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Basically I'd like to know if it's possible to speed up my server or not by using caching like squid, checking for possible errors in configuration, optimizing various server software parameters, etc.

Is it possible to predict time to serve say 1MB of data if I know ping time and clock speed of my server, and other hardware parameters.

for example in my case I have 1GHz AMD with 75ms ping and I get 16 kB page served from core memory in 0.6s - can I make it any faster? - just plain time to display page at no load.

Do any benchmarks/tools exist for this purpose?

edit I've tried adding squid and did not get any performance gain at all.

Thanks.

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2 Answers

When you're dealing with the web, it's usually not the speed of an individual request that matters, because it's not a realistic indicator of how the server will perform under load.

What you really want to know is whether your server can serve pages up fast enough for users to have a good experience under expected load conditions.

To answer that question, you should get a tool like WCAT or JMeter and simulate load against your server, then look for where the bottleneck is occuring (if there is any).

For example, say by looking at your Google Analytics or stats account, you know that the most users you have in a day is 500. You then decide that you want to support a peak of around 750 users per day. If you break that down (depending on whether your site is used 24x7 or 9x5), you might discover that the maximum simultaneous page requests you need to support is around 10.

Then with WCAT or Jmeter you run a test that has 10 users simultaneously using the site and performing various operations. If the response time is acceptable (you could be the judge, but I would say less than 2 seconds for page load time), then you can stop there or continue to add users to see at what point the performance drops off.

Once you see the performance drop off, you then correlate that dropoff with what is going on with your server at that time. Are you getting a lot of hard page faults? Is CPU usage high? Is your DB overwhelmed?

Once you discover the bottleneck (if there is any), then you can look at ways to reduce the bottleneck. For example, if you are getting hard page faults and disk thrashing, maybe caching is the way to go.

But it's all about knowing what metrics you need to hit, testing against those, and uncovering and resolving bottlenecks.

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well, the question is not really is my server good enough - which may be subjective. How do I know when it really hits the limit and there no way to improve performance any further? (or at least significantly) –  Evgeny Jul 30 '09 at 2:26
    
Well "the limit" is subjective as well. It depends on what acceptable response times are under the load conditions. Only knowing what your target load is then testing will tell you that. –  Adam Brand Jul 30 '09 at 2:38
    
i meant when server won't make it any faster with a single request, no load at all. my server is not that loaded to worry about concurrent requests and may never be:) i just want to optimize page load time and curious if I can do anything by tweaking the server alone. –  Evgeny Jul 30 '09 at 2:43
    
hey @Adam we're actually neighbors. I work at UCI. –  Evgeny Jul 30 '09 at 2:55
    
hehe hello neighbor. I don't think you will find anything that will speed up a single request, as most performance optimizations are for handling multiple requests without dropping load. For example, if you were Google's only user, it wouldn't load noticeably faster than it does now. –  Adam Brand Jul 30 '09 at 3:28
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You have a lot of concepts flying around here. CPU processing power, memory, caching, reverse proxy servers, and network bandwidth are all separate things that contribute to a good, or poor, end performance result.

Purely at the network layer, a modern PC or server can handle thousands and thousands of requests in just milliseconds. But that's before you add an application on to it that "does stuff". The parts of this equation that make the biggest differences are:

  1. Application (The code)
  2. Data / Storage (SQL, etc)
  3. Network Throughput / Bandwidth

So if 1 and 2 are already great, and your pages are actually being generated and served very quickly, then 3 might be the biggest bottleneck. If 2 is horrible, then 1 will be horrible too, even if 3 is great. If 1 is the bottleneck, then there's not anything you can optimize on 2 or 3 to make a difference.

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well in this case I know that page is served from memory directly, that removes 1 & 2 mostly I think.. –  Evgeny Jul 30 '09 at 2:18
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