Encyclopedia of Big Data Technologies

Living Edition
| Editors: Sherif Sakr, Albert Zomaya

Analytics Benchmarks

  • Todor IvanovEmail author
  • Roberto V. Zicari
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-63962-8_113-1



The meaning of the word benchmark is (Andersen and Pettersen 1995) A predefined position, used as a reference point for taking measures against. There is no clear formal definition of analytics benchmarks.

Jim Gray (1992) describes the benchmarking as follows: “This quantitative comparison starts with the definition of a benchmark or workload. The benchmark is run on several different systems, and the performance and price of each system is measured and recorded. Performance is typically a throughput metric (work/second) and price is typically a five-year cost-of-ownership metric. Together, they give a price/performance ratio.” In short, we define that a software benchmark is a program used for comparison of software products/tools executing on a pre-configured hardware environment.

Analytics benchmarks are a type of domain-specific benchmark targeting analytics for databases, transaction processing, and big data systems. Originally, the TPC (Transaction Processing Performance Council) (TPC 2018) defined online transaction processing (OLTP) (TPC-A and TPC-B) and decision support (DS) benchmarks (TPC-D and TPC-H). The DS systems can be seen as some sort of special online analytical processing (OLAP) system with an example of the TPC-DS benchmark, which is a successor of TPC-H (Nambiar and Poess 2006) and specifies many OLAP and data mining queries, which are the predecessors of the current analytics benchmarks. However, due to the many new emerging data platforms like hybrid transaction/analytical processing (HTAP) (Kemper and Neumann 2011; Özcan et al. 2017), distributed parallel processing engines (Sakr et al. 2013; Hadoop 2018; Spark 2018; Flink 2018; Carbone et al. 2015, etc.), Big data management (AsterixDB 2018; Alsubaiee et al. 2014), SQL-on-Hadoop-alike (Abadi et al. 2015; Hive 2018; Thusoo et al. 2009; SparkSQL 2018; Armbrust et al. 2015; Impala 2018; Kornacker et al. 2015, etc.), and analytics systems (Hu et al. 2014) integrating machine learning (MLlib 2018; Meng et al. 2016; MADlib 2018; Hellerstein et al. 2012), Deep Learning (Tensorflow 2018) and more, the emerging benchmarks try to follow the trend to stress these new system features. This makes the currently standardized benchmarks (such as TPC-C, TPC-H, etc.) only partially relevant for the emerging big data management systems as they offer new features that require new analytics benchmarks.


This chapter reviews the evolution of the analytics benchmarks and their current state today (as of 2017). It starts overview of the most relevant benchmarking organizations their benchmark standards and outlines the latest benchmark development and initiatives targeting the emerging Big Data Analytics systems. Last but not least the typical benchmark components are described as well as the different goals that these benchmarks try to achieve.

Historical Background


In the end of the 1970s, many businesses started implementing transaction-based systems (Rockart et al. 1982), which later became known as the term online transaction processing (OLTP) systems and represent the instant interaction between the user and the data management system. This type of transaction processing systems became a key part of the companies’ operational infrastructure and motivated TPC (TPC 2018) to target these systems in their first formal benchmark specification. At the same time, the decision support systems (DSS) evolved significantly and became a standard tool for the enterprises that assisted in the human decision-making (Shim et al. 2002).

In the early 1990s, a different type of system, called online analytical processing (OLAP) systems by Codd et al. (1993), was used by the enterprises to dynamically manipulate and synthesize historic information. The historic data was aggregated from the OLTP systems, and through the application of dynamic analysis, the users were able to gain important knowledge for the operational activities over longer periods of time.

Over the years, the DS systems were enhanced by the use of the OLAP systems (Shim et al. 2002). They became an essential decision-making tool for the enterprise management and a core element of the company infrastructure. With the wide adaption of multipurpose database systems to build both an OLTP and DS system, the need for standardized database benchmarks arose. This resulted in an intense competition between database vendors to dominate the market, which leads to the need of domain-specific benchmarks to stress the database software. The use of sample workloads together with a bunch of metrics was not enough to guarantee the product capabilities in a transparent way. Another arising issue was the use of benchmarks for benchmarketing. It happens when a company uses a particular benchmark to highlight the strengths of its product and hide its weaknesses and then promotes the benchmark as a “standard,” often without disclosing the details of the benchmark (Gray 1992). All of these opened the gap for standardized benchmarks that are formally specified by recognized expert organizations. Therefore, a growing number of organizations are working on defining and standardizing of benchmarks. They operate as consortia of public and private organizations and define domain-specific benchmarks, price, and performance metrics, measuring and reporting rules as well as formal validation and auditing rules.


The TPC (Transaction Processing Performance Council) (TPC 2018) is a nonprofit corporation operating as an industry consortium of vendors that define transaction processing, database, and big data system benchmarks. TPC was formed on August 10, 1988, by eight companies convinced by Omri Serlin (TPC 2018). In November 1989 was published the first standard benchmark TPC-A with 42-page specification (Gray 1992). By late 1990, there were 35 member companies. As of 2017, TPC has 21 company members and 3 associate members. There are 6 obsolete benchmarks (TPC-A, TPC-App, TPC-B, TPC-D, TPC-R, and TPC-W), 14 active benchmarks (TPC-C (Raab 1993), TPC-E (Hogan 2009), TPC-H (Pöss and Floyd 2000), TPC-DS (Poess et al. 2017; Pöss et al. 2007; Nambiar and Poess 2006), TPC-DI (Poess et al. 2014), TPC-V (Sethuraman and Taheri 2010), TPCx-HS (Nambiar 2014), TPCx-BB (Ghazal et al. 2013)), and 2 common specifications (pricing and energy) used across all benchmarks. Table 1 lists the active TPC benchmarks grouped by domain.
Table 1

Active TPC benchmarks (TPC 2018)

Benchmark domain

Specification name

Transaction processing (OLTP)


Decision support (OLAP)




Big data




Common specifications

TPC-pricing, TPC-energy


The SPEC (Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation) (SPEC 2018) is a nonprofit corporation formed to establish, maintain, and endorse standardized benchmarks and tools to evaluate performance and energy efficiency for the newest generation of computing systems. It was founded in 1988 by a small number of workstation vendors. The SPEC organization is an umbrella organization that covers four groups (each with their own benchmark suites, rules, and dues structure): the Open Systems Group (OSG), the High-Performance Group (HPG), the Graphics and Workstation Performance Group (GWPG), and the SPEC Research Group (RG). As of 2017, there are around 19 active SPEC benchmarks listed in Table 2.
Table 2

Active SPEC benchmarks (SPEC 2018)

Benchmark domain

Specification name


SPEC cloud IaaS 2016



Graphics and workstation performance

SPECapc for solidWorks 2015, SPECapc for siemens NX 9.0 and 10.0, SPECapc for PTC Creo 3.0, SPECapc for 3ds Max 2015, SPECwpc V2.1, SPECviewperf 12.1

High-performance computing, OpenMP, MPI, OpenACC, OpenCL


Java client/server

SPECjvm2008, SPECjms2007, SPECjEnterprise2010, SPECjbb2015




SPECpower ssj2008




The STAC Benchmark Council (STAC 2018) consists of over 300 financial institutions and more than 50 vendor organizations whose purpose is to explore technical challenges and solutions in financial services and to develop technology benchmark standards that are useful to financial organizations. Since 2007, the council is working on benchmarks targeting fast data, big data, and big compute workloads in the finance industry. As of 2017, there are around 11 active benchmarks listed in Table 3.
Table 3

Active STAC benchmarks (STAC 2018)

Benchmark domain

Specification name

Feed handlers


Data distribution


Tick analytics


Event processing


Risk computation




Trade execution




Time sync


Big data


Network I/O


Other historical benchmark organizations and consortia are The Perfect Club (Gray 1992; Hockney 1996) and the Parkbench Committee (Hockney 1996).

Big Data Technologies

In the recent years, many emerging data technologies have become popular, trying to solve the challenges posed by the new big data and Internet of things application scenarios. In a historical overview of the trends in data management technologies, Nambiar et al. (2012) highlight the role of big data technologies and how they are currently changing the industry. One such technology is the NoSQL storage engines (Cattell 2011) which relax the ACID (atomicity, consistency, isolation, durability) guarantees but offer faster data access via distributed and fault-tolerant architecture. There are different types of NoSQL engines (key value, column, graph, and documents stores) covering different data representations.

In the meantime, many new dig data technologies such as (1) Apache Hadoop (2018) with HDFS and MapReduce; (2) general parallel processing engines like Spark (2018) and Flink (2018); (3) SQL-on-Hadoop systems like Hive (2018) and Spark SQL (2018); (4) real-time stream processing engines like Storm (2018), Spark Streaming (2018) and Flink; and (5) graph engines on top of Hadoop like GraphX (2018) and Flink Gelly (2015) have emerged. All these tools enabled advanced analytical techniques from data science, machine learning, data mining, and deep learning to become common practices in many big data domains. Because of all these analytical techniques, which are currently integrated in many different ways in both traditional database and new big data management systems, it is hard to define the exact features that a successor of the DS/OLAP systems should have.

Big Data Analytics Benchmarks

Following the big data technology trends, many new benchmarks for big data analytics have emerged. Good examples for OLTP benchmarks targeting the NoSQL engines are the Yahoo! Cloud Serving Benchmark (short YCSB), developed by Yahoo, and LinkBench developed by Facebook, described in Table 4. However, most big data benchmarks stress the capabilities of Hadoop as the major big data platform, as listed in Table 5. Others like BigFUN (Pirzadeh et al. 2015) and BigBench (Ghazal et al. 2013) are technology-independent. For example, BigBench (standardized as TPCx-BB) addresses the Big Data 3V’s characteristics and relies on workloads which can be implemented by different SQL-on-Hadoop systems and parallel processing engines supporting advanced analytics and machine learning libraries. Since there are no clear boundaries for the analytical capabilities of the new big data systems, it is also hard to formally specify what is an analytics benchmark.
Table 4

OLTP benchmarks


Benchmark description

YCSB (Cooper et al. 2010; Patil et al. 2011)

A benchmark designed to compare emerging cloud serving systems like Cassandra, HBase, MongoDB, Riak, and many more, which do not support ACID. It provides a core package of six predefined workloads A–F, which simulate a cloud OLTP application

LinkBench (Armstrong et al. 2013)

A benchmark, developed by Facebook, using synthetic social graph to emulate social graph workload on top of databases such as MySQL and MongoDB

Table 5

DS/OLAP/Analytics benchmarks


Benchmark description

MRBench (Kim et al. 2008)

Implementing the TPC-H benchmark queries directly in map and reduce operations

CALDA (Pavlo et al. 2009)

It consists of five tasks defined as SQL queries among which is the original MR Grep task, which is a representative for most real user MapReduce programs

AMP lab big data benchmark (AMPLab 2013)

A benchmark based on CALDA and HiBench, implemented on five SQL-on-Hadoop engines (RedShift, Hive, Stinger/Tez, Shark, and Impala)

BigBench (Ghazal et al. 2013)

An end-to-end big data benchmark that represents a data model simulating the volume, velocity, and variety characteristics of a big data system, together with a synthetic data generator for structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data, consisting of 30 queries

BigFrame (BigFrame 2013)

BigFrame is a benchmark generator offering a benchmarking-as-a-service solution for big data analytics

PRIMEBALL (Ferrarons et al. 2013)

A novel and unified benchmark specification for comparing the parallel processing frameworks in the context of big data applications hosted in the cloud. It is implementation- and technology-agnostic, using a fictional news hub called New Pork Times, based on a popular real-life news site

BigFUN (Pirzadeh et al. 2015)

It is based on a social network use case with synthetic semi- structured data in JSON format. The benchmark focuses exclusively on micro-operation level and consists of queries with various operations such as simple retrieves, range scans, aggregations, and joins, as well as inserts and updates

BigBench V2 (Ghazal et al. 2017)

BigBench V2 separates from TPC-DS with a simple data model, consisting only of six tables. The new data model still has the variety of structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data as the original BigBench data model. The semi-structured data (weblogs) are generated in JSON logs. New queries replace all the TPC-DS queries and preserve the initial number of 30 queries

A different type of benchmark, called benchmark suites, has become very popular. Their goal is to package a number of micro-benchmarks or representative domain workloads together and in this way enable the users to easily test the systems for the different functionalities. Some of these suites target one technology like SparkBench (Li et al. 2015; Agrawal et al. 2015), which stresses only Spark, while others like HiBench offer implementations for multiple processing engines. Table 6 lists some popular big data benchmarking suites.
Table 6

Big data benchmark suites


Benchmark description

MRBS (Sangroya et al. 2012)

A comprehensive benchmark suite for evaluating the performance of MapReduce systems in five areas: recommendations, BI (TPC-H), bioinformatics, text processing, and data mining

HiBench (Huang et al. 2010)

A comprehensive benchmark suite consisting of multiple workloads including both synthetic micro-benchmarks and real-world applications. It features several ready-to-use benchmarks from 4 categories: micro benchmarks, Web search, machine learning, and HDFS benchmarks

CloudSuite (Ferdman et al. 2012)

A benchmark suite consisting of both emerging scale-out workloads and traditional benchmarks. The goal of the benchmark suite is to analyze and identify key inefficiencies in the processors core micro-architecture and memory system organization when running todays cloud workloads

CloudRank-D (Luo et al. 2012)

A benchmark suite for evaluating the performance of cloud computing systems running big data applications. The suite consists of 13 representative data analysis tools, which are designed to address a diverse set of workload data and computation characteristics (i.e., data semantics, data models and data sizes, the ratio of the size of data input to that of data output)

BigDataBench (Wang et al. 2014)

An open-source big data benchmark suite consisting of 15 data sets (of different types) and more than 33 workloads. It is a large effort organized in China available with a toolkit that adopts different other benchmarks

SparkBench (Li et al. 2015; Agrawal et al. 2015)

SparkBench, developed by IBM, is a comprehensive Spark-specific benchmark suite that comprises of four main workload categories: machine learning, graph processing, streaming, and SQL queries.

A more detailed overview of the current big data benchmarks is provided in a SPEC Big Data Research Group survey by Ivanov et al. (2015) and a journal publication by Han et al. (2018).


In the last 40 years, the OLTP and DS/OLAP systems have been the industry standard systems for data storage and management. Therefore, all popular TPC benchmarks were specified in these areas. The majority TPC benchmark specifications (Poess 2012) have the following main components:
  • Preamble – Defines the benchmark domain and the high level requirements.

  • Database Design – Defines the requirements and restrictions for implementing the database schema.

  • Workload – Characterizes the simulated workload.

  • ACID – Atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability requirements.

  • Workload scaling – Defines tools and methodology on how to scale the workloads.

  • Metric/Execution rules – Defines how to execute the benchmark and how to calculate and derive the metrics.

  • Benchmark driver – Defines the requirements for implementing the benchmark driver/program.

  • Full disclosure report – Defines what needs to be reported and how to organize the disclosure report.

  • Audit requirements – Defines the requirements for performing a successful auditing process.

The above structure was typical for the OLTP and DS/OLAP benchmarks defined by TPC, but due to the emerging hybrid OLTP/OLAP systems and big data technologies, these trends have changed (Bog 2013) adapting the new system features. For example, the database schema and ACID properties are not anymore a key requirement in the NoSQL and big data management systems and are replaced by more general one like system under test (SUT). For example, new categories in TPCx-BB are:
  • System under test – Describes the system architecture with its hardware and software components and their configuration requirements.

  • Pricing – Defines the pricing of the components in the system under test including the system maintenance.

  • Energy – Defines the methodology, rules, and metrics to measure the energy consumption of the system under test in the TPC benchmarks.

The above components are part of the standard TPC benchmark specifications and are not representative for the entire analytics benchmarks spectrum. Many of the newly defined big data benchmarks are open-source programs. However, the main characteristics of a good domain-specific benchmark are still the same. Jim Gray (1992) defined four important criteria that domain-specific benchmarks must meet:
  • Relevant: It must measure the peak performance and price/performance of systems when performing typical operations within that problem domain.

  • Portable: It should be easy to implement the benchmark on many different systems and architectures.

  • Scalable: The benchmark should apply to small and large computer systems. It should be possible to scale the benchmark up to larger systems and to parallel computer systems as computer performance and architecture evolve.

  • The benchmark must be understandable/interpretable; otherwise it will lack credibility.

Similarly, Karl Huppler (2009) outlines five key characteristics that all good benchmarks have:
  • Relevant – A reader of the result believes the benchmark reflects something important.

  • Repeatable – There is confidence that the benchmark can be run a second time with the same result.

  • Fair – All systems and/or software being compared can participate equally.

  • Verifiable – There is confidence that the documented result is real.

  • Economical – The test sponsors can afford to run the benchmark.

In reality, many of the new benchmarks (in Tables 4, 5 and 6) do not have clear specifications and do not follow the practices defined by Gray (1992) and Huppler (2009) but just provide a workload implementation that can be used in many scenarios. This opens the challenge that the reported benchmark results are not really comparable and strictly depend on the environment in which they were obtained.

In terms of component specification, the situation looks similar. All TPC benchmarks use synthetic data generators, which allow for scalable and deterministic workload generation. However, many new benchmarks use open data sets or real workload traces like BigDataBench (Wang et al. 2014) or a mix between real data and synthetically generated data. This influences also the metrics reported by these benchmarks. They are often not clearly specified or very simplistic (like execution time) and cannot be used for an accurate comparison between different environments.

The ongoing evolution in the big data systems and the data science, machine learning, and deep learning tools and techniques will open many new challenges and questions in the design and specification of standardized analytics benchmarks. There is a growing need for new standardized big data analytics benchmarks and metrics.

Key Applications

The analytics benchmarks can be used for multiple purposes and in different environments. For example, vendors of database-related products can use them to test the features of their data products both in the process of development and after it is released, to position them in the market. The final benchmarking of a data product is usually done by an accredited organization. For example, TPC and SPEC have certified auditors that perform transparent auditing of the complete benchmarking process. The database and big data system administrators can regularly run benchmarks to ensure that the systems are properly configured and perform as expected. Similarly, system architects and application developers use benchmarks to test and compare the performance of different data storage technologies in the process of choosing the best tool for their requirements. Furthermore, benchmarks can be used for different comparisons as in the four categories defined by Jim Gray 1992:
  • To compare different software and hardware systems: The goal is to use metric reported by the benchmark as a comparable unit for evaluating the performance of different data technologies on different hardware running the same application. This case represents classical competitive situation between hardware vendors.

  • To compare different software on one machine: The goal is to use the benchmark to evaluate the performance of two different software products running on the same hardware environment.This case represents classical competitive situation between software vendors.

  • To compare different machines in a comparable family: The objective is to compare similar hardware environments by running the same software product and application benchmark on each of them. This case represents a comparison of different generations of vendor hardware or for a case comparing of different hardware vendors.

  • To compare different releases of a product on one machine: The objective is to compare different releases of a software product by running benchmark experiments on the same hardware. Ideally the new releases should perform faster (based on the benchmark metric) than its predecessors. This can be also seen as performance regression tests that can assure the new release support all previous system features.



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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Frankfurt Big Data LabGoethe University FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Meikel Poess
    • 1
  • Tilmann Rabl
    • 2
  1. 1.Server TechnologiesOracleRedwood ShoresUSA
  2. 2.Database Systems and Information Management GroupTechnische Universität BerlinBerlinGermany