[Dev Tip] Scaling Strategies for ASP.NET Applications

As ASP.NET performance advisors, we are typically brought into a project when it’s already in trouble. In many cases, the call doesn’t come until after the application has been put into production. What worked great for the developers isn’t working well for users. The complaint: the site is too slow. Management wants to know why this wasn’t discovered in testing. Development can’t reproduce the problem. At least one person is saying that ASP.NET can’t scale. Sound familiar?
Some of the busiest Web sites in the world run on ASP.NET. MySpace is a great example; in fact, it was migrated to ASP.NET after running on a number of different platforms. The fact is, performance problems can creep into your app as it scales up, and when they do, you need to determine what the actual problem is and find the best strategies to address it. The biggest challenge you’ll face is creating a set of measurements that cover the performance of your application from end to end. Unless you’re looking at the whole problem, you won’t know where to focus your energy.
The Performance Equation
In September 2006, Peter Sevcik and Rebecca Wetzel of NetForecast published a paper called “Field Guide to Application Delivery Systems.” The paper focused on improving wide area network (WAN) application performance and included the equation in Figure 1. The equation looks at WAN performance, but with a few minor modifications it can be used to measure Web application performance. The modified equation is shown in Figure 2 and each element is explained in Figure 3.
Variable Definition
R Response time. The total time from the user requesting a page (by clicking a link, and so on) to when the full page is rendered on the user’s computer. Typically measured in seconds.
Payload Total bytes sent to the browser, including markup and all resources (such as CSS, JS, and image files).
Bandwidth Rate of transfer to and from the browser. This may be asymmetrical and might represent multiple speeds if a given page is generated from multiple sources. Usually, it is averaged together to create a single bandwidth expressed in bytes per second.
AppTurns The number of resource files a given page needs. These resource files will include CSS, JS, images, and any other files retrieved by the browser in the process of rendering the page. In the equation, the HTML page is accounted for separately by adding in round-trip time (RTT) before the AppTurns expression.
RTT The time it takes to round-trip, regardless of bytes transferred. Every request pays a minimum of one RTT for the page itself. Typically measured in milliseconds.
Concurrent Requests Number of simultaneous requests a browser will make for resource files. By default, Internet Explorer performs two concurrent requests. This setting can be adjusted but rarely is.
Cs Compute time on the server. This is the time it takes for code to run, retrieve data from the database, and compose the response to be sent to the browser. Measured in milliseconds.
Cc Compute time on the client. This is the time it takes for a browser to actually render the HTML on the screen, execute JavaScript, implement CSS rules, and so on.

Figure 1 The Original Performance Equation (Click the image for a larger view)

Figure 2 The Web Version of the Performance Equation (Click the image for a larger view)
Now that you have the formula, the challenge lies in measuring each element. The ending value, response time, is relatively easy to measure; there are a number of tools that will time exactly how long the entire process takes.
Payload can be measured using various tools (websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze is a great option), as can Bandwidth (see speedtest.net) and round-trip time (using Ping). Tools likewebsiteoptimization.com/services/analyze will also report the size of a Web page’s HTML, CSS, JavaScript, images, and so forth. Concurrent Requests is essentially a constantly (Internet Explorer® defaults to 2).
That leaves Cs and Cc, which need some additional development effort. It’s relatively straightforward to write code in an ASP.NET page that notes the exact second execution of the page begins and subtracts that time from the current time when execution completes. The same is true on the client side; a bit of JavaScript can execute right at the top of the HTML page to note the time and then subtract the time at the point that the OnLoad event fires when the page is completed.
In fact, all these elements can be coded for if you want to build in a debug mode of your Web site that utilizes the performance equation. And there’s good reason to do so: if you can routinely render the performance equation elements on the browser, then you can easily detect where your performance problems lie.
For example, suppose you have an ASP.NET application whose users are on another continent and have low bandwidth. With high ping times (> 200ms) and low bandwidth (< 500kbps), your users would be highly sensitive to the total payload and the number of round-trips in your application. Looking at your application in the context of those users is vital since their experience will be very different from yours.
Scaling Problems
As consultants, we know we’re probably dealing with a scaling issue when the application performs well in the test environment but poorly in the real world. Usually, the only difference between the two is the number of simultaneous users. If the application performed poorly all the time, you would have a performance problem rather than a scaling problem.
There are three strategies available that you can employ in order to improve scaling: specialization, optimization, and distribution. How you apply them will vary, but the actual strategies are straightforward and consistent.
The goal of specialization is to break your application into smaller pieces in order to isolate the problem. For example, you might want to consider moving static resource files such as images, CSS, and JS files off of the ASP.NET servers. A server well-tuned for ASP.NET is not especially well-suited to serving those sorts of files. For this reason, a separate group of IIS servers tuned to serve resource files can make a substantial difference in the scalability of the application you are running.
If you perform a lot of compression or encryption (for SSL), setting up servers dedicated to SSL can help. You should be aware that there are even specialized hardware devices available for compression and SSL termination.
While more traditional strategies for decomposing server tiers might have you considering separate servers for data access, complex computations, and so on, independent of the actual generation of the Web pages, I’d rather have five Web servers that do everything than three Web servers and two business object servers. All those out-of-process calls between the Web servers and business object servers create a lot of overhead.
Specialization should only be done for a known and expected benefit. And the fastest solution is not always the best. The goal of scalability is consistency of performance. You want to narrow the performance range as the load increases; whether there’s one user or one thousand, you want a given page rendered for all users in the same amount of time.
Eventually you will need to optimize your server code to scale more effectively. Virtually every aspect of the performance equation scales linearly, except for compute time on the server; you can always add more bandwidth (and it’s fairly easy to know when), and the compute time on the client doesn’t change as the number of clients increases. The other elements of the performance equation also remain consistent as you scale. But compute time on the server will need to be tuned as the number of users increases.
Optimizing the Code
The trick to optimizing server code is to use testing to be sure you’re actually making a difference. You should use profiling tools to analyze your application and find out where the application is spending the most time. The entire process should be empirical: use tools to find the code to improve, improve the code, test to see that you have actually improved performance, rinse, lather, repeat. In really large-scale sites, you’ll often hear performance tuning like this compared to the job of painting the Golden Gate Bridge: once you finish painting the entire thing, it’s time to go back to the beginning and start again.
I’m always amazed at the number of people who believe that the starting point of scaling is distribution. “Throw more hardware at it,” they yell. Don’t get me wrong; without a doubt, adding hardware can help. But without specialization and optimization, the return can be small indeed.
Specialization lets you distribute smaller parts of your application as needed. If you’ve separated out your image servers, for example, it’s easy to scale your image services independently of the rest of the application.
Optimization also provides dividends for distribution by reducing the amount of work needed for a given operation. This translates directly into fewer servers needed to scale to the same number of users.
Load Balancing
To implement distribution you need to add servers, duplicate the application across them, and implement load balancing. For load balancing, you can use Network Load Balancing (NLB), a service included with all editions of Windows Server® 2003. With NLB, every server is an equal partner in the load-balancing relationship. They all use the same algorithm for balancing, and they all listen on a shared virtual IP address for all traffic. Based on the load-balancing algorithm, each server knows which server should be working on a given request. Each server in the cluster sends out a heartbeat to let the other servers know it is alive. When a server fails, the heartbeat for that server stops and the other servers compensate automatically.
NLB works well when you have a large number of users making fairly similar requests. However, the compensation mechanism does not work as well in a scenario when some requests create a much greater load than others. Fortunately, for that type of situation there are hardware load-balancing solutions available.
Affinity
Ultimately, the challenge of effective distribution lies in eliminating affinity. For example, when you have only one Web server, storing session data there makes perfect sense. But if you have more than one Web server, where do you keep session information?
One approach is to keep it on the Web server and use affinity. Essentially, this means the first request from a given user is load balanced, and after that, all subsequent requests from that user/session are sent to the same server as the first request. This is a simple approach, every load balancing solution supports it, and in some cases it even makes sense.
In the long run, however, affinity creates grief. Keeping session data in-process may be fast, but if the ASP.NET worker process recycles, all those sessions are dead. And worker processes recycle for a lot of reasons. Under high load, IIS might recycle the worker process of ASP.NET because it thinks it’s stuck. In fact, by default in IIS 6.0 a worker process is recycled every 23 hours. You can adjust it, but either way, your users are vulnerable to losing their session data while it is in-process. When you’re small, this isn’t that big a deal, but as your site gets bigger and busier it becomes a more significant issue. And there’s more.
If you’re load balancing by IP address, one server is going to get hit by a megaproxy (like AOL) and be unable to service that entire load on its own. Plus, updating your servers with a new version of your application becomes more difficult; you must either wait for hours to let users to finish up on your site or annoy those users by knocking them out of their sessions. And your reliability becomes an issue: lose a server and you lose a lot of sessions.
Getting rid of affinity is a key goal of distribution. This requires moving session state data out of process, which means taking a performance decrease to provide a scalability increase. When you move session out of process, session data is recorded in a place where all the Web servers can access it—located either on SQL Server® or the ASP.NET State Server. This is configured in web.config.
There’s also a coding effort needed to support out-of-process session. Any classes that will be stored in the Session object need to be marked with the Serializable attribute. That means that all data in the class needs to either be serializable or be marked as NonSerialized so it will be ignored. If you don’t mark up your classes, when the serializer runs to store your session data out of process, you’ll get errors.
Finally, moving session out of process is a great way to find out you have too much data in your session object, because you’re now paying a price for shipping that great big blob of data back and forth across the network twice (once to retrieve it at the beginning of the page, once to return it at the end of the page) for every page request.
Once you nail down the Session object, go after other affinity issues like Membership and Role Manager. Each one has its own challenges for eliminating affinity. But for your ASP.NET application to really scale up, you’ll need to hunt down every form of affinity you can find and eliminate it.
All of the strategies we’ve discussed thus far are applicable to practically every Web application that needs to scale. In fact, those strategies would apply to scaling virtually any application using any technology. Now let’s look at some ASP.NET-specific techniques.
Minimizing Payload
Looking at the performance equation, you can see payload plays a significant role, especially when you’re dealing with limited bandwidth. Reducing the size of your payload will improve your response time, you’ll gain some scaling benefits from moving fewer bytes around, and you could even save some money on your bandwidth costs.
One of the simplest things you can do to decrease the size of your payload is to turn on compression. In IIS 6.0, you can specify whether to compress static files, dynamically generated responses (ASP.NET pages, for example), or both (see Figure 4).

Figure 4 Configuring Compression Server-Wide in IIS 6.0 (Click the image for a larger view)
IIS 6.0 compresses static files on demand, storing them in a compressed files cache that you specify. For dynamically generated responses, no copy is stored; they’re compressed every time. IIS 7.0 is smarter about what it compresses, only compressing files that are used frequently.
Compression costs processor cycles, but you typically have plenty of extra processor capacity on a dedicated Web server. IIS 7.0 is further optimized, however, so that when the processor gets really busy, it will suspend compression efforts. There are also dedicated devices for doing compression independent of the Web server itself.
Another area ripe for payload reduction is ViewState. During development, it’s quite easy for ViewState usage to get out of hand. Most Web controls use some ViewState, and on control-intensive pages, ViewState can grow to thousands of bytes. To reduce ViewState usage, turn it off on controls where it isn’t needed. In some cases, developers will even eliminate controls to reduce the ViewState. But that’s not always necessary. Most modern Web controls are sensitive to the problem of excessive ViewState and thus provide granular control over its size. There are also hardware devices that can remove and replace ViewState for you without altering your code or how your application runs.
One of the most effective technologies for reducing payload size is AJAX. Except that AJAX doesn’t really reduce payload size—it simply reduces the perceived size of the payload while increasing the total number of bytes sent to the browser. Using AJAX, the parent page is smaller, so initial render times are faster. Individual elements in that page then make their own requests to the server to populate data.
Effectively, AJAX spreads the payload out over time, giving the user something to look at while other bits load. So using AJAX will improve your user experience overall, but refer back to the performance equation to measure the real costs of your effort. AJAX typically increases compute time on the client, sometimes dramatically, to the point that performance can be unacceptable.
If the AJAX round-trips to the server to populate individual elements are replacing entire page requests, you’ll have a net decrease in round-trips. But in many cases, you’ll find the total number of round-trips for a given user will increase. You just need to be diligent about your testing so you know whether AJAX has improved performance or reduced it.
Caching
Experts in scaling ASP.NET applications talk a great deal about caching. Fundamentally, caching is about moving data closer to the user. In a typical ASP.NET application, before any significant optimization work has been done, virtually all the data the user needs is in the database and retrieved from the database with every request. Caching changes that behavior. ASP.NET actually supports three forms of caching: page caching (also known as output caching), partial-page caching, and programmatic (also known as data) caching.
Page caching is by far the simplest form of caching. To use it, you add an @OutputCache directive to your ASP.NET page and include a rule for when to expire it. For example, you could specify that the page should be cached for 60 seconds. With that directive in place, the first request of that page will process normally, accessing the database and whatever other resources are needed to generate the page. After that, the page is held in memory on the Web server for 60 seconds and all requests during that time are served directly from memory.
Unfortunately, while this example is straightforward, it ignores a fundamental reality of page caching: virtually no ASP.NET page is so static that you can cache the entire thing for any length of time. That’s where partial-page caching comes in. With partial-page caching, you’re able to mark portions of an ASP.NET page as cachable so that only the parts of the page that do change regularly are computed. It’s more complicated but effective.
Arguably, the most powerful (and most complex) form of caching is programmatic caching, which focuses on the objects used by the page. The most common use of programmatic caching is to store data retrieved from the database.
The most obvious problem with caching data is that the underlying data may have changed since you cached it. Expiration of caching is the biggest challenge you’ll face in implementing caching of any form. But there’s also memory to consider.
On a busy ASP.NET server, memory becomes a significant issue for a variety of reasons. Whenever an ASP.NET page is computed, it uses some memory. And the Microsoft® .NET Framework is set up to allocate memory very quickly but release it relatively slowly, through garbage collection. The discussion around garbage collection and .NET memory allocation is an article unto itself, one that has been written a number of times. But suffice it to say that on a busy Web server, the 2GB memory space available for your ASP.NET application is in high demand. Ideally, most of that memory usage is temporary, as it is allocated for variables and structures used in computing a Web page.
When it comes to persistent memory objects, however, like in-process session and cache objects, memory usage becomes much more problematic. And of course, these problems only surface when your application is really busy.
Consider this scenario: your Web site is hopping from some new marketing promotion, there are thousands of users hitting the site, and you’re making loads of money. To maintain good response times, you’re caching portions of pages and groups of data objects wherever possible. Each page request from a user consumes a bit of memory, so the bar of consumed memory keeps sliding upward. The more users, the faster that bar moves. There are also big jumps from the cache and session objects.
As the total memory used gets close to 90 percent of ASP.NET’s default cache memory limit, a garbage collection event is called. The garbage collector works its way through the memory space, shuffling down persisted memory objects (like cache objects and session objects) and freeing up memory that’s no longer used (the memory that was used to compute the Web pages). Freeing up unused memory is fast, but the shuffling of persisted objects is slow. So the more persisted objects you have, the harder time the garbage collector has doing its job. This type of problem can be identified in perform.exe by a high number of gen-2 collections.
And recall that while garbage collection is going on, no pages can be served by that ASP.NET server; everything is held in a queue, waiting for the garbage collection process to complete. And IIS is watching, too. If it thinks the process is taking too long and might be hung, it will recycle the worker thread. And while this frees up a lot of memory really quickly because all of those persisted memory objects are thrown out, you’ll have some annoyed customers.
There is now a patch for ASP.NET that will automatically remove objects from the programmatic cache if you get low on memory, which sounds like a good idea on the surface. It’s better than crashing. Just remember that every time you remove something from the cache, your code will eventually put it back.
The moment you cache something, you run the risk of it being wrong. Take, for example, a widgets database and corresponding order page. In the initial incarnation of the widget page, every rendering of that page will involve a request from the database for the number of widgets still in inventory. If you analyze those requests, you’ll likely find that 99 percent of the time, you’re retrieving the same number over and over again. So why not cache it?
A simple way to cache it would be over time. So you cache the inventory of the widgets for an hour. The drawback to this technique is that someone will buy a widget, then go back to the page and see that the inventory is still the same. You’ll get complaints about that. But far more challenging is when someone goes to buy your widget and sees that the inventory is there, when it’s actually sold out. You could build a backorder system, but either way, you’re dealing with a disappointed customer.
Perhaps the problem is your expiration scheme: Time isn’t good enough. You could cache the inventory count until someone buys a widget and then expire the cache object. That’s more logical, but what happens if there is more than one ASP.NET server? Depending on which server you go to, you’ll get different inventory counts for the widget. Consider that receiving new inventory (which adds to the count) doesn’t even go through your Web application, and you have a whole new way to be wrong.
Synchronizing expirations among ASP.NET servers can be done, but you have to be careful. The amount of chatter you can generate among Web servers goes up geometrically as the number of cache objects and Web servers increases.
The impact of cache expiration on performance needs to be studied carefully, too. Under high load conditions, expiring a cache object can cause a lot of grief. For example, suppose you have an expensive query that takes 30 seconds to return from the database. You’ve cached that query to save that high expense because under load, that page is requested once every second.
The code for handling cache objects is pretty simple. Instead of retrieving the data from the database when needed, the application first checks to see if the cache object is populated. If it is, it uses the data from the cache object. If it is not, it executes the code to retrieve the data from the database and then populates the cache object with that data; code then continues to execute as normal.
The problem is that if you’ve got a query that takes 30 seconds and you’re executing the page every second, in the time it takes to populate the cache item, 29 other requests will come in, all of which will attempt to populate the cache item with their own queries to the database. To solve this problem, you can add a thread lock to stop the other page executions from requesting the data from the database.
But run through the scenario again: the first request comes in, discovers the cache item is not populated, applies a lock to the code, and runs the query to populate the cache object. The second request arrives a second later while the first is still running, finds the cache object is not populated but the lock is in place, so it blocks. As does the next 28 requests. Then the first one finishes its processing, removes the lock, and continues. What happens to the other 29 requests? They’re no longer blocked, so they continue executing as well. But they’ve already run through the check to see if the cache object is populated (and it wasn’t at the time). So they’ll try and grab a lock, and one will succeed and run the query again.
See the problem? Other requests that arrive after the first request completed populating the cache object will run normally, but those requests that come in while the query is running are in a tough spot. You have to write code to deal with this. If a request hits a lock, when the lock is lifted it should check again to see if the cache object is populated, as shown in Figure 5. Likely, the cache object will be populated now; that was why the lock was taken in the first place. Although it’s possible that it isn’t, because in the meantime some other chunk of code has expired the cache object again.
// check for cached results
object cachedResults = ctx.Cache["PersonList"];
ArrayList results = new ArrayList();

if  (cachedResults == null)
{
  // lock this section of the code
  // while we populate the list
  lock(lockObject)
  {
    // only populate if list was not populated by
    // another thread while this thread was waiting
    if (cachedResults == null)
    {
      ...
    }
  }
}

Writing caching code that works well is hard work, but the returns can be tremendous. Caching does add complexity, however, so use it judiciously. Make sure you’re really going to benefit from the complexity. Always test your caching code for these complex scenarios. What happens on multiple simultaneous requests? What happens if expirations come quickly? You need to know the answers to these questions. You don’t want your caching code to make your scaling problems worse.
Scaling Databases
The normal approach for scaling Web sites is to scale out, rather than up. This is largely due to ASP.NET thread and memory limitations combined with the short-term nature of Web requests.
When it comes to scaling databases, however, the normal practice is to scale up—one gigantic box, perhaps two in a cluster configuration (although only one is actually running the database at any given time). Eventually, though, in every large-scale Web application, a single database cannot handle the load. You have to scale out. It’s possible; you just need to apply the same strategies applied to the Web application itself. The first step is always specialization—breaking the database into logical partitions. Those partitions could be datacentric, perhaps by region. So you would have multiple databases, each containing a portion of the whole database. One server would have East Coast data, for example, while the other has West Coast data.
Really large-scale Web applications, however, partition their databases into readers and writers (see Figure 6). The reader databases are read-only; they receive their data from the writer databases via replication. All data queries go to the reader databases, which are optimized for reading data as fast as possible. Reader databases are by their nature very distributable.

Figure 6 Distributed Database Architecture (Click the image for a larger view)
All data write requests are sent to the writer databases, which are partitioned and tuned to write efficiently. Replication moves the new data from the writer to the reader databases.
The consequence of creating such specialized databases is latency: a write is now going to take time to be distributed to the reader databases. But if you can deal with the latency, the scaling potential is huge.
The Endless Scaling Effort
As long as your application continues to grow, your efforts to scale it are going to continue to grow as well. The ASP.NET techniques that work effectively for 10,000 simultaneous users aren’t as effective with 100,000 users, and the rules change again with 1 million users. Of course, performance can completely depend on your application; we’ve seen applications that had scaling challenges with less than a thousand users!
The key to effective scaling is to measure before you cut: Use testing to be sure you’re spending effort where it’s needed. Test your work to be sure that you’ve actually made an improvement, not just a change. Even at the end of a development cycle focused on optimizing for scalability, you should know where your slowest bits are. Hopefully, however, they’re fast enough for the users today, so that you can work on what your users will need tomorrow.
Richard Campbell is a Microsoft Regional Director, MVP in ASP.NET, and the co-host of .NET Rocks, the Internet Audio Talkshow for .NET Developers (dotnetrocks.com). He has spent years consulting with companies on the performance and scaling of ASP.NET and is also one of the co-founders of Strangeloop Networks.
Kent Alstad is the CTO of Strangeloop Networks (strangeloopnetworks.com) and the principal or contributing author on all of Strangeloop’s pending patents. Before helping to create Strangeloop, he built and consulted on many high-performance, high-scaling ASP.NET applications.

[Dev Rule] Leaving patterns & practices

“Life is like skiing.  Just like skiing, the goal is not to get to the bottom of the hill. It’s to have a bunch of good runs before the sun sets.” – Seth Godin

It’s been a good run.  After more than 10 years in patterns & practices, I’m on to my next adventure here at Microsoft.

For this post, I wanted to take a stroll down memory lane.  During my time at patterns & practices, I learned more about project management, application architecture, software development, processes, teamwork, leadership, product success, and making impact than I think I could have ever hoped to learn anywhere else.  Perhaps the best part, is that I have 10+ years ofdeliberate practice in the art of “best practices” and I’ve had a chance to work with some of the most amazing people in the industry, lead SWAT teams around the world on fantastic voyages and epic adventures, and leave a legacy of several high-impact Microsoft Blue Books, all while mastering the art of prescriptive guidance.

There are a few ways I can share my journey in patterns & practices.  One of my managers referred to me as “the abilities PM” because of my focus on quality attributes (security, performance, scalability, etc.)  and that’s a pretty good place to start.  My role as a PM (Program Manager) in patterns & practices, can largely be defined in terms of my impact on these three areas: security, performance, and application architecture.  (Yes, there is more to the story, but those three areas, serve as a good enough lens for now.)

The Security Story
It all started when I joined patterns & practices (PAG or the Prescriptive Architecture Guidance team at the time.)

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I moved from Microsoft Developer Support with the expectation that I would share and scale broadly with customers what I learned from living in across the hall from folks like Scott Guthrie, Brad Abrams, and other .NET Framework leaders.  Having performed more than 650 customer architecture and design reviews, I was in a unique position to share all the principles, patterns, practices, and anti-patterns that I had seen across a large number of customer projects, many of which were on the leading and bleeding edge of this space.

But life has a way of throwing curve balls.  Around this time, security was Jim Allchin’s top priority, and he asked patterns & practices what we were going to do about security.  In turn, my manager asked me, what I was going to do about security.  Coming from a middleware background, security was something I was usually trying to work around, especially when I had to flow callers to the backend.  My new challenge was to design security architectures for our application platform on .NET.  Boy, was I in for a ride.

I knew security was the name of the game, but I had a lot to learn in terms of leading project teams around the world, brokering in all the right parts of the company, our community, and the industry.  I also had a lot to learn in terms of how to create prescriptive guidance.  The purpose was not to just put out a book.  The purpose was to drive customer success on the platform.  This included creating a durable, and evolvable security storythat our customers could build on, and that we could use to “train the trainers.”  This also meant creating a knowledge base that we could use as an anchor for driving product feedback and platform change.  This was all in addition to learning how to think about security from an architecture and design standpoint, in a way that could help customers build more secure applications.

And thus the first Microsoft Blue Book, Building Secure ASP.NET Applications, was born.  It was our answer to IBM Redbooks.

While I learned a lot from doing end-to-end security architectures and putting our variety of products and technologies together, the real learning came from driving Improving Web Application Security, or “Threats and Countermeasures”, as we affectionately called it.  This journey was about learning how to bridge the gap between architecture and design, development, test, and operations.  It was about learning how to think about securityfrom a threats, attacks, vulnerabilities, and countermeasures perspective.  It was about thinking about security in a more holistic way, and our little mantra was “secure the network, host, and app.”

We had the ultimate security dream team, on mission impossible, and we pulled it off.  Our core engineering team included Alex Mackman, Michael Dunner, Srinath Vasireddy, Ray Escamilla and Anandha Murukan, and we had an extended team  of industry champs including Joel Scambray of the Hacking Exposed series.  (In fact, check out the extensive team list at the bottom of our Threats and Countermeasures Landing Page.)

How do I know we pulled it off?  We had outstanding results in our platform security competitive study, and we were told that is was our prescriptive guidance that made the difference in a very big way.  In addition, our guide was downloaded more than 800,000 times in the first six months, and it quickly established the mental models and language for how our growing customer base thought about security on the .NET platform.  It was a powerful thing when customers would say to us back in our language, “We’re using the trusted subsystem model  …”  It was like poetry in motion.

The big thing we learned from the journey was the power of having end-to-end application scenarios, along with maps of threats and countermeasures, while baking security into the life cycle, and using proven practices, like threat modeling, to significantly change the game.

Here are some of the key security deliverables at a glance from the various security adventures over the years:

This doesn’t include the product feedback work we did, or the work we did to bake security into Visual Studio / MSF Agile, or the patents we filed, which were the icing on the cake.  As a sidenote, behind the scenes we called our “threats and countermeasures” guide “WOMA.”  It was short for weapon-of-mass adoption, because our field was continuously telling us stories of how they were winning accounts against the competition.

The Performance Story
Performance was right up my alley, but it was a significant shift from security.

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Ironically, I got a lot better at tackling security, by learning more about performance.  The big lesson I learned was that you have to bound or constrain your efforts in some way.  Just like performance can always be improved, so can security, so it’s all about prioritizing, knowing where to focus, and connecting back to the business objectives, aside from the technical perspective, and user experience.

Our first epic adventure in the performance space was the guide, Improving .NET Application Performance and Scalability (or, “Perf and Scale” as we affectionately called it.)   It was where I first got to work with folks like Rico Mariani, Jan Gray, and Gregor Noriskin.   It was mind blowing.

Working on performance and scalability was probably the most technically challenging exercise I’ve had at Microsoft.  I remember spending countless days and nights walking through CLR internals, figuring out how to optimize collections, sorting through multi-threading patterns, and mastering how garbage collection really worked.  Strangely enough, the “ah-ha” that I appreciated the most was figuring out that we could think of performance in terms ofresponse time, throughput, and resource utilization (CPU, memory, network, and disk.)  That little lens was the key to figuring out how to do effective performance modeling and solving nasty performance bottlenecks.  It also helped us parse complicated performance scenarios down into bite-sized chunks.

Here are some of the key performance deliverables at a glance from the various performance adventures over the years:

While performance took me to the depth of things, it was application architecture that took me to the breadth of things …

Application Architecture
Creating the Microsoft Application Architecture Guide was a chance to pull it all together.

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It was a chance to finally showcase how to put our platform technologies together into common application archetypes.  Rather than just a bunch of technologies, we could talk about our application platform very specifically in terms of application types: Web applications, RIA applications, desktop applications, Web services, and mobile applications.  We could talk about scenarios and trade-offs.  We could look at the shapes of applications in terms of architectural styles and patterns.  We could look at cross-cutting concerns, such as caching, communication, concurrency, configuration management, data access, exception management, logging, state management, validation, and workflow.  We could also walk the various quality attributes, like performance, security, reliability, manageability, usability, etc.

As you can imagine, this meant putting together a comprehensive map of our Microsoft application platform.  The surprise for me was that by putting together the map and looking broadly at the industry, it was easy to see the forest from the trees, as well as better understand and anticipate where the industry was going in terms of what was growing and what was dying.  It was a great way to get ahead of the curve.  In fact, I’ve continued to map out our Microsoft application platform each year, as a way to quickly see the forest from the trees and to figure out where to spend my time.

During my adventures with application architecture, I got to learn a lot and work with amazing people.   I also learned how to go across a lot of information faster and easier, and bring teams of people along the journey.  The secret was to keep creating maps that helped everybody get on to the same page fast.  This was an invaluable approach as our team was hunting and gathering all the pattern collections we could find.  We basically built a large catalog and constellation of application patterns in the form of maps.  While we didn’t include our maps in the guide, they helped our team and extended team ramp up in various spaces very quickly, as well as advance the practice of application architecture.  Basically, we could browse patterns of solutions at a glance.

If you read nothing else, check out A Technique for Architecture and Design.  Behind the scenes, we created this technique by synthesizing the expertise of more than 30 top solution architects, that had years of experience with structuring and designing end-to-end applications, dealing with security, performance, and reliability issues, and dealing with cross-cutting concerns.  The idea was to put down on paper, a proven practice for rapidly modeling applications on a whiteboard and identify risks earlier vs. later.

What’s Next?
I’ll have more to share as I go along.   What you’ll most likely see is a shift to more focus on strategy, execution, and business impact.  I’ll also share more information on the art and science of program management.   I’ve been mentoring a lot of people and I think the PM role at Microsoft is a very special one.  One of my mail goals is to broadly share the lessons I’ve learned from driving projects and leading teams and making impact as a PM on the patterns & practices team.

patterns & practices Guidance at a Glance
Meanwhile, here is my catalog of patterns & practices guidance at a glance.  Note that a lot of the prescriptive guidance I’ve worked on is out of date because of changes in technology.  That said, you can still learn many of the key principles, patterns, and practices that  the guidance is based on.  In this respect, much of the guidance is “evergreen” in that it’s timeless and durable.

Books

Developer Guidance Maps

Application Architecture

Books / Guides

Methods

Guidelines

Checklists

How Tos

Performance

Books / Guides

Methods

Guidelines

Checklists

Practices at a Glance

How Tos

Security

Guides

Methods

Threats and Countermeasures

Cheat Sheets

Guidelines

Checklists

Practices at a Glance

Questions and Answers

Explained

Application Scenarios

ASP.NET Security How Tos

WCF Security How Tos

Visual Studio Team System

Guides

Guidelines

Practices at a Glance

Questions and Answers

How Tos

My Related Posts

REF: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/jmeier/archive/2011/02/28/leaving-patterns-amp-practices.aspx

[Discovery] Logo và những bộ phim làm nên thương hiệu các hãng phim danh tiếng Hollywood

Điện ảnh Hoa Kỳ được ra đời từ cuối thế kỷ thứ 19, nền công nghiệp này đã nhanh chóng trở thành một trong những nền điện ảnh hàng đầu thế giới về cả số lượng phim phát hành lẫn chất lượng nghệ thuật. Hollywood là một tên gọi khác, nó là một địa danh và là nơi tập trung các hãng phim và trường quay lớn nhất nước Mỹ. Nhắc tới Hollywood chúng ta thường liên tưởng đến các bộ phim bom tấn. Tuy nhiên cũng có rất nhiều bộ phim điện ảnh nổi tiếng được sản xuất bởi các hãng phim độc lập nằm ngoài kinh đô điện ảnh của nước này. Cùng tìm hiểu ý nghĩa phía sau logo và những bộ phim mang lại thành công cho các hãng phim nổi tiếng Hollywood.

1/ 20th Century Fox – Những ánh đèn pha

Được thành lập ngày 28 tháng 12 năm 1934 bởi sự kết hợp của Twentieth Century và công ty rạp chiếu bóng Fox. Logo đầu tiên của hãng được họa sĩ vẽ tranh phong cảnh nổi tiếng Emil Kosa Jr thiết kế trên nền kiếng và các ảnh động. Đến năm 1994 hãng phim đã sử dụng công nghệ CGI để tân trang lại dưới sự giám sát của nhà sản xuất Kevin Burns. Logo nhìn khá đơn giản, chữ 20th Century Fox nằm trên 1 đỉnh tháp và có những ngọn đèn pha quay chậm.

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Những bộ phim nổi tiếng của 20th Century Fox

Chiến tranh giữa các vì sao, Ở nhà một mình, Die Hard, Kỷ băng hà, Revenge of the Nerds, X-Men, Titanic, Alien và Predator

2/ DreamWorks – cậu bé ngồi câu cá trên mặt trăng

DreamWorks ra đời vào năm 1994. Được điều hành bởi cựu chủ tịch hãng phim Disney – Jeffrey Katzenberg, đạo diễn nổi tiếng Steven Spielberg và nhà sản xuất David Geffen.

Với mong muốn mọi người ghi nhớ thời kỳ hoàng kim của Hollywood thông qua biểu tượng của DreamWorks . Giám chế hiệu ứng hình ảnh Dennis Muren đã nhờ bạn mình là họa sĩ Robert Hunt vẽ bằng thủ công hình ảnh cậu bé ngồi trên mặt trăng lưỡi liềm, buông cần câu xuống bầu trời, giữa một không gian tĩnh lặng, kỳ ảo. Hình mẫu của cậu bé ngồi câu cá chính là William, con trai của Robert Hunt.

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Những bộ phim gắn liền với thương hiệu DreamWorks

Hoàng tử ai cập, Shrek, The Ring, Tropic Thunder, Kung Fu Panda, Chicken Run, The Croods và Bí kíp luyện rồng.

3/ Universal – Qủa địa cầu

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Universal Pictures là công ty con của NBC Universal, một trong 6 xưởng điện ảnh lớn nhất thế giới. Được thành lập năm 1912 bởi Carl Laemmle. Universal Pictures có tuổi đời lâu thứ 2 tại Hollywood, chỉ đứng sau Paramount Pictures 1 tháng.

Là một trong những phim trường được xây dựng sớm và danh tiếng nhất của Hollywood. Universal là một khu phúc hợp giữa phim trường và công viên giải trí tọa lạc tại thành phố Universal, California. Và quả địa cầu là hình ảnh đặc trưng của hãng này.

Các bộ phim nổi tiếng của Universal

Công viên kỷ Jurra, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Mamma Mia, Người sắt.

4/ Warner Bros – Chiếc khiên giữa trời

Được sáng lập từ năm 1918 bởi những người những người Do Thái di cư từ Ba Lan bao gồm Hirsz, Aaron, Szmul và Itzhak Wonsal. Trụ sở chính được đặt tại thành phố New York. Biểu tượng của Warner Bros là chiếc khiên vàng bay giữa bầu trời đầy mây mù, WB là chữ viết tắt của hãng. Logo của Warner Bros đã được cải tiến và chỉnh sửa tổng cộng 11 lần để có được hình ảnh hoàn thiện như hiện nay

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Những bộ phim nổi tiếng của Warner Bros

Batman, Harry Potter, Ma trận, Hiệp sĩ bóng đêm, Tom and Jerry

5/ Paramount và ngọn núi tuyết hùng vĩ

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Paramount được xem là một trong những hãng phim đại thụ có lịch sử đâu đời nhất tại Hollywood. Thành lập năm 1912, bởi ông trùm điện ảnh Adolph Zukor và anh em nhà Frohman: Daniel Frohman và Charles Frohman. Ban đầu logo của hãng được nhà sản xuất W.W. Hodkinson vẽ mô phỏng theo hình dáng của ngọn núi Ben Lomond ở Utah. Sau nhiều lần thay đổi thì logo mới nhất được vẽ lại bằng công nghệ CGI dựa trên hình tượng đỉnh Artesonraju ở Peru.

Những bộ phim nổi tiếng của hãng Paramounts

Transformers, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Mission: Impossible, Indiana Jones và Bố già.

6/ Pixar – Chiếc đèn bàn

Biểu tượng chiếc đèn bàn chính là nhân vật hoạt hình mang tên Luxo trong phim cùng tên “Luxo.Jr”. Là bộ phim đầu tiên của hãng được sản xuất vào năm 1986 với độ dài vỏn vẹn 2 phút nhưng gây được tiếng vang lớn.

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Thành lập từ tháng 12 năm 1985 với tên gọi đầu tiên là Graphics Group. Năm 1991 Graphics Group được Steve Jobs mua lại cổ phần với giá 5 triệu usd và đổi tên thành Pixar. Khi đó Steve Jobs đã đạt được thỏa thuận cung cấp tài chính và phân phối ra thị trường với Disney. Đến năm 2006, sau một vài biến chuyển Walt Disney Pictures đã mua lại Pixar với giá khoảng 7,4 tỉ usd (bằng cổ phần), biến Pixar thành 1 công ty trực thuộc Walt Disney.

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Steve Jobs – Tổng giám đốc điều hành của Pixar và thành viên hội đồng quản trị của hãng Walt Disney

Những bộ phim hoạt hình nổi tiếng của Pixar

Đi tìm Nemo, The Incredibles, Toy Story, Monster Inc, Ratatouille, Wall-E.

7/ Walt Disney – Tòa lâu đài tráng lệ

Từ một xưởng ảnh động nhỏ và trở thành một studio lớn nhất Hollywood. Walt Disney được thành lập vào năm 1923 bởi anh em Walt và Roy Disney. Logo của hãng phim hoạt hình nổi tiếng này được lấy cảm hứng từ tòa lâu đài Neuschwanstein ở Đức, do vua Ludwig II của Bayern xây dựng năm 1869.

Nhắc tới Walt Disney, người ta liên tưởng ngay đến chú chuột Micky vui vẻ và lanh lợi. Bộ phim hoạt hình Chuột Mickey đầu tiên này của hãng đã gây được tiếng vang lớn ngay những ngày đầu được công chiếu tai New York. Và nhân vật Chuột Micky đã trở thành một nhân vật được toàn đầu quan tâm. Nắm bắt được tiềm năng của nhân vật này, Walt Disney đã khai thác các khía cạnhthương mại của Chuột Mickey làm tăng giá trị thương mại cho biểu tượng này. Cho đến nay tên tuổi của Walt Disney là thương hiệu của cả một tập đoàn toàn cầu về phim ảnh và các khu vui chơi giải trí.

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Những bộ phim khiến cả thế giới say mê của hãng Walt Disney

Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Cậu bé rừng xanh, Bạch tuyết và 7 chú lùn, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl , Toy Story, Bambi, Aladdin, Mary Poppins , High school musical

8/ Hãng Columbia và thiế nữ cầm đuốc.

Columbia.

Columbia Pictures được thành lập từ năm 1919 bởi anh em Jack CohnHarry Cohn cùng với Joe Brandt. Đầu tiên nó có tên là Cohn-Brandt-Cohn Film Sales. Vào năm 1982 xưởng phim được mua lại bởiCoca-Cola. Sau 5 năm, Coca-Cola hợp nhất Columbia Pictures và Tri-Star để trở thànhColumbia Pictures Entertainment. Đến năm 1989 chính thức được mua lại bởi Sony với giá 3,4 tỉ usd.

Biểu tượng thiếu nữ cầm ngọn đuốc đến nay đã qua 5 lần sửa đổi. Họa sĩ Michael Deas đã dùng Jenny Joseph – một bà mẹ của hai đứa con, để làm mẫu, tuy nhiên đã có chút sửa đổi trên gương mặt để tạo ra một tổng thể hoàn hảo. Cho đến nay, có rất nhiều người nhận mình là người mẫu của biểu trưng hãng Columbia, nhưng không có ghi chép cụ thể nào xác minh được tính chính xác.

Các tác tác phẩm nổi tiếng của hãng Columbia

Spider-Man , Jerry, Pirates, Adaptation, Final Fantasy.

[Discovery] Các nhà khoa học đã có thể mô phỏng đường cong không – thời gian trong phòng thí nghiệm

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Đại học Cornell tuyên bố đã tìm được cách mô phỏng đường cong không – thời gian bằng các thiết bị trong phòng thí nghiệm. Theo đó, khi đặt một nguyên tử siêu lạnh trong lưới laser kết hợp với đảm bảo tuân thủ các định luật cơ học lượng tử và nhiệt động lực học, nguyên tử đó sẽ có trạng thái giống như đang ở trên đường cong không – thời gian. Phương pháp trên chẳng những cho phép nghiên cứu cơ học lượng tử một cách trực quan, mà còn giúp giấc mơ chế tạo phi thuyền không gian nhanh hơn tốc độ ánh sáng hoặc thậm chí là cỗ máy thời gian tiến gần với hiện thực hơn.

Một cách đề khám phá mối liên hệ giữa cơ chế lượng tử và thuyết tương đối rộng là quan sát đường cong không thời – gian dưới quy mô cực nhỏ. Tuy nhiên, đường cong – không thời gian chỉ xảy ra trong những điều kiện hết sức khắc nhiệt như ở rìa của lỗ đen hoặc trong thời khắc ngay sau vụ nổ Big Bang. Đây là rào cản lớn nhất khiến thuyết lượng tử chủ yếu chỉ tồn tại trên lý thuyết và các nhà nghiên cứu chưa thể tiến hành các thí nghiệm thực chứng. Tuy nhiên, Nikodem Szpak, tiến sĩ vật lý tại Đại học Cornell tuyên bố đã tìm được cách mô phỏng dường cong không – thời gian ngay trong một phòng thí nghiệm lượng tử bình thường.

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Thay đổi thông số mạng lưới quang học, làm thay đổi các tham số toán học, từ đó mô phỏng được hoạt động của đường cong không – thời gian

Ý tưởng dựa trên một mạng lưới quang học tạo ra từ các cặp laser tia laser đan xen vào nhau. Khi một nguyên tử siêu lạnh được thả vào trong mạng lưới này, nó sẽ bị mắc kẹt lại tương tự như một quả bóng bàn được thả vào trong hộp đựng trứng vậy. Về cơ bản, kỹ thuật đặt bẫy quang học này khá phổ biến tại các phòng thí nghiệm lượng tử trên thế giới. Tuy nhiên, khi nguyên tử đang trong trạng thái siêu lạnh, nó sẽ đứng tại một vị trí cố định mà sẽ “chui đường hầm” đi từ nơi này đến nơi khác. “Đường hầm” này là một hình thức chuyển động xuyên qua mạng lưới và có thể được kiểm soát bằng cách thay đổi thông số của các tia laser để khiến nó khó đi hợc dễ đi hơn.

Cách tạo ra đường cong của tiến sĩ Szpak cũng tương tự như vậy, nhưng dưới kích thước lớn hơn. Khi đó, “chuyển động đường hầm” của nguyên tử sẽ được quy đổi bằng các công thức toán học sang chuyển động trong không thời gian phẳng. Nói cách khác, chúng ta hoàn toàn có thể mô phỏng đường cong không – thời gian trong phòng thí nghiệm bằng cách thay đổi các thông số laser của mạng quang học. Cụ thể, các thông số của tia laser sẽ được thay đổi theo thời gian nhằm mô phỏng sự biến thiên của sóng hấp dẫn.

Việc mô phỏng thành công đường cong không thời gian trong phòng thí nghiệm được xem như một bước tiến lớn trong vật lý lượng tử, cho phép các nhà nghiên cứu lần đầu tiên khảo sát các định luật lượng tử trong điều kiện thông thường. Dù vậy, phương pháp trên cần phải được tiếp tục phát triển và kiểm chứng trong tương lai. Thử thách được đặt ra chính là đưa nhiệt độ của nguyên tử về độ không tuyệt đối. Nếu thành công, phương pháp trên còn giúp con người hiểu được các nguyên lý lượng tử của vũ trụ một cách trực quan thay vì bằng các giả thuyết như từ trước đến nay.

Tham khảo Extremtech, Arvix