06 September 2010

That's Virtually Twice as Fast

We do much of our software testing and validation on virtual machines. We happen to be using VMWare ESX as the host and are testing with Windows XP SP3 as the guest.

We were getting pretty poor launch performance from our application as compared to a physical machine. I'll measure launch time in Task Manager Grid Squares (TMGS). Think of them like story points for performance monitoring. They just represent some arbitrary amount of time (what it is... 9 seconds per square?).

We have a main application, a supporting GIS application and a 3rd application for moving things around the network, and it was taking as many as 10 Task Manager grid squares for the three applications to launch. Here is what the launch sequence looks like in Task Manager:

Here is the key for the image:
1. Main application launch
2. GIS application launch -- almost 1 minute of 100% CPU -- OUCH!
3. Network search
4. Opening the first search result
To try and help out with the launch speed, we added a virtual processor and a virtual GB of RAM to the virtual machines. This reduced our launch time from 10 Task Manager grid squares to just over 6.

You can see that opening a search result wasn't really helped out because it is rather network intensive. Main application launch is a mix of network and processor, and didn't fare much better with two processors than it did before the upgrade.

The real benefit we saw was the large gain in both the launch of the GIS application and the processing of search results, both of which are processor intensive. We see the times here cut by more than half.

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