ENTRIES TAGGED "performance"

Signals from Velocity New York 2014

From the lure of work that matters to building your own device lab, here are key talks from Velocity New York 2014.

Practitioners and experts from the web operations and performance worlds came together in New York City this week for Velocity New York 2014. Below you’ll find a handful of keynotes and interviews from the event that we found particularly notable.


Mikey Dickerson: From Google to HealthCare.gov to the U.S. Digital Service

“These problems are fixable, these problems are important, but they require you to choose to work on them” — Mikey Dickerson looks back on what it took to fix HealthCare.gov and he reveals his reasons for joining the U.S. Digital Service.

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How Flash changes the design of database storage engines

High-performing memory throws many traditional decisions overboard

supermicro_storage

Over the past decade, SSD drives (popularly known as Flash) have radically changed computing at both the consumer level — where USB sticks have effectively replaced CDs for transporting files — and the server level, where it offers a price/performance ratio radically different from both RAM and disk drives. But databases have just started to catch up during the past few years. Most still depend on internal data structures and storage management fine-tuned for spinning disks.

Citing price and performance, one author advised a wide range of database vendors to move to Flash. Certainly, a database administrator can speed up old databases just by swapping out disk drives and inserting Flash, but doing so captures just a sliver of the potential performance improvement promised by Flash. For this article, I asked several database experts — including representatives of Aerospike, Cassandra, FoundationDB, RethinkDB, and Tokutek — how Flash changes the design of storage engines for databases. The various ways these companies have responded to its promise in their database designs are instructive to readers designing applications and looking for the best storage solutions.

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4 Steps to a culture of performance

Guidelines to maximize, allocate, and use resources strategically

Highway Night Photograph Lights Night Lighting. Photo: Pixabay

Highway at night. Photo: Pixabay

Companies that are driven by web performance, like Google, develop a culture of performance from the top-down thanks to performance-minded CEOs. For the majority of organizations, however, this is not the case. Often, it’s up to those working at every day performance monitoring to inform the organization of the business value of a company-wide focus on performance, convince key stakeholders to make real changes to processes and infrastructure, and maintain an ongoing performance-driven culture.

Step one: Build your case

Before you can instill a culture of performance, you first need to demonstrate the value of strong web performance to your colleagues and superiors. To do that, you must build a case based on business standards that everyone can relate to, specifically by demonstrating the clear link between web performance and revenue. Calculate how much revenue you would lose if your site was down for hours, or even minutes. Ask how much time IT spends fixing problems when they could be working on other issues. Figure out what your competitors’ web performance is like and how yours compares (if it’s better, you have to keep up; if it’s worse, it’s an opportunity to take advantage of their weakness).
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It’s time for a web page diet

Site speed is essential to business success, yet many pages are getting bigger and slower.

Illustration of scaleEarlier this year, I was researching online consumer preferences for a client and discovered, somewhat unsurprisingly, that people expect web sites to be fast and responsive, particularly when they’re shopping. What did surprised me, however, were findings in Radware’s “State of the Union Report Spring 2014” (registration required) that showed web sites, on average, were becoming bigger in bytes and slower in response time every year. In fact, the average Alexa 1000 web page has grown from around 780KB and 86 resources in 2011 to more than 1.4MB and 99 resources by the time of the early “2014 State of the Union Winter Report.”

As an experiment, I measured the resources loaded for Amazon.com on my own computer: 2.6MB loaded with 252 requests!

This seemed so odd. Faster is more profitable, yet companies were actually building fatter and slower web sites. What was behind all these bytes? Had web development become so sophisticated that all the technology would bust the seams of the browser window? Read more…

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Roll-your-own database architecture

Making the case for blended architectures in the rapidly evolving universe of advanced analytics.

Kenny_Louie_Squares_Circles

Two years ago, most of the conversations around big data had a futuristic, theoretical vibe. That vibe has been replaced with a gritty sense of practically. Today, when big data or some surrogate term arises in conversation, the talk is likely to focus not on “what if,” but on “how do we get it done?” and “what will it cost?”

Real-time big data analytics and the increasing need for applications capable of handling mixed read/write workloads — as well as transactions and analytics on “hot” data — are putting new pressures on traditional data management architectures.

What’s driving the need for change? There are several factors, including a new class of apps for personalizing the Internet, serving dynamic content, and creating rich user experiences. These apps are data driven, which means they essentially feed on deep data analytics. You’ll need a steady supply of activity history, insights, and transactions, plus the ability to combine historical analytics with hot analytics and read/write transactions. Read more…

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Tailoring CSS for performance

Rethinking CSS delivery

In my last article, I demonstrated how improved performance and a lower PageSpeed Insights score were accomplished by removing unnecessary external JavaScript and CSS requests. YepNope was also used to manage the asynchronous loading of external requests.

After the improvements, I thought it was time to move on but PageSpeed Insights advised there was more work to do.

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Tailoring for performance

One source does not fit all

Like a lot of web teams, O’Reilly’s web group has increased its focus on using global components to better scale maintenance and optimize workflow. From a load-time measurement perspective, our performance ratings stay near benchmarks. However, after a recent analysis, using metrics other than load time, we found that our global efforts may have sacrificed performance on a handful of highly visible and heavily visited web pages.

Identifying the popular pages, we sought to improve the use of global components with server side logic, regex, and asynchronous loading. After re-measuring these popular pages, we arrived at faster load times with improved perception of speed. Read more…

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The altar of shiny

Web design trends often carry hefty performance costs

Web and mobile users continue to expect faster sites and apps–especially when it comes to mobile–and this year I’d like to see people who work on the web spend more time focusing on performance as a user experience priority instead of chasing trends.

I recently ran across this article in Forbes, which lists a number of web design goals/trends that Steve Cooper is eyeing for a site redesign of online magazine Hitched. My intention is not to pick on Hitched or Cooper per se, but the list is a molotov cocktail of potential performance woes:

  • Continuous scrolling
  • Responsive design
  • Parallax sites

You can use most of those techniques without creating performance nightmares, but it is unfortunately rare. I feel like I’m living in an alternate reality where I’m hearing that users want simpler, faster sites, and yet the trends in web design are marching in the opposite direction.

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Four short links: 7 November 2013

Four short links: 7 November 2013

Help Searching, Offline First, AWS Tips, and Awesome Fonts

  1. Learn to Search — cheeky but spot-on help for people running conferences.
  2. Offline Firstno, the mobile connectivity/bandwidth issue isn’t just going to solve itself on a global level anywhere in the near future. THIS!
  3. 10 Things You Should Know About AWS — lots of specialist tips for hardcore AWS users.
  4. The League of Moveable Type — AWESOME FONTS. Me gusta.
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Going beyond Onload: Measuring performance that matters

Velocity 2013 Speaker Series: Focus on Web Apps, Not Web Pages

We’re not making web pages anymore; we’re building web applications. Gone are the days of a few script tags in the <head>. Apps today are a complex web of asynchronously-loaded content and functionality. In the past decade, we’ve progressed from statically-loaded HTML to AJAX-ifying all the things. However, the way we’ve been measuring real user performance of our apps hasn’t changed to reflect our new state of art.

Defining “Done”

At what point during page load do users consider an app to be “ready enough” to start using? If we use standard performance metrics, we have to choose one of the following:

1) When the HTML document has been completely loaded and parsed, but before stylesheets, images, and subframes have finished loading (DOMContentLoaded)

2) When all synchronous scripts, stylesheets, images, and subframes have finished loading (onload)

If we pick DOMContentLoaded, it quickly becomes clear that there’s no inherent correlation between the app state at that point and what a user would consider “ready.”

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