Analysis: The death of BapCo and SYSmark
The recent pull out of AMD from BapCo and SYSmark certainly has a lot of drama associated with it.
From where I'm standing, BapCo and SYSmark became obsolete as soon as AMD decided to take a different path. Indeed, when AMD diverged from the CPU-centric path that has historically defined the foundation, SYSmark essentially crumbled. Without the foundation, this benchmark no long had any real meaning.
Think about it: is SYSmark a failure because it couldn't even run on an iPad? Of course not.
Well, how about if you had applied a Mainframe benchmark to UNIX boxes? Clearly, they wouldn’t pass. Similarly, if you published the results of a Windows Benchmark on a Mac you'd definitely have to hide from Apple fans.
Remember, SYSmark only worked because Intel and AMD agreed on what a PC should be. As soon as they stopped agreeing it was done, finished and uncermoniously rendered obsolete. Let’s explore the nature of benchmarks, and specifically, collaborative benchmarks like SYSmark.
For example, if we all bought cars based on just gas mileage or performance alone and used the same combination of both we’d all be driving identical cars. In fact, companies that buy fleet motorcycles and cars rarely pick the same ones, although BMW has been rather impressive with police motorcycles of late.
This is because some want more room, a different look, convertible top, different interior options or favor a particular brand because they trust it. Subjective measures are balanced against objective benchmarks like gas mileage and 0 to 60 times based on how the buyer expects to drive the car.
The end result was that Intel and AMD actually agreed on parameters that may not have reflected either’s view of the real world - but did provide a balanced view of mutual technology. But AMD, which has always been substantially smaller and less well funded than Intel, recognized they could never get out of Santa Clara's shadow and bought ATI to change the game.
AMD’s new Fusion is vastly different than anything SYSmark was originally created to measure. Even though Intel has a similar platform, their weighing of performance in their GPU/CPU blend favors the CPU while AMD’s favors the GPU.
This effectively means the two industry heavyweights are no longer able to longer agree on what defines performance, any more that a gas car company and an electric - or more accurately a hybrid car company - could.
Now if both are building hybrids, they could theoretically agree, but hybrids are much more expensive and tend to underperform gas cars so they tend to increasingly be compared to each other.
Although in this particular case, for AMD it simply made no sense to fund or co-brand a benchmark that didn’t reflect their product - in their opinion - in a fair light. As I noted above, if cooperation breaks down, the product is dead. Here, the collaboration ended, AMD changed, no one is really at fault, the market moved and SYSmark couldn’t move with it.
Really, you should define your needs based on what you want to do and SYSmark hasn’t helped me in years. Choosing any product should start with what you want, not what anyone else thinks you should have. SYSmark no longer helps with that, and if you doubt me, try it on an iPad.