Tammy Everts (@tameverts) recently presented Web Performance ROI: A Brief History
It is a very important topic in performance engineering and it is great that now it again gets a lot of attention. Although I wouldn’t separate the history of web performance from the history of performance engineering in general that going back much further.
In the beginning, during the mainframe era, it was rather easy to present a business case for performance. Mainframe resources cost so much, so every improvement usually paid off efforts multi-fold.
Then we get to distributed systems and it became more difficult to make such a case. Here is an interesting quote:
“Fix-it-later was a viable approach in the 1970s, but today the original promises no longer hold, and fix-it-later is archaic and dangerous. The original premises were:
-Performance problems are rare.
-Hardware is fast and inexpensive.
-It’s too expensive to build responsive software.
-You can tune software later, if necessary.”
In what year do you think it was written? Well, at least the book Performance Engineering of Software Systems by Connie Smith was published in 1990. It still sounds up to date for me… Except that today many people say that “fix-it-later” (which nowadays has several fancy names) is the best approach (which may be true in some – but definitely not all – cases, which is a completely separate discussion).
You may check a great collection of more generic references for a business case for Software Performance Engineering by Connie Smith.
Returning to Web performance, Tammy Everts did many great posts on the topic. She is even writing a book ‘Time is Money: The Business Value of Web Performance’, an early preview edition is available from O’Reilly (and still available for free from the SOASTA web site).
She and Tim Kadlec (@tkadlec) are behind the WPO Stats site: ‘Case studies and experiments demonstrating the impact of web performance optimization (WPO) on user experience and business metrics.’
A great (and very well ordered) collection of links on the topic is supported by zOompf (a Rigor company). Another good collection of links about the subject is supported by Yottaa.
It is great that the business case for performance became a popular topic again and a lot of very interesting information is published recently. A lot is related to very specific cases of Internet giants, so it may be not directly applicable to your case – but looking through all that available information it would be much easier to present your own business case for performance engineering.