5 Performance Tips from the 2013 Holiday Rush

Since this holiday season is shorter and more people hate the mall crowds, billions will be spent online this season.  Unfortunately for management, lack of application development testing, up-to-date standards, and performance procedures will hinder profitability through poor performance of the company website.
While the application developers will always blame the database, below are five website and Java performance tips that should improve your site’s potential revenue and overall performance.

  1. Performance numbers are critical.  As peak shopping season is upon us, we would think that performance figures would have been gathered and analyzed to prepare for this critical timeframe, however some shops don’t have enough performance data available on the full round trip of the web user experience.At most of my consulting assignments I find the DB2 z/OS environment well instrumented with history and many performance trend details available.  As the platforms get smaller, DB2 LUW and even UNIX and Windows operating systems suffer from lack of information.  Sometime these platforms that are critical to the user website performance have little or no instrumentation or performance figures.  All web servers must be held responsible for their performance statistics. Unless management requires performance metrics to be captured, there should be no further performance discussion.
  2. Let the analysis of the numbers drive your activities.  The business of web site shopping is increased revenue, improved exposure to your customer, and ultimately customer sales.  Too often performance figures are not fully analyzed to determine the business performance of the web site traffic.  Analyzing the website traffic patterns can help you understand where and what your customers are doing on the web.This analysis can help your performance team declare database global temporary tables (DGTT or GTT) and materialize query tables (MQTs) to minimize database CPU and I/O activity.  These performance figures can also lead to optimizing all types of table definitions, indexes, complex SQL, configuration settings, buffer pool settings, and other database related items to minimize database CPU and I/O needed for order cart fulfillment.
  3. Tune the application server and its connections.  The application server plays a huge part and can be the root cause of bad website performance.  First, review the number of application servers that are defined on a physical server.  Evaluate whether the number of virtual server images creates too much overhead.  Many application servers are supporting too many virtual environments, don’t have enough I/O bandwidth, sometimes support both test and production workloads, and have their limited CPU and memory spread too thinly across virtual servers.Next, check the number of application server connections to the database.  If the number of connections is greater than 40, re-evaluate the idle and active thread peaks. Forty connections have served up 10s of millions of transactions if the server has enough CPU and I/O capacity.  More than 40 connections can take too much memory, restrict optimizing thread reuse, and lead to threads not being cleaned up and hung in the server.  Check these application servers’ attributes, and you will be surprised by the performance problems you will find.
  4. Know your users’ routes and tune the network.  Application developers have the best of intentions, but sometime don’t understand the impact their small Java code has on the overall website performance.  Over time more attributes are added to the webpage and sooner or later the webpages are making a huge number of requests for web ads, outside content, and partner products.  All external requests and redirects should be documented and justified.  Requesting information from external or partner websites is necessary, but the number of requests/redirects should be minimized, maybe fewer than 10.  Also, remember to capture historical partner performance metrics so your website performance is not negatively impacted by another partner’s performance problems.
  5. Web page bloat and latency are performance killers.   Since we all are accessing websites from a variety of devices, website page bloat and latency can be a customer killer.  Flexibility is nice but lately the websites have been trying to satisfy all web traffic with one website.  This may work, but one size and one site does not perform well for all devices.  It is critical to optimize, minimize, and manage your entire web page rendering, CSS treatment, Java script usage, web ad partnerships, and external requests or redirects page content.  Potential customers comparing product prices, availability, and location are checking to see if they want to be your customer, so make it fast and easy.

Think how much patience you have with web pages loading on your different devices.  Performance helps you sell your products so your website performance for a browser, tablet or phone is critical for your overall bottom line business performance.

Dave Beulke is a system strategist, application architect, and performance expert specializing in Big Data, data warehouses, and high performance internet business solutions.  He is an IBM Gold Consultant, Information Champion, President of DAMA-NCR, former President of International DB2 User Group, and frequent speaker at national and international conferences.  His architectures, designs, and performance tuning techniques help organization better leverage their information assets, saving millions in processing costs.

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