Why did AMD quit BAPCo board: Poor Bulldozer performance on SYSmark 2012 or Intel bias?

The latest dust-up in the AMD-versus-Intel never-ending conflict concerns BAPCo, a consortium of tech companies that releases a set of benchmarks, including, most importantly, SYSmark. This week, AMD quit the BAPCo board, and speculation over why has run rampant ever since.

The latest dust-up in the AMD-versus-Intel never-ending conflict concerns BAPCo, a consortium of tech companies that releases a set of benchmarks, including, most importantly, SYSmark. This week, AMD quit the BAPCo board, and speculation over why has run rampant ever since.

Officially, AMD claims that the latest version of SYSmark, the just-released SYSmark 2012, fails to keep up with current computing trends and ignores the increasing role the GPU plays in computing tasks. Since AMD is trying to differentiate itself from Intel by boosting the GPU in its new chip designs, SYSmark's reliance on just the CPU, in AMD's opinion, doesn't reflect everyday computing performance.

That's the official word. But conspiracy theorists think there's more to the story than just that. Most sensationally, Bright Side of News has run a piece with startling claims from "unnamed sources," most notably that AMD decided to pull out of BAPCo because its forthcoming Bulldozer chips delivered underwhelming performance on SYSmark 2012, and that the company has spent resources toward surreptitiously undermining BAPCo through negative PR campaigns. According to the piece, AMD's paranoia about SYSmark is related to the benchmark's role in securing government contracts and the chip company's fear that it won't win new contracts with poor SYSmark 2012 results.

AMD supporters not only question the veracity of that report, but also point out that Nvidia and Via have recently quit the BAPCo board as well. That, fanboys argue, is proof that this isn't just a case of sour grapes for AMD, but a sign that chip companies are tired of Intel's dominance of the BAPCo benchmark-creation process. Those companies also have a stake in the GPU game, where Intel has a performance disadvantage. BAPCo detractors point to allegations that Intel has been able to write the code for BAPCo benchmarks in the past and requires BAPCo to use its code compiler as proof that AMD and other chip makers will never get a fair shake on SYSmark.

For its part, BAPCo claims that AMD voted in favor of more than 80 percent of SYSmark 2012's development milestones, and that BAPCo unanimously accepted all of AMD's proposals.

So is AMD being a "big baby" for quitting BAPCo, or has Intel's purported influence over SYSmark just reached the breaking point for other semiconductor companies? Either way, there will now be even more scrutiny over which benchmarks reviewers use to measure new processors, like AMD's Bulldozers, and what those results are. Obviously, AMD needs its Llano and Bulldozer chips to test as competitively as possible to blunt Intel's sales advantage with its Sandy Bridge processors. But what "competitively" means and how it's measured will now draw more attention than ever.

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