About PerformanceByDesign.com

Napolean-march-to-Moscow-1812-edited-image

ComputerPerformanceByDesign.com is a web site devoted to topics in software performance engineering. Software performance engineering, or SPE, is a area of concentration within the larger discipline of software engineering on the design, testing and delivery of systems and application software that meets performance requirements. Dr. Connie U. Smith is generally recognized as the founder of SPE, and Connie remains quite active in the field, which encompasses application performance modeling, performance testing and performance optimization. Her book, written with Lloyd Williams, Performance Solutions, remains one of the best practical handbook in this area. You can find out more about SPE from Connie’s web site, or even enroll in  one of the seminars she teaches on the subject,

Performance By Design is the name of an excellent textbook on SPE by Daniel Menasce, Larry Dowdy and Virgillio Almeida, which I reviewed on Amazon.com when it was first published in 2004.

Performance By Design cover shot

Dr. Menasce teaches computer science at George Mason University in northern Virginia, and was the thesis advisor for my co-author on the Windows 2000 Performance Guide, Dr. Odysseas Pentakalos. Danny was nice enough to contribute a flattering review of our book when it was published back in 2002, so you might be tempted to call my review of his book returning the favor. However, I am genuinely in awe of his book, which is clear, concise, and well-structured. It is the sort of practical, but well grounded in theory, book on Windows computer performance or web application performance that I aspire to writing myself someday, if I only possessed the skill to do so.

Connie Smith and Danny Menasce are both colleagues from the Computer Measurement Group (CMG), where I presented a paper called “DASD Access Patterns” back in December 1983 on the performance of first-generation cached disk controllers. CMG’s online archive of its annual Conference Proceedings contains a wealth of information on computer performance topics, dating back to the mid-1970s, when I first became interested in the field. CMG is a professional organization, not an academic one, and articles in its publications can be a little difficult to track down by searching the Internet, but, fortunately, they are all available at www.cmg.org.

Minard’s map, Edward Tufte and John Tukey.

The graphic shown on the this page is a reproduction of a portion of a famous, innovative map designed by Charles Joseph Minard showing Napolean’s disastrous Russian campaign of 1812. Minard’s map depicts graphically the size of the French Grand Arme commanded by Napolean that attacked Russia in 1812, occupied Moscow, and then melted away as the army retreated from Moscow and was hammered by counter-attacking Russian troops. The width of the line in brown shows the strength of the French army in its initial attack phase. The width of the black line shows the size of Napolean’s army as it retreated. I cropped the map in the interest of saving space, but you can click here to view the complete map.

Edward Tufte, the noted author of a series of books on data visualization, has said the Minard map “may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn,” and he highlights it in the first book in the series, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. You can purchase a poster reproducing Tufte’s two-page layout of the Minard map, suitable for framing, at his web site.

— Mark B. Friedman, November 2014

Tufte’s books and seminars on visual explanation build on the legacy of his mentor, John W. Tukey, a Professor of Mathematics at Princeton who wrote a ground-breaking statistics textbook called Exploratory Data Analysis in the late 1970s, when I first encountered it. Dr. Tukey was responsible, among other things, for popularizing box-and-whisker charts. Exploratory data analysis is precisely what competent computer performance analysts do with the great quantities of performance measurement data they acquire, so Tukey’s ideas on the subject remain very relevant today.

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