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 http://www.openwebanalytics.com/ 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”http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed/docs/filter-instrumentation-add.html

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

http://yahoo.github.com/boomerang/doc/
http://stevesouders.com/episodes/paper.php
http://code.google.com/p/jiffy-web/

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 ;-)http://code.google.com/webtoolkit/speedtracer/

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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