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System Performance Tuning 2nd Edition Gian-Paolo D Musumeci and Mike Loukides
Published by O'Reilly
336 pages
£ 28.50
Published: 20th February 2002
reviewed by Mike Smith
   in the May 2002 issue (pdf), (html)

Amazing. Did you realise that the original SPT is now 12 years old ?! I must have had my copy for around a decade too - with the ``New Lay-flat Binding''! As I had the original, I didn't consider reading the new edition ... until now.

First Impressions The first observation is that the book is a quarter of an inch thicker. Fine, I thought, just an axtra chapter or two. However there are more fundamental differences inside.

[It is also noticeable how O'Reilly's production quality has improved - and at some point they must have dropped their use of 50% recycled paper policy too. I hadn't noticed that previously.]

Musumeci joins the author credits, and in fact it quickly becomes apparent that the book is a complete rewrite by him, Loukides being relegated to editor ;-) The preface includes an admission from Loukides that his original book was actually a compilation of other people's knowledge - he had just pulled it all together. Now that explains a lot!

The gory details SPT2 covers Solaris and Linux (mainly the former), which is an expected shift from the previous primary focus of SunOS and BSD generally.

The usual suspects are covered - CPU, Memory, Swapping, Network etc. There's an explanation of NUMA and UMA architectures, and there are useful tables throughout, reminding us of CPU/Memory bandwidth figures. The discussion on Network infrastructure includes the physical options available today, including Fibre, but I would also have been interested in more discussion on DWDM, QoS, and the performance implications of using VLANs and IPSEC etc.

Tuning (yes, that's right, Tuning) NFS is covered, and there's even a quick look at Samba.

On storage, Direct I/O is talked about, but there is now Concurrent Direct I/O in Solaris 8. That's even better (and you might be able to do without Veritas Filesystem and QuickIO these days.) There's a welcome new chapter on disk arrays. If you're in a large environment you may find the HDS (9960, which is also OEM'd by HP, and resold by Sun), EMC (Symmetrix) or IBM (ESS, aka Shark) enterprise storage solutions give you more flexibility (and tuning considerations) but these aren't covered.

There's now a chapter on tuning code. I think this is a little out of place in this book, which is obviously aimed at the sysadmin space, and unless you are a developer and/or have access to source code it may not be useful to you. As it rightly states, a whole book could cover this area too. Nevertheless, it's an interesting insight.

The old Appendix B (Performance Tuning Strategy) has been replaced with a much improved Chapter 9 ``Instant Tuning''. You know those diagnostic fault tables you get at the back of a Television Installation Guide (No picture: Plug the television in etc.) ? Well this goes some way towards that type of quick remedy approach. Its good for a quick hit on a machine.

Tools covered This isn't a full list, and not in any particular order, but Solaris administrators will recognise many of the following. There were a few commands I didn't know about - interesting to know those areas can be tweaked, but not sure if I will ever need to.

Some of the Linux specific tools include elvtune, tune2fs and probably many others before I started to compile the list.

Summary SPT2 brings the subject up-to-date and is therefore an interesting read. It is also a huge improvement over the original text. Architectures are obviously a moving target, and I suspect that Sun's new fireplane interconnect (mentioned in passing) brings new challenges and tuning requirements. We'll be tuning workloads on Grids next too. Alas neither of these subject areas are covered.

There may have been some benefit in producing a cross reference of the performance reporting and tuning tools available on other platforms too; notably those running AIX and HP of course. In a few years time we are likely to see Linux abound, but the three main Unix flavours are going to be with us for some time to come.

If you previously looked at edition one and decided (like many) it's more about monitoring and not actively tuning, it is now worth another look. If you already have edition one, O'Reilly really ought to do a trade-in scheme !

I like it.

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