Open Source Web Site Performance Tools

Louis St-Amour wrote a very helpful comment on my “The Complete List of End-User Experience Monitoring Tools” post – helpful enough that I thought it deserved a whole post.

OWA, indeed commonly means Outlook, so it’s kind of unfortunate naming clash, but in this case I’m referring to Open Web Analytics from which has what it calls, “domstream recording”. This lets you see exactly what a user sees in their browser and where their mouse goes, though I’m not sure how embedded it is for performance timing or error catching. A similar feature is in piwik as a plugin, as I understand it.

This brings up an interesting point that I heard a number of times at this year’s Velocity conference – when will web analytics start providing better web performance data?  Yes, I know that Google Analytics has a Site Speed Analytics Report – but that is just a start.

PageSpeed is not just a Firefox/Chrome extension ;-) It’s a web service now too! Seriously though, what I was referring to was mod_pagespeed, the Apache module, which beyond all its other fun goodies has an “instrumentation” feature that — you guessed it: measures “the time the client spends loading and rendering the page, and report that measurement back to the server”

Google helpfully mentions that their instrumentation feature is not needed if you already have one of your own and cites Boomerang, Episodes or Jiffy:

It is interesting that I have not found enterprises leverage these wonderful free tools (if you work for a large enterprise and use these tools – please comment!). I believe the main issue for enterprises is that there is a lot of work that one has to do in order to build a more complete solution from these free tools – a lot of it is around displaying the data in a meaningful way.

Sampling is indeed the worst part about Google Analytics … sigh.

Sampling is a big problem when it comes to identifying problems. I see a lot of the new free end user experience monitors which only sample end user response times. Thing is – it gives their marketing department what they need – but it leaves their customers guessing when problems arise. The reason problems with IT systems are so hard to catch is that they are typically erratic and unpredictable. Without a complete data set it becomes difficult to prioritize and troubleshoot.

Also, I would suggest that “real end user experience” tracking is something you’d need to be Google Chrome to get. After all, as Google notes about its own filter: “Note that the data reported by this filter is only approximate and does not include time the client spends resolving your domain, opening a connection, and waiting for the first few bytes of HTML.” Of course, that’s where the highly technical Speed Tracer comes in ;-)

I agree that most vendors do not do “real end user experience tracking” – they typically only track the datacenter’s contribution in an accurate way. So that is definitely something to look out for – especially if the applications you are responsible for serve company employees. Often times just being able to identify that a slow desktop is the reason a user is unhappy can go a long way.

Are there any other Web Site Performance tools worth mentioning? Please leave me a comment and I will add it to the list.

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