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sendmail Performance Tuning Nick Christenson
Published by Addison Wesley
272 pages
£ 21.72
Published: 26th September 2002
reviewed by Raza Rizvi
   in the June 2003 issue (pdf), (html)

`This book is great.' is what the quote from Eric Allman says on the front cover.

This quote from the creator of sendmail is truly and absolutely spot on. The book is a superb guide to the entire area of tuning mail platforms based on sendmail for increased performance. And when I say the entire area, I mean it. Not only are the options within sendmail covered in a fully descriptive manner, but there is proper documented evidence of the performance achievements in benchmarked scenarios.

Every aspect of the hardware is evaluated and the role it plays in mail throughput clearly examined -- from network latency to filesystems to RAID to memory.

After a general introduction to what is meant by tuning of mail systems and to the background of sendmail implementations, Nick goes straight into email relays, those boxes that act as the message handlers passing mail to and from the initial and the final mail systems. There is a very readable and logical flow through what is done and how one might act upon different parts of the system to ensure maximal throughput.

The same methodology is then applied in turn to email receipt and email sending (though whether we should thank him for giving the spammers more throughput is a topic in it's own right!).

After discussing security and architectural aspects of sendmail, the final chapters show how system tools/logging and testbeds can be used by the readers to improve their own scenarios, and to provide baselines on which performance changes can be realistically measured.

Although the major focus of the book is sendmail itself (primarily on Solaris or LINUX), information is given on the user interfaces to mail - POP3 and IMAP4.

There are few good books on performance tuning (and Nick lists all of them in his bibliography) and although this is specific to mail, it includes information that is useful to all senior systems administrators. For those of you with the responsibility of running sendmail systems, this book is as much part of your essential library as the `Bat' sendmail reference book - good advice falls from every page of this book.

To quote from part of the section dealing with queues:

This book stops such madness from eating away at sysadmins. I fully recommend it as preventative medicine.

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