Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Census 2: Benchmarking RIAs Rebooted

Category: JavaScript

Alex Russell decided to rewrite and create Census 2 to act as a new benchmark for various RIA techniques. This is based on the the original Census benchmark done by James Ward of Adobe.

There are several goals of this re-write:

  • Fairness. Tests need to be run multiple times for them to be representative in any way. Likewise, systems not being directly tested need to be factored out as much as possible. C2 does this by reducing the number of dependencies and running tests (at least) 5 times and discarding outliers before reporting an average. I’ve also worked to make sure that the tests put the best foot forward for all of the tested technologies.
  • Hackability. Benchmarks like Census serve first as a way for decision makers to understand options but second as a way for developers to know how they’re doing. Making it trivial to add tests helps both audiences.
  • Portability. The test suite should run nearly everywhere with a minimum of setup and fuss. This ensures that the largest numbers of people can benefit from the fairness and hackability of the tests.

The results so far have been instructive. On smaller data sets HTML wins hands-down for time-to-render, even despite its disadvantage in over-the-wire size. For massive data sets, pagination saves even the most feature-packed of RIA Grids, allowing the Dojo Grid to best even XSLT and a more compact JSON syntax. Of similar interest is the delta between page cycle times on modern browsers vs their predecessors. Flex can have a relatively even performance curve over host browsers, but the difference between browsers today is simply stunning.

Given the lack of an out-of-the-box paginating data store for Flex, RIAs built on that stack seem beholden to either Adobe’s LCDS licensing or are left to build ad-hoc pagination into apps by hand to get reasonable performance for data-rich business applications. James Ward has already exchanged some mail with me on this topic and it’s my hope that we can show how to do pagination in Flex without needing LCDS in the near future.

The tests aren’t complete. There’s still work to do to get some of the SOAP and AMF tests working again. If you have ideas about how to get this done w/o introducing a gigantic harball of a Java toolchain, I’m all ears. Also on the TODO list is an AppEngine app for recording and analyzing test runs so that we can say something interesting about performance on various browsers.

Census 2 is very much an open source project and so if you’d like to get your library or technology tested, please don’t hesitate to send me mail or, better yet, attach patches to the Bug Tracker.

Interesting to see this kick off, and I hope that a community forms around it.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 2:00 pm
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