1.2 The Tuning Game

Performance tuning is similar to playing a strategy game (but happily, you are usually paid to do it!). Your target is to get a better score (lower time) than the last score after each attempt. You are playing with, not against, the computer, the programmer, the design and architecture, the compiler, and the flow of control. Your opponents are time, competing applications, budgetary restrictions, etc. (You can complete this list better than I can for your particular situation.)

I once worked with a customer who wanted to know if there was a "go faster" switch somewhere that he could just turn on and make the whole application go faster. Of course, he was not really expecting one, but checked just in case he had missed a basic option somewhere.

There is no such switch, but very simple techniques sometimes provide the equivalent. Techniques include switching compilers, turning on optimizations, using a different runtime VM, finding two or three bottlenecks in the code or architecture that have simple fixes, and so on. I have seen all of these yield huge improvements to applications, sometimes a 20-fold speedup. Order-of-magnitude speedups are typical for the first round of performance tuning.