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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Insights from Interop 2006

In my last post I promised that if I get any new insights worth sharing this week while I'm at Interop 2006, I'll write about them. Well, here's the first installment, which consistes of just three items. I'm supposed to be at the Keynote booth on the show floor soon, so this will be short, because it's quite a hike to get there.

I'm staying at the Luxor, a hotel cleverly designed to resemble an Egyptian pyramid. Egyptian motifs abound. To reach the Conference Center in the Mandalay Bay hotel, which is next door, you can take a cab, a shuttle bus, or ride on a tram. But I usually walk. I hike about half a mile through a network of corridors cleverly disguised as places to spend money -- two casinos, a shopping mall, theaters and entertainment centers, restaurants, etc. I know I need to exercise more, so this a token effort.

Back to the insights. Yesterday afternoon I attended the Application Performance Day. Peter Sevcik of NetForecast presented a very thorough analysis of Performance Improvement Solutions, covering QoS, Compression, CDN's and other Acceleration technologies. He also provided a sheet of references, some of which I will publish when I have more time. Two insightful comments I wrote down were:
  • Fast delivery of sites results in slow delivery of pages. We all know that when the development process does not include time to think about performance, the results are not optimal. I thought Peter's simple rule captured this issue in a memorable way.
  • Most developers build applications in a LAN-based environment, and don't insert a WAN simulator to test their performance. Another well-known problem nicely summarized. If you don't actually test your application in the production environment, or something that resembles it, you will surely run into performance problems in the real world.
Which brings me to my third item. Last night I dreamt I was one of a small group of people lugging a grand piano from the Luxor to the conference center. But instead of taking the inside route, we were outside on the street. And every time we came to a gap in the sidewalk, several of us had to lift the piano over the kerbs. This was becoming hard work, and so at one point Steve Jobs, who owned the piano, wanted to leave it where it was. But John Chambers (CEO of Cisco Systems), who seemed to be supervising the move, said "No Steve -- we can't just leave it here, we have to deliver it."

Now I'm not sure what lessons (if any) I should draw from this dream. It certainly seems to be a metaphor for many of the discussions going on here about how to deliver large payloads to remote destinations via less than ideal routes! Maybe John Chambers actually offered some more concrete suggestions during his Interop keynote speech this morning; I was still in my hotel room moving the piano at that time.

Now I'm going to mingle with the crowds and find out if Interop can make me smarter today.

Alistair Croll on Ajax

Because of my particular interest in software performance optimization and SLM, I often search the Web to see what people are writing about performance. And even though there are always new things to find, it seems to be getting harder to locate them.

One reason is that until recently, anyone writing about the performance of computer systems or applications was discussing SLM topics like speed, availability, optimization, capacity planning, or load testing. But in the last few years, as the Web has made information systems and business systems synonymous, the term performance has gradually taken on a much broader meaning. Now to locate the interesting links, I have to include technical keywords that are designed to filter out unwanted information about business success.

So when I do find something worth reading, I assume it's a good idea to make a note of it, to save someone else the trouble. I have already included the most useful references in my previous posts about the performance of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), but yesterday I found this excellent blog post by Alistair Croll of Coradiant on the impact of AJAX on web operations. From there, I also located his related presentation on Ajax and Networks to Interop in December 2005.

Finding this material was a complete coincidence, in that I happen to be attending Interop 2006 in Las Vegas this week, yet I found that link independently. But it was a good very thing to know about, because on Wednesday I am speaking at the WebOps Summit (scroll down to Wednesday for details), which is chaired by none other than ... Alistair Croll. And I have actually devoted the last third of my talk on Best Practices to the emerging RIA measurement issues I discussed here. Even though I have been researching and writing about the performance implications of Ajax and RIA's in general, and scheduling this Interop presentation with Alistair, I had still missed this connection.

This illustrates just how hard it is these days to stay on top of any topic being discussed online. So I hope this post will help you in that regard. And if I make any new connections worth sharing this week, I'll be writing about them when I get a chance. The cover of the conference guides say Interop Makes You Smart, so I'm hoping that works on me. Those marketing slogans are always true, aren't they?