There are no standards on titles and skill sets related to performance dimension of IT. I decided to put together how I understand them (most terms are vague, so it is quite possible that other people understand them differently). Of course, it is a simplification – but the topic is probably too heavy influenced by organization history and politics in every particular organization to be clear cut anyway.
I still think that we can break the whole area into three major categories: design (and development), testing, and production (maybe somewhat matching ITIL terms of Service Design, Service Transition, and Service Operation). The term Performance Engineering may be related to the whole area (or maybe related to the design category – in this case sometimes referred as Software Performance Engineering, SPE).
Performance Design. Talking about the design category (I used the ‘Performance Design’ term to group all performance-related activities during design and development , although it isn’t used this way – probably reflecting that the whole area is not quite existing as a separate discipline), we have specific areas of performance engineering knowledge for each specific technology. Such as Java performance, .Net performance, etc. One relatively new, but large and popular area is Web Performance Optimization, covering end-user Web performance. And, of course, we have Software Performance Engineering (SPE) trying to establish generic approaches – although SPE progress wasn’t too impressive since Dr. Connie Smith published ‘Performance Engineering of Software Systems’ in 1990.
It is definitely supposed to be an important part of the skill set of software architects (on a higher level, SPE, etc.) and software developers (maybe on a lower level, how efficiently design specific component using the chosen technology – but good understanding of high-level performance engineering won’t hurt either).
And while many architects and developers have some understanding of performance, often the main stress is on functionality and deadlines, so performance is left to the very end – where it sometimes may be indeed tuned in (usually when technologies are mature and the team is quite experienced), and sometimes require major changes (and late changes are very expensive).
It looks like the idea to have an explicit person responsible for performance from the beginning (starting from requirements) and working with other architects and developers to build it in makes sense. The title may be ‘performance architect’ or ‘performance champion’. Although such people are rare – rather we could see a proactive person from performance engineering or performance testing groups trying to ask performance questions early.
Performance Testing. Including, of course, all other variations and names, such as load, stress, endurance, etc. testing. ITIL matching term would probably Service Validation and Testing. All ways to apply synthetic load to the system and analyze system’s behavior. In the narrow sense, ‘performance tester’ is responsible for creating and applying such load (test scripting and execution). In a wider sense, it also includes workload characterization (workload modeling), performance analysis and performance troubleshooting – and often such person is referred as ‘performance engineer’. In some cases they are different people: performance tester is responsible for applying the load and performance engineer (maybe performance analyst in this case) is responsible for system analysis and optimization.
I definitely put performance testing in a separate category due to specific set of skills required: workload generation. And, perhaps, techniques to find and fix issues in the system applying an appropriate workload. But definitely not because “testing should go after development before production” as it use to be in the waterfall approach – testing should start as early as possible mostly overlapping with development and may continue in production. Monitoring the system using synthetic workload, for example, I’d rather also put in this testing category – it is actually testing the production system in parallel to production workload.
Performance Management, perhaps, may be a good name for the collection of performance-related activities and skills in production (and around).
It is interesting that ITIL places Capacity Management and Service Level Management processes into Service Design. I see a point here – you definitely need to allocate capacity before deploying the system, and Service Levels should probably come directly from the performance requirements. Still real people working in these areas are usually part of operations. Capacity Planners are responsible for allocating resources, although fewer and fewer people have such title and these responsibilities get spread between other groups (which, unfortunately, often don’t have appropriate skills).
Service Level Management would probably handled by Performance Monitoring (Analysis). ITIL matching term would probably Service Measurement. Title ‘Performance Analysts’ used often in the past – but not very popular anymore. Probably title ‘Performance Engineer’ is more popular now. And, of course, it may be specialized, like Database Monitoring, System Monitoring, Application Server Monitoring. These may be done by respective administrators (DBA, system administrator, etc.).
Application Monitoring – relatively new staff. Usually referred as Application Performance Monitoring. The idea is to measure application-specific metrics (including business-related metric, end-user metrics, etc.) in addition to those system-level metrics that used to be measured earlier. Importance of application monitoring is definitely growing. From one side, system-level metrics becomes less relevant in today’s infrastructure with virtualization, multi-tenancy, cloud, etc. From another side, the system becomes so complicated that trying to figure out what is going on using low-level metrics becomes nightmare. Form the third side, full monitoring from the business point of view becomes a business requirement – and it is where IT can provide unique business advantage.
Probably Application Performance Management (APM) would the right category encompassing most production-related categories such as Performance Monitoring, Capacity Management, Diagnostics (troubleshooting) and Tuning (and Optimization – although this may somewhat get into re-design category). We probably not there yet and Application Performance Management is rather a vague vision than reality. Gartner, for example, stresses that APM is Application Performance Monitoring, not Management. And I am not sure what would be a title of the person doing this. Management is a favorite word for an area of expertise (as in Performance Management or Capacity Management), but Manager (at least in the US) still means a person who manages other people. So the title, I guess, would be the same ubiquitous ‘performance engineer’.
Performance Troubleshooting or Diagnostics is definitely important part of Performance Management and is an application of performance engineering to existing performance issues. While it is probably the most typical performance-related activity at many corporations, very few have anything formal around it and usually all other performance-related groups get involved. And we need performance engineering kind of skills to investigate and fix performance problems in production.
It looks like that in the new generation of Web companies monitoring and capacity planning often included into ‘Site Reliability’, adding, I guess, some confusion to the already existing mess of terms and notions.
P.S. By the way, the only conference covering almost all topics mentioned above is CMG. Call for papers and workshops is opened now.