Performance evaluation of Portal Servers


A common difficulty faced during execution of portal projects has been in the technical justification of the choice portal product. The observation has been that in most cases, the business requirements could be met by all of the leading products in the industry. This is exacerbated in the case of portal implementations using Java Technology, as almost all products confirm to industry standards and can be used in combination with any other Application server or Web server. In order to address this issue, a performance test of the leading industry products needs to be conducted.

The purpose of this exercise is to address the parameters and the environment for such a performance test. It also provides future directions as to how the set up can be extended.

The main benefits from this exercise would be:
  • Provides a basis for suggesting hardware architecture for portal implementations.
  • Provides a basis for comparison between various portal servers, although with some caveats.
  • The test set up could serve as a training ground for further expansion and knowledge gain.
  • Provide design inputs for portal applications based on the results.

Issues not addressed
The exercise is not intended to address the following concerns, though this could be extended to address these later:
  • Performance testing of the different portal servers across different environments. It is a known issue that some portal servers work better in specific environments. However the objective here would be to evaluate all the portal servers on standard minimum environment.
  • Performance testing scenarios with clustered environments at various levels or multiple CPUs per server. The primary motive not to do this would be cost and set up effort involved.
  • End-to-End performance testing including application server, database server, directory server etc. These factors would induce additional complexity leading to a focus loss for the entire exercise.
  • Trying to provide industry standard bench marking figures. By not addressing the points mentioned above, it would not be possible to claim the results of the performance test as an industry-wide benchmark.
The following table gives a brief description of the various factors that need to be measured.

Transaction Time
The time required to complete one complete transaction by the server
Errors rate
The number of errors generated at the server per second
Processor Utilization
The percentage of processor time used by the process
Response Time
The time taken by the server to respond to the request, including the network delays
Memory Usage
The memory usage pattern

These factors need to be measured against varying values of the following base factors:

No of Tabs to be loaded
The number of tabs to be loaded for the user
No of users
The total number of users simulated by the test
No of user groups
The number of user groups
No of user roles
The user roles
No of portlets/tab displayed to the user
The number of portlets to be displayed to the user

The following factors would remain constant for all the tests. 

Type of Portlets
Whether the portlets are Local or Remote. If local, are the portlets based on XML, JSP or URL scraping
Hardware Configuration
The hardware configuration of the server
Logging Level
The logging level in the web server
Think Time
The think time configuration
Keying Delay Time
The Keying delay time configuration
Client Machine configuration
The configuration of the machine which hosts the browser.
Authentication mechanism
The authentication mechanism for the portal application

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