overlap of script execution, which could lead to concurrency issues if you're using the same data.

Method 3 (randomized_setup.md)

Method 3 follows the same incentive with the addition of predetermining the order of the trials and increasing efficiency. To run the randomized trial GS scripts, refer to randomized_setup.md.

License

MIT

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A benchmark for evaluating scalability of spreadsheet systems

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