Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Characterizing Performance Bottlenecks

If you do a Google search using keywords like: performance, bottleneck, analysis, you get quite a bewildering list of responses, and none of them seems to clearly define what they mean by the term bottleneck.

The word bottleneck refers to a choke point or narrowing, literally like the neck of a bottle, that causes the flow to take longer than it would otherwise. The effect on performance is commonly seen on the freeway in an area undergoing roadwork. Multiple lanes of traffic are forced to converge into a single lane and proceed past the roadwork in single file. Going from parallel traffic flow to serial flow means the same number of cars will take longer to get through that same section of road. As we all know, the delay at a freeway bottleneck can be very significant.

The same is true on a single-lane country road. If you come to a section where roadwork slows down every car, it takes longer to traverse that section of the road. Bottlenecks are synonymous with slow downs and delays, but they really determine a lot more than delay.