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Premature optimization

I have been assigned the task to increase the the performance of the application in my last 2 companies and from my past experience I believe in 80-20 code execution rule, i.e. in production most of the time its the 20% of the code that is being executed and the rest 80% is used rarely. Therefore before you embark on increasing the performance of the website
  1. You should know your customers
  2. You should know their usage patterns
  3. You should first collect statistics about what are the features that customers are using heavily
Don't try to guess which features are used, do a quantitative analysis and focus on only those features that are used heavily. Apache/Tomcat access logs can be your buddies in reaching the goal, take daily logs from last 2-3 months put them in mysql or any DB using some simple python/perl script and create some excel graphs and do a trend analysis. For example in the below graph of webdav usage, I would rather focus on optimizing the PROPFINDs first then other operations.

Writing simple code is hard, following KISS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle) is tough, whenever you try to increase performance of a feature you compromise simplicity and make the code a bit more complex then it was before. Therefore I don't believe in premature optimization, Donald Knuth had said "We should forget about small efficiencies, say about 97% of the time: premature optimization is the root of all evil".

Every programmer should follow some basic programming guidelines for performance when writing code but he shouldn't be too obsessive about performance when writing code, I have seen people writing Java code like C. They would not use Java's Date datatype or ArrayList and will use long to store dates and arrays instead of arraylist everywhere. Now tell me this if you are developing some Admin screens,user profile screens for a website or you are developing some internal application to be used by a handful of people making 100-200 request in an hour, why would you spend so much time making the code worse and complex by optimizing it prematurely. Analyze your apache logs insanely and focus on features that are used by customers heavily. Take the first 10 culprits optimize them and then repeat the process till you feel no more juice can be squeezed from the lemon.To optimize the top culprits if you have to compromise simplicity then its ok but don't make the job for the guy who is going to maintain the code after you leave hard by prematurely optimizing the whole code base.

Ofcourse if you are designing a new feature in an application and you foresee that it's going to be used heavily then  keep scalability and performance in mind when architecting the application but keep the code simple and before releasing it do some load testing using Jmeter or Load Runner and profile the code using some tool like JProfiler and optimize only the hotspots (code that is being executed 80% of the time ;) ).

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