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Chapter 32. When Good Backends Go Bad

Patrick Meenan

There has been a fair amount of research (http://www.yuiblog.com/blog/2006/11/28/performance-research-part-1/) that tells us that 80% to 90% of the time spent loading web pages is spent on the frontend (browser pulling in external resources like CSS, JavaScript, and images) and only 10% to 20% of the time for a typical page is spent on the backend. While that is true in general, and there are a lot of tools that focus on giving you suggestions on improving your frontend code WebPagetest, Page Speed, Y-Slow, it is not uncommon to see backend performance issues, particularly as you move away from the top Internet sites into the long tail of the Internet.

This is not entirely unexpected because the top sites tend to have dedicated developers who custom-built the backend code for serving pages, have dedicated operations teams that watch the performance of the systems and databases, and spend a lot of time focused on the performance and scalability of the backends.

As you move out of the top tier of Internet publishers, you start running into sites that are running on off-the-shelf content systems (Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, etc.), and with owners who either contracted for the site development at one point in time or used and tweaked an available template and then used a collection of plug-ins to put together their site (often not knowing how the plug-ins themselves work). The hosting for these sites also varies wildly from dedicated ...

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