Saturday 2 August 2008

Tokyo Performance

I'm on a month-long holiday back home at the moment (Australia -> Canada) so I shouldn't even be thinking about MOSS and work but nonetheless I am. This is day one into my time off and since I'm waiting in the North West Airlines lounge in Narita airport in Tokyo at the moment, I really don't have anything better to do (laptop left at home...). Specifically, I'm thinking performance.

In previous posts I've alluded to the performance issues we're addressing across the MOSS 2007 sites we maintain (,, and with more to come before the end of the year). We've done a hell of a lot of work over the last few months to bring our page load times in line with internet "standards" (say, less than ten seconds) following continuing internal allegations the site was slow to load. 

The focus to date has been on reducing the number of requests it takes to load the home page (we started around 130 if you're viewing the site internationally and we're now down to 70 or 80), as well as trimming weight, and optimising our server environment. We use Gomez to measure relative page load times from various locations around the world and the results indicate latency causes huge problems for our sites. The site was designed to be "visually interactive" and by default as a tourism site it has to pop. Although a Sydney-based design firm did the graphic design, we had no requirements relating to performance apart from a useless mention to do with broadband users. Anyway, we've been testing the site through Gomez every hour since May and our global average home page load time started off somewhere around 44 seconds with spikes to 120 seconds in some regions. Ouch. By reducing requests, making sure a reasonable cache and compression policy was implemented, and doing the basics like reviewing image compression, we got load times down to the 36 mark before the site launched and started caning the shared database server. We've also signed up with Akamai (a content delivery network) and that should be live sometime next week.

So that's the background. And here I am in Tokyo loading the home page from a cold cache at around 2:30pm on a Saturday. Database issues aside, the page was useable and just about fully loaded by the 18-20 second mark. Japan has some amazingly fast connections and as Perth has a massive connection to Singapore I suppose it's possible my request was routed more or less directly across some fancy infrastructure. I know the site, of course, but my perception was it loaded in a reasonable timeframe. We're off from Tokyo in a few seconds to the US and then Canada so it will be very interesting to see whether the performance I just experienced is either Japan-specific or Saturday-specific (traditionally a busy time on our servers). 

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