Return to California

For the first time since I left the Valley in October 2003, I will be returning there on business. It will be interesting to see how much it has/has not changed since we left.

I know that a lot of the people that I knew when I was there have been battered about by the storms of change, and that many of them have returned to where they came from. But, is Silicon Valley still as magic as the first time I arrived in 1999?

Can’t wait.

We are now all sick

Bleah! Samantha finally succumbed to the horrific cold/flu thingie that has been rampaging through our household over the last month. Maybe this spells ths end of this cycle of disease.
I love having kids in school.

Web Performance Benchmarks

Web performance benchmarks have been a part of the industry since the beginning. However, it is not 1999 anymore. What do these benchmarks really mean?

Simple, aggregated performance and success rate values based on a limited dataset for a finite time period give a very tiny perspective into the world of Web performance. The operation of a multi-billion dollar enterprise should not hinge on the ranking a firm receives in these comparative exercises.

The question I pose to the Web performance industry is this: If you could walk away from the heritage of benchmarking that we have inherited, what would you replace it with? How could you justify your IT spend on Web infrastructure to your business leaders? How could you demonstrate that your Web infrastructure was a benefit and not a drain to the business?

I don’t have the silver bullet to these questions, but I do have some very primitive new ideas running around in my head, trying to evolve. I would love to here what other Web performance IT and business leaders have to say on this concept.

Use of SRPT in Web Servers

Stumbled across some research today outlining how the concept of Shortest Remaining Processing Time can be used to improve Web performance. (Google references here and here).

This is a very interesting concept that forces the Kernel (needs to be done on a system that supports TCP stack mods) to be unfair in its allocation of resources, by spitting out the requests that have the shortest time remaining first — in the case of a Web server, this means small files are sent before large files.

This is interesting, and not something that I have seen move beyond the academic literature. Is anyone out there using SRPT in their production Web serving environment? How did you determine that the predicted improvements in Web performance were in fact realized?

It also appears that their are some issues with SRPT, especially as file size increases. But it it would be interesting to get feedback from the Web performance community on this.

Please Challenge Me!

Today an e-mail came in from one of the sales reps in the field that just set me off. This person wanted us to generate a "best practices" document.

Under most circumstances, this would seem innocuous enough. But the whole idea that a simplistic, sales-oriented best practices document on Web performance could be produced that summarized these concepts in a few pages made me go ballistic.

I know what makes Web performance work. It took 5 years to get to this point, but after all of these years, I am burnt out trying to get the message across. The company I work for has a key vision. We have a strategy.

Tactically, there are far more Web sites with problems than there are that get it. I am not talking a small Web site trying to sell stuff on online auction sites or trying to reach a niche market. I am talking about large multinationals that are so busy in-fighting that they don’t see the dollars walking, marching, out the back door.

Business owners: poor Web performance costs you money. It is that simple.

But, I can’t get this message through to people anymore. All I want to do is help companies make their Web sites fast and reliable. And in the past year, I have been beating my head against the wall trying to do this.

I am passionate about this, like nothing else in my life. If your company feels the same way, I challenge you to re-ignite my passion.

The modern Web site is comprised of a number of complex applications designed to serve the needs of the business. Not only are they delivering content to end-users, but inventory information to partners via Web services, sales volume data to managers and executives, and revenue/cost data to the finance team.

All of this originates out of the Web site infrastructure, which is no longer a distinct vertical of the business, but a core component of the business. It’s no longer just about the housewife in Peoria, or Mumbai, or Berlin getting their item. The Web infrastructure is about the power to make key business decisions.

If the Web infrastructure is not looked at in this manner, then pack up your kit and go home. And how do you plan to ensure that it is running effectively?

The vast majority of IT departments while confidently tell a firm like the ones that I have worked for that they do not need external measurement and monitoring. Why? Because IT has never had to defend themselves to the business before. Now they are being asked to justify themselves before the business leaders. And in many cases, they don’t know how to.

It is not a battle. The business demands that their needs be met. IT needs the tools and technology to do this. External performance measurement is an ally in this justification. IT can clearly demonstrate what they are doing right, how they could do it better, or what they need to be more effective.

Business leaders need easy-to-digest facts to make business decisions. IT leaders need technically correct information to evolve their technology to meet core business objectives and effectively manage a dynamic environment.

So, lets get down to business. What do you need from me to achieve performance excellence?

Segregation in the Name of Lower Taxes

The Daily Kos points out this article in the Washington Post explaining some of the … ummm, deeper (??) reasons why racist and segregationist language in the Alabama Constitution was allowed to state in a referendum held on Nov. 2.

The heart of the issue: if we allow the feds control of schools, then they can make us have GOOD schools, and make us pay for them through higher taxes.

Link: Daily Kos :: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation..

It’s amazing what you can get away with when you argue with a Southern accent.

Buy only used cars

Link: Big Brother In Your Car

To most drivers, the above probably sounds pretty far-fetched. National
databases to track our every move? A national network of
government-controlled traffic management centers that use wireless
technology for traffic surveillance by 2022? But the reality is that
much of the technology and infrastructure needed to bring the system to
life has already been put in place.