What Is Performance Engineering?

M. McGee

Performance engineering is a process where systems are built and maintained to meet criteria set by their users. Unlike many system-based processes, the non-technical aspect of the business creates the benchmarks against which the system is tested. It is the job of the tech team to work towards meeting those goals in a timely fashion. The overall goal of performance engineering is to create a lean and responsive computer system that facilitates workers and increases productivity.

A performance engineer may be tasked with making computer numerical control industrial machinery easier to reprogram in order to optimize its output.
A performance engineer may be tasked with making computer numerical control industrial machinery easier to reprogram in order to optimize its output.

Nearly all businesses have one overall goal: to make money. Performance engineering fits well into that aim by streamlining systems and increasing productivity. This is accomplished in a number of ways, primarily by reducing wait times for information and through creating dependable, user-friendly, systems that cut back on training, maintenance and down time. While many of the changes created by these processes are small, together, they can amount to a great improvement.

In most cases, the first step of a performance engineering plan is done by the business aspect of the company. During this initial phase, the problems are identified from a user standpoint. Often, these problems have non-technical definitions such as ‘speeding up’ a process or ‘getting the new version’ of a program. The openness of these specifications allows for the wiggle room used later.

This laundry list of requests and ideas then goes to the technical team that is responsible for the other side of the performance engineering process. The team will look over the requests and figure out how to translate them into specific tasks. For example, if a common process is deemed ‘too slow’ by the initial planning, the tech team will look over the process to see how it is currently working. It may be possible to shorten the physical transmission distance, increase the priority of the function or even set up a new secondary system to handle that specific request.

This is where the non-technical part of performance engineering can work out well for everybody. The non-tech team wants an effect but doesn’t care how it comes about. This leaves the tech side to work within current guidelines and budgets however it sees fit. As long as the end goal is achieved, everyone is happy.

The next common step in performance engineering is testing. The tech team determines what the best possible methods for improving the system are, maintenance schedules and upgrade procedures. When multiple options are available, the engineers will test the viability of each change in a closed environment. Since business systems are often exceptionally complex, small changes in one area can have unexpected outcomes in another. Once testing is complete, the changes are moved to both the live systems and work schedules and the process begins again.

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