Velocity 2008

I just got back from 3 days of conferences - 2 days at Velocity and one at Structure '08. The Velocity Conference was billed as the 1st conference devoted exclusively to web performance and operations. And the sessions did live up to this. They had over 700 attendees which is not bad for the first time.


Being a performance person, I chose to mostly attend the performance sessions. What I found was that  the sessions were heavily geared towards the client-side. There were sessions on how to tune your javascript, images, reduce network traffic etc. - all trying to reduce the end-user response time.


Our session was of course on tuning the server-side. There was another one on squid/varnish and mysql sharding - but beyond that, client was King.


Since I'm personally focused on the server-side,  this got me thinking. It may indeed be true that the bulk of the response time seen by the user is dominated by javascript, images, ad rendering, network etc., but it shouldn't lead one to think that by fixing these issues, the server-side will magically perform better.  If anything, it will get worse (due to increased load now possible from a more-efficient client). If the server-side doesn't scale, no matter how much you tune your client-side, your application will not scale and/or perform.


One thing to note is that the people giving these talks on client-side are from the likes of yahoo, google, Microsoft. They have obviously finished with the server-side tuning and then had an ah-ah moment when after all that tuning, they realized that the end-user response time was still bad, and so have shifted their focus to client-side issues.


But if you're a startup or have just started deploying your application, I think the server-side should still remain the first area of focus. If your application isn't designed right or the web stack/server stack isn't tuned, you will not get far. As an example, running apache on Linux without any tuning will barely support a couple of hundred connections. When you get to the point where you're comfortable that the server stack can handle load and scale reasonably, then yes, by all means shift your focus to the client-side.


Ideally, you would attack both at the same time - but probably noone has the resources to focus on everything at the same time.


So, if server-side issues are still plaguing you, please feel free to check out our presentation.

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About

I'm a Senior Staff Engineer in the Performance & Applications Engineering Group (PAE). This blog focuses on tips to build, configure, tune and measure performance of popular open source web applications on Solaris.

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