10 Tips for Writing High-Performance Web Applications

This is an excellent article that covers in detail about:

– Common ASP.NET performance myths
– Useful performance tips and tricks for ASP.NET
– Suggestions for working with a database from ASP.NET
– Caching and background processing with ASP.NET

Performance on the Data Tier
Tip 1—Return Multiple Resultsets
Tip 2—Paged Data Access
Tip 3—Connection Pooling
Tip 4—ASP.NET Cache API
Tip 5—Per-Request Caching
Tip 6—Background Processing
Tip 7—Page Output Caching and Proxy Servers
Tip 8—Run IIS 6.0 (If Only for Kernel Caching)
Tip 9—Use Gzip Compression
Tip 10—Server Control View State

Writing a Web application with ASP.NET is unbelievably easy. So easy, many developers don’t take the time to structure their applications for great performance. In this article, I’m going to present 10 tips for writing high-performance Web apps. I’m not limiting my comments to ASP.NET applications because they are just one subset of Web applications. This article won’t be the definitive guide for performance-tuning Web applications—an entire book could easily be devoted to that. Instead, think of this as a good place to start. Before becoming a workaholic, I used to do a lot of rock climbing. Prior to any big climb, I’d review the route in the guidebook and read the recommendations made by people who had visited the site before. But, no matter how good the guidebook, you need actual rock climbing experience before attempting a particularly challenging climb. Similarly, you can only learn how to write high-performance Web applications when you’re faced with either fixing performance problems or running a high-throughput site.

My personal experience comes from having been an infrastructure Program Manager on the ASP.NET team at Microsoft, running and managing www.asp.net, and helping architect Community Server, which is the next version of several well-known ASP.NET applications (ASP.NET Forums, .Text, and nGallery combined into one platform). I’m sure that some of the tips that have helped me will help you as well.

You should think about the separation of your application into logical tiers. You might have heard of the term 3-tier (or n-tier) physical architecture. These are usually prescribed architecture patterns that physically divide functionality across processes and/or hardware. As the system needs to scale, more hardware can easily be added. There is, however, a performance hit associated with process and machine hopping, thus it should be avoided. So, whenever possible, run the ASP.NET pages and their associated components together in the same application.

Because of the separation of code and the boundaries between tiers, using Web services or remoting will decrease performance by 20 percent or more.

The data tier is a bit of a different beast since it is usually better to have dedicated hardware for your database. However, the cost of process hopping to the database is still high, thus performance on the data tier is the first place to look when optimizing your code.

Before diving in to fix performance problems in your applications, make sure you profile your applications to see exactly where the problems lie. Key performance counters (such as the one that indicates the percentage of time spent performing garbage collections) are also very useful for finding out where applications are spending the majority of their time. Yet the places where time is spent are often quite unintuitive.

There are two types of performance improvements described in this article: large optimizations, such as using the ASP.NET Cache, and tiny optimizations that repeat themselves. These tiny optimizations are sometimes the most interesting. You make a small change to code that gets called thousands and thousands of times. With a big optimization, you might see overall performance take a large jump. With a small one, you might shave a few milliseconds on a given request, but when compounded across the total requests per day, it can result in an enormous improvement.


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