How We Did It

FRAMINGHAM (07/24/2000) - Our physical test environment consisted of six Fast Ethernet subnet domains connected via Cisco Systems Inc. and Ascend Communications Inc. routers. We used two custom-built vertical market applications plus miscellaneous office productivity, e-mail, Web server and database query tasks as a framework for finding the best performance monitoring tool. The two custom-built applications consisted of a two-tier Visual Basic automobile insurance rating package and a three-tier Web-based search engine process for querying a financial database.

For each test, we programmed a specific performance problem into each application or consumed a known amount of network bandwidth by creating a network traffic jam of generated packets. We then pretended to not know the cause of the problem as we asked each tool to determine why the application slowed down. The problems we caused included server and client CPU consumption, voluminous server disk I/O and excessive network utilization. We expected each tool to measure these resources, identify an application's bottlenecks and help us tune the application by suggesting we reprogram it, add computing capacity or both. We also wanted these products to help us recognize application-related network congestion, gauge application capacity and estimate scalability.

We looked for each tool to gather comprehensive metrics regarding the performance of client/server or Web-based applications and show exactly which network or computing resources the application was consuming. To solve our performance problems and let us view an application's behavior from a performance standpoint, each tool needed to discover, measure and track application response times and specific application network traffic loads.

We ran the performance monitoring software products on three Gateway Inc.

NS-8000 computers with 333-Mhz Pentium II dual processors, 512M bytes of RAM and three 9G-byte SCSI RAID drives. In each case, the operating system platform was Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 5. The relational databases that participated in the tests were Oracle Corp.'s 8i, Sybase Inc. Adaptive Server 11.5 and Microsoft Corp.'s SQL Server 7.0. The 25 client computers on our network were a mix of Windows 2000 Professional, NT Workstation 4.0, Windows 98, OS/2 Warp 4.0 and Macintosh System 8 platforms.

Network Associates Inc's Sniffer protocol analyzer software with Database Module Options for Sybase and Oracle, running on a Dolch PAC63 computer, generated packets as well as decoded and displayed network traffic.

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