Scott Hanselman

Performance Counters in ASP.NET

February 18, 2004 Comment on this post [2] Posted in ASP.NET
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Did some great performance testing this last Sunday on the bank we're taking live soon.  We needed to get a few thousand users on the box, all banking at the same time.  The Host Interface side has some great performance counters that made it very easy to measure.  Even though they have a rich serious of counters, I added some counters to the UI side. 

As I've mentioned before, we describe our Domain Objects and Messages with XSD, and generate loads of C# code with CodeSmith (and some with XSLT).  Using these 'nouns' we create services (verbs) that act on them as they move through the system.  We build 1st class interfaces on top of a 3rd class router that basically does an Invoke/Execute/DoIt/IDispatch...a lot the way Invoke() works with ASMX WebServices. 

There's a whole vocabulary of messages that can be sent to Voyager, like 'GetAccounts' or 'AddPayment.'  Some come with Voyager and some are added for the implementation. 

Typically with Performance Counters there are either static counters, like 'Avg Bytes/sec' through the system, or instance counters like 'Bytes/sec on this hard drive.'  Often these instance counters are per process, or per piece-of-hardware. 

But since the verbs that head through the system can be dynamic, why not make new per counters as we see new verbs? (there's usually no more than 100, really usually <50)  So, on both the UI and HI we can look at instance Performance Counters like 'Time in (ms) for GetAccounts' or 'Bytes Out for AddPayee.' 

By adding the same counters but for an 'instance' that is really a verb, we can find out when a certain operation (verb) is not performing well on the system. 

And, since we can look at what the UI's round-trip time is (for example, 500ms) and what the HI's times are (200ms to the host, 150ms in the code) we can start measuring interstitial times like marshalling time, logging overhead, etc. at a very granular level.

Fortunately we baked in hooks to allow Performance Counters early on in the project.  You should to!  It's nice to REALLY know what's happening in your app.  The less of a black box your own app feels like, the more confident you can be when you make Service Level Agreements and predictions as to performance.  Nothing is more scary than NOT knowing how to measure your own application.

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Remember the ASPNET process has access to WRITE to Performance Counters, but not READ, CREATE, or DELETE counters.
  • Add an Installer class to your ASP.NET application that does the creating of the PerformanceCategory, the creation of the PerformanceCounters and the deletion at uninstall.  You can run 'installutil [/u] yourclass.dll' from the command-line.  You can also add your installer dll to the Custom Actions section of your Web Setup and the Performance Counters will get created/deleted automatically when your MSI runs.
  • Use some High Performance Timer for your timing - don't use DateTime.anything.

It was a good weekend.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hosted in an Azure App Service
February 19, 2004 22:46
"Fortunately we baked in hooks to allow Performance Counters early on in the project."

If you have a second, could you explain how this is done? Not the exact code or in detail, but just some direction or concepts that others (me) can look into and possibly take advantage of such methods.

I would appreciate it,
February 19, 2004 23:53
Since we route all of the transactions through a centralized, generic manager, we can insert services like performance counters, WMI hooks, logging, etc. all in one place, and newly written transactions will take advantage of them.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.