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Web Performance Tuning by Patrick Killelea

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Benchmark Specifications and Benchmark Tests

For clarity, we should distinguish between benchmark specifications and benchmark tests. There are several web benchmarks that may be implemented by more than one test, since there are implementation details that do not affect the results of the test. For example, a well-specified HTTP load is the same regardless of the hardware and software used to generate the load and regardless of the actual bits in the content. On the other hand, some benchmarks are themselves defined by a test program or suite, so that running the test is the only way to run the benchmark. We will be considering both specifications and tests in this section.

The point of a benchmark is to generate performance statistics that can legitimately be used to compare products. To do this, you must try to hold constant all of the conditions around the item under test and then measure performance. If the only thing different between runs of a test is a particular component, then any difference in results must be due to the difference between the components.

Exactly defining the component under test can be a bit tricky. Say you are trying to compare the performance of Solaris and Irix in running Netscape server software. The variable in the tests is not only the operating system, but also, by necessity, the hardware. It would be impossible to say from a benchmark alone which performance characteristics are due to the operating system and which are due to the hardware. You ...

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