Webmaster Henri Asseily agrees there are other, better ways to choose a server than benchmark results. If you're doing CGI processing and database serving, get a fast CPU and "Go with the platform you know best." Why? "Every platform has its quirks, but if you know it, chances are you'll be able to optimize it and make it as good as any other." Asseily, who is chief information officer for Binary Compass Enterprises and has worked on Web servers for two years, continues "Benchmarks will never tell you what hardware/software to buy. They will tell you how effective your latest tweak has been."
Suresh Srinivasan, senior researcher at the Thomson Technology Services Group, wrote Webpest (www.thomtech.com/~suresh/webpest/) two years ago to benchmark servers. He says there's still a lot of work to be done in benchmark technology, particularly the need to address diversity in server performance. Even so, he says, "At this point most of the servers out there can handle a million hits a day, which is a very small percentage of the market." At that level, he continues, scalability is top on the list of people's concerns over server performance, and he points to Cisco Systems' product LocalDirector, which serves as a front end to a group of servers, transparently balancing traffic demands. Products like this improve performance at a lower level.
Depending on your particular work environment, carnival ringmaster may or may not be an apt analogy for your job description. If it is, after all this work you need to face the troubling question: is it really the excitement of the crowd and charisma of the performer that determines the chemistry that adds up to the best act? Do you need to use benchmarks to evaluate your server?
You can use the best technical tools at your disposal...but don't neglect the tools a ringmaster would use: eyes, ears, and common sense. "Log onto your system at 2:00 AM," recommends Neal Nelson, "and again at 2:00 PM. If response time is good, you probably don't need to measure."
Heidi Brumbaugh has been a writer and editor in the computer publishing industry for ten years. Like everyone else with a modem, she is trying to figure out how to strike gold on the Web, or, at the very least, support her surfing habit. Stop by and visit Heidi at her home page.