STREAM Logo (Image)Department of Computer Science
School of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

FAQ's


What is STREAM?

The STREAM benchmark is a simple synthetic benchmark program that measures sustainable memory bandwidth (in MB/s) and the corresponding computation rate for simple vector kernels. 

Why should I care?

Computer cpus are getting faster much more quickly than computer memory systems. As this progresses, more and more programs will be limited in performance by the memory bandwidth of the system, rather than by the computational performance of the cpu.

As an extreme example, several current high-end machines run simple arithmetic kernels for out-of-cache operands at 4-5% of their rated peak speeds --- that means that they are spending 95-96% of their time idle and waiting for cache misses to be satisfied.

The STREAM benchmark is specifically designed to work with datasets much larger than the available cache on any given system, so that the results are (presumably) more indicative of the performance of very large, vector style applications.

If you want more words, I have written a paper on STREAM: Sustainable Memory Bandwidth in Current High Performance Computers

A somewhat broader look on the issue, see my paper: Memory Bandwidth and Machine Balance in Current High Performance Computers. STREAM is also a useful component of models for scaling of homogeneous throughput workloads (like the SPEC CPU "rate" benchmarks). Examples of models based on STREAM measurements that do a pretty good job of estimating SPECfp_rate2000 scaling are included in several presentations.


Getting Started

STREAM is relatively easy to run, though there are bazillions of variations in operating systems and hardware, so it is hard for any set of instructions to be comprehensive.

It is strongly recommended that you compile the STREAM benchmark from the source code (either Fortran or C).

If it is not possible to compile the code yourself there are a few obsolete precompiled binaries that might work. Most of these are very old and even if they run they are unlikely to give good performance (because they use old instruction sets) and are unlikely to obey the current STREAM run rules (because the arrays are too small given the cache sizes on current processors).

If there is not a precompiled binary, then you have to compile the code.

Run Rules

The run rules for a compliant "standard" STREAM benchmark run are contained here and in comments in the source code.
  1. You are free to use this program and/or to redistribute this program.
  2. You are free to modify this program for your own use, including commercial use, subject to the publication restrictions in item 3.
  3. You are free to publish results obtained from running this program, or from works that you derive from this program, with the following limitations:
    1. In order to be referred to as "STREAM benchmark results", published results must be in conformance to the STREAM Run Rules, (briefly reviewed below) published at STREAM FAQ and incorporated herein by reference.
    2. As the copyright holder, John McCalpin retains the right to determine conformity with the Run Rules.
    3. Results based on modified source code or on runs not in accordance with the STREAM Run Rules must be clearly labelled whenever they are published. Examples of proper labelling include:
      • "tuned STREAM benchmark results"
      • "based on a variant of the STREAM benchmark code"
      Other comparable, clear, and reasonable labelling is acceptable.
    4. Submission of results to the STREAM benchmark web site is encouraged, but not required.
  4. Use of this program or creation of derived works based on this program constitutes acceptance of these licensing restrictions.
  5. Absolutely no warranty is expressed or implied.

Uniprocessor Runs

If you want to run STREAM on a single processor, then you are in luck -- it is an easy thing to do.  Grab the source code from the source code directory.  You will need the main STREAM code in either Fortran or C, and you will need a timer code.  For Unix/Linux systems, the timer code included in the C version (and also provided separately in the file "mysecond.c" works fine.  Some systems provide higher resolution timers -- check with the documentation on your own unix/linux box to see what you have access to.....
Please note that I generally reject new measurements based on "cpu timers" (even for uniprocessor runs) because of both poor resolution and systematic inaccuracies in the this function on many/most systems. Wall clock timers are much more reliable.

There are a number of versions of the STREAM code code in both FORTRAN and C. The most recent versions are named "stream.f" and "stream.c" (shocking!). (I use STREAM in uppercase as the name of the benchmark, but I prefer not to use uppercase for file names that I have to type often, so I have left those in lowercase.)

Simple Compilation Instructions

First you need to get either the C code or the FORTRAN code plus the external timer code.
On most Linux systems, you can compile a standard-conforming (single cpu) version of STREAM with the simple command:
gcc -O stream.c -o stream
Please let me know if this does not work!

In FORTRAN, the corresponding compilation is either:

gcc -c mysecond.c
g77 -O stream.f mysecond.o -o stream
or sometimes
gcc -c -DUNDERSCORE mysecond.c
g77 -O stream.f mysecond.o -o stream
Please let me know if either of these does not work!

A note about optimization of results:

The STREAM run rules allow some flexibility in the runs (as discussed in the Detailed Run Rules below). The arrays are required to be much larger than the largest cache(s) used, but the offset between the arrays can be set to any (non-negative) value. The default array size is 2 million elements (which is large enough to satisfy the run rules for systems with caches of up to 4 MB -- i.e., most current computer systems), and the default offset is 0 elements.
Many people have obtained improved results by fiddling with the offset variable (OFFSET -- defined at line 59 of "stream.c"). It is very hard to give guidance here because every computer family has slightly different details for memory conflicts --- experimentation is a much easier way to get good results than detailed understanding!

Multiprocessor Runs

If you want to run STREAM on multiple processors, then the situation is not quite so easy.

First, you need to figure out how to run the code in parallel. There are several choices here: OpenMP, pthreads, and MPI.

  1. OpenMP: The standard STREAM codes in FORTRAN and C now include OpenMP directives. So if you have a compiler that supports OpenMP, all you have to do is figure out what flag(s) are used to enable OpenMP compilation and what environment variables are needed to control the number of processors/threads used. Unfortunately, command line options differ on essentially all compilers. RTFM.
  2. MPI: If you want multi-processor results, but you have a cluster or do not have an OpenMP compiler, you might consider the MPI version of STREAM ("stream_mpi.f", in the "Versions" subdirectory). This will require that you have MPI support installed (something like MPICH), but that is a very large topic that I don't have time to address here.
    Not many MPI results are currently posted, mostly because the results are obvious -- unless something is very wrong, the performance of a cluster will be the performance of a node times the number of nodes. STREAM does not attempt to measure the performance of the cluster network -- it is only used to help control the timers.
    One benchmark that uses an MPI version of STREAM is the HPC Challenge Benchmark, targetted at big supercomputing clusters. The web site is http://icl.cs.utk.edu/hpcc.
  3. Some folks have done their own pthreads implementations. I can't vouch for these (and will not accept them as "standard" results unless I can find the motivation to look over the implementations and convince myself that they are measuring the same thing as the standard versions).

Second, you need to adjust the problem size so that the data is not cacheable. You have to add up the caches used by all the processors that you are going to use.


A Non-Standard Hack:
If you have no threads support and you want to see how bandwidth scales in a multiprocessor system, you can try the following hack: Note that results using this hack are not "standard" STREAM benchmark numbers, and I will not publish them in the tables, but they will give you an idea of the throughput of the memory system under test.

Adjust the Problem Size

STREAM is intended to measure the bandwidth from main memory.  It can, of course, be used to measure cache bandwidth as well, but that is not what I have been publishing at the web site.  Maybe someday....
 


So, for a uniprocessor machine with a 256kB L2 cache (like an older PentiumIII, for example), each array needs to be at least 128k elements.   This is smaller than the standard test size of 2,000,000 elements, which is appropriate for systems with 4 MB L2 caches.   There should be relatively little difference in the performance of different sizes once the size of each array becomes significantly larger than the cache size, but since there are some differences (typically associated with TLB reach), for comparability I require that results even for small cache machines use 1 million elements whenever possible.  This requires only 22 MB, so it should be workable on even a 32 MB machine.

If this size requirement is a problem and you are interested in submitting results on a system that cannot meet this criterion, e-mail me and we can discuss the issues.

For an automatically parallelized run on (for example) 16 cpus, each with 8 MB L2 caches, the problem size must be increased to at least N=64,000,000.   This will require a lot of memory!  (about 1.5 GB). If you get much bigger than this, you will need to compile with 64-bit addressing. For systems using the 64-bit extensions to the x86 instruction set you will need to use 64-bit pointer offsets using the compiler flag "-mcmodel=medium". Once N exceeds 31 bits (slightly over 2 billion), you will need to be sure to use 64-bit integers. This is automatically handled by stream.c on 64-bit systems -- I have not yet upgraded the Fortran version to ensure that it will handle such large cases correctly.

What about the "tuned" category?

The "tuned" category has been added to allow users or vendors to submit results based on modified source code. The benchmark is required to maintain the data flow of the original source code (to prevent compilers from optimizing away the benchmark). For C code, the standard "stream.c" contains a C preprocessor variable "TUNED" which, if defined, will cause the code to call separate functions to perform each of the four kernels. For Fortran, an analogous example is provided at sample harness If you submit "tuned" results, please provide a brief explanation of the tuning approach. In some cases I might have more questions, but it is generally quite easy to determine whether the results are plausible on the platform under test. The purpose here is not to be picky -- I am mostly concerned that the changes do not accidentally defeat the purpose of the benchmark.
This category explicitly allows assembly-language coded kernels. I put the kernels inside separate subroutines to make this more convenient.

Who is responsible for STREAM?

STREAM was created and is maintained by John McCalpin, mccalpin@cs.virginia.edu.

NOTICE and DISCLAIMER

The STREAM benchmark was developed while McCalpin was on the faculty at the University of Delaware. After three years at SGI, six years at IBM, and three years at AMD, I am now employed by the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin, where I work on on performance analysis of applications on TACC's major systems, and on technology issues related to advanced and novel computing architectures. The STREAM benchmark remains an independent academic project, which will not be influenced or directed by commercial concerns. In order to maintain this independence, the STREAM benchmark is hosted here at U.Va. under the sponsorship of Professor Alan Batson and Professor William Wulf

How can I help?

Contributions are always welcome!!!!

STREAM has become a useful and important benchmark because lots of results are available. Please help us keep up with this rapidly changing market. If you have access to a new machine that is not listed here, give STREAM a try!

(See the Archives for the source code and comma-delimited database files with the raw data in them.) 


Citing STREAM

Papers citing the STREAM Benchmark in general should refer to:
I do not have a link to the published version of the paper, but the submitted version is available.

Papers citing specific STREAM benchmark results that are published at this site should (also) include a reference such as:

BibTex versions of the citations:
@ARTICLE{McCalpin1995,
  author = {John D. McCalpin},
  title = {Memory Bandwidth and Machine Balance in Current High Performance
	Computers},
  journal = {IEEE Computer Society Technical Committee on Computer Architecture
	(TCCA) Newsletter},
  year = {1995},
  pages = {19--25},
  month = dec,
  abstract = {The ratio of cpu speed to memory speed in current high-performance
	computers is growing rapidly, with significant implications for the
	design and implementation of algorithms in scientific computing.
	I present the results of a broad survey of memory bandwidth and machine
	balance for a large variety of current computers, including uniprocessors,
	vector processors, shared-memory systems, and districuted-memory
	systems. The results are analyzed in terms of the sustainable data
	transfer rates for uncached unit-stride vector operation for each
	machine, and for each class.},
  pdf = {http://tab.computer.org/tcca/NEWS/DEC95/dec95_mccalpin.ps}
}

@TECHREPORT{McCalpin2007,
  author = {John D. McCalpin},
  title = {STREAM: Sustainable Memory Bandwidth in High Performance Computers},
  institution = {University of Virginia},
  year = {1991-2007},
  address = {Charlottesville, Virginia},
  note = {A continually updated technical report.
http://www.cs.virginia.edu/stream/},
  url = {http://www.cs.virginia.edu/stream/}
}

Future Directions for STREAM?

Extensions of the STREAM benchmark for the future are currently being considered. The main issues that need to be addressed are: A "second-generation" STREAM benchmark (STREAM2) is being evaluated, with the source code and some results available at the STREAM2 page.   STREAM2 emphases measurements across all levels of the memory hierarchy, and tries to focus on the difference between read and write performance in memory systems.

Counting Bytes and FLOPS

It may be surprising, but there are at least three different ways to count Bytes for a benchmark like STREAM, and unfortunately all three are in common use!

The three conventions for counting can be called:


Why does it do this?
It does it so that there will be a single copy of the cache line in the system for which all the bytes are current and valid.   If you only wrote 1/2 the bytes in the cache line, for example, the result would have to be merged with the other 1/2 of the bytes from memory.  The best place to do this is in the cache, so the data is loaded there first and life is much simpler.
 

The table below shows how many Bytes and FLOPs are counted in each iteration of the STREAM loops.
The test consists of multiple repetitions of four the kernels, and the best results of (typically) 10 trials are chosen.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------
    name        kernel                  bytes/iter      FLOPS/iter
    ------------------------------------------------------------------
    COPY:       a(i) = b(i)                 16              0
    SCALE:      a(i) = q*b(i)               16              1
    SUM:        a(i) = b(i) + c(i)          24              1
    TRIAD:      a(i) = b(i) + q*c(i)        24              2
    ------------------------------------------------------------------
So you need to be careful comparing "MB/s" from different sources.  STREAM always uses the same approach, and always counts only the bytes that the user program requested to be loaded or stored, so results are always directly comparable.

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