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Load on the server is NOT a measure of user performance. For example, if a user's session gets killed or frozen, that reduces the load on the server. But for sure performance has not improved for that user. To take this to extreme, if all the user sessions freeze or die (or any combination of those two), load on the server looks magnificently low, but performance has gone to pot. Yet I continue to find operations groups who use load on the server as a proxy for what they think must be user experience. "Are you sure there's a problem? we can't see any load on the server." is the typical response. "Please try again".

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Trying again is even a reasonable suggestion, many problems are from a glitch in a session somewhere which caused the session to freeze or die. The 'IT Crowd' running joke "have you turned it off and on again" is a reasonable suggestion to many glitches. In a browser most people will refresh the page when it hasn't appeared after about four seconds; or click a button again if they see no response from clicking it the first time. But if "try again" works, that doesn't mean you've solved the issue, it means you've just worked around it. Most operations are happy to leave it there, and most users are equally happy, after all it's working now and that's mainly what matters. But there's a glitch somewhere, and glitches tend to come back when you least want them, especially under load when it can make things even worse on your system (hanging connections from abandoned sessions that have been restarted has caused more than one server to run out of resources).

All of this means you need to measure user performance from the user side. That way you can see when user performance is bad; and you can detect any widespread glitches that users are working around with restarts, which can come back to bite you when you don't have the capacity to handle lots of user restarts. And that user performance measurement and reporting needs to be built in to your application, not simulated or inferred. If you aren't measuring user performance from the user perspective, you are missing the most important metric in your system.

Now on to all our usual links to Java performance tools, news, articles and, as ever, all the extracted tips from all of this month's referenced articles.

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Jack Shirazi

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Last Updated: 2024-01-29
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