Parallel Algorithm Benchmarking Toolkit
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Pbench: a program benchmarking toolkit

The pbench toolkit is a software framework whose purpose is to help programmers benchmark their programs, with particular support for parallel programs. The toolkit provides two command-line tools, namely prun and pplot, that are useful for small, explorative benchmarking scenarios. It also provides an OCaml library that is useful for writing sophisticated performance evaluations of one or more benchmark programs, and for generating polished tables and plots ready for incorporation in research papers.

  • The prun tool organizes and executes measured runs of client-supplied benchmark programs. Crashes and timeouts of benchmark programs are handled gracefully by prun.

  • The pplot tool generates various human-readable output from the data collected by prun experiments. Forms of output include latex tables, R bar and scatter plots, etc. Data that is output by pplot can be lightly processed, for example, to show the mean run time of a number of runs. Moreover, pplot can also render error bars.

  • The OCaml library provided by pbench assists experimentalists who need fine-grained tuning of the runs and plots, and who want to make their experimental evaluations repeatable by other experimenters. The distribution includes example scripts using the lbirary.


Build dependencies

You will need version 4.00 or greater of OCaml and also a recent version of the gnu c compiler GCC.

The pbench plot generator requires that recent versions of R and LaTeX be installed on the host machine. When pplot generates new plots, all intermediate R and latex sources that were generated by pplot are written to the _results folder. It is not hard to customize the look of the plots by editing these files individually.

Conventions for benchmark programs

The benchmark programs themselves can be written in any language. The only requirement is that the benchmark programs honor a certain format for receiving command-line arguments and printing measurements.

Command-line arguments

The program must receive arguments as lists of key-value pairs. The format must be as follows:

-key1 value1 -key2 value2 ...

Flag arguments of the form --flag are also allowed.

Special characters such as commas and dashes must not appear in the strings of the keys and values.

Program output

The program must print measurements to stdout in lists of key-value pairs in the following format:

key1 value1
key2 value2

Keys and values may be separated by one or more spaces or by tabs.

Output that deviates from this format cannot be parsed by the pplot tool.

Example: Fibonacci benchmark program

The following example command-line program honors our conventions.

$ make -C examples/basic fib
$ examples/basic/fib -algo recursive -n 39
result     102334155
exectime   0.495086

The command-line tools

The documentation of the prun tool can be found in and that of the pplot tool in

Writing custom benchmarking scripts

We have created an example script to demonstrate basic use of our library. The script (and the rest of our library) is written in ocaml. At least an intermediate level of expertise in ocaml is essential to write custom scripts.

The example script is named and can be found in the top-level folder of the pbench source tree. The associated file named provides documentation of the command-line usage of the script. Although the source of the document is suitable for reading, the document can alternatively be rendered and read as a PDF file by the following command.

make example.pdf

To build the ocaml script, namely example.byte, make the following build command.

make example.byte

The documentation explains the usage of the program.

For more advanced examples, see and