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Beyond FLOPS: The co-evolving world of computer benchmarking

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Computer designers and benchmarks depend on each other.

It used to be simple: Multiply the microprocessor's clock rate by four, and you could measure a computer's computational power in megaFLOPS (millions of floating point operations per second) or gigaFLOPS (billions of FLOPS.)

No more. Today they're talking about teraFLOPS (trillions) and petaFLOPS (quadrillions) -- which brings up an important question: How do you benchmark these much-more-powerful systems?

"The majority of modern processors are systems on a chip and that has completely muddied the water," says Gabe Gravning, director of product marketing at AMD. An x86 microprocessor may actually include multiple processor cores, multiple graphics co-processors, a video encoder and decoder, an audio co-processor and an ARM-based security co-processor, he explains.

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