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Improving ASP.NET Application Performance and Scalability

Explore ways to reduce page load time, manage state efficiently, scale back on memory use, handle resources better, and improve data access in your ASP.NET applications.

any factors influence application performance, but in essence, the most important is to be aware of how to optimize your applications so they consume the least amount of memory and require the least amount of processing to produce the desired output in a managed environment.

This article discusses some best practices that you can follow during an application's development life cycle to help ensure that your application is both scalable and achieves high performance. You don't have to use special tools to achieve this, just write structured, readable code, paying particular attention to techniques that are instrumental for improving, optimizing and boosting the performance of .NET applications.

Reducing Page Load Time
Avoid excessively large images, redundant tags, and nested tables to facilitate faster page loads. Always avoid unnecessary roundtrips to the web server. Use client side scripts to dramatically reduce server roundtrips, thereby boosting the perceived, if not the actual application performance. Take advantage of the Page.IsPostback property to avoid unnecessary server processing on a roundtrip, reducing network traffic. I suggest you leave page buffering on (it is turned on by default) for a page unless you have a specific reason to turn it off.

You can pre-compile web pages in your application to reduce the working set size and boost application performance. Set AutoEventWireup attribute to false in the section of the server's Machine.config file to improve performance further, e.g.:

       <pages autoEventWireup="true|false" /> 

The AutoEventWireup attribute accepts a Boolean value that indicates whether the ASP.NET pages events are auto-wired. If the AutoEventWireup is set to false, the runtime does not have to look for each of the page event handlers. This MSDN article about the AutoEventWireup Event concludes with, "When you explicitly set AutoEventWireup to true, Visual Studio .NET or Visual Studio 2005, by default, generates code to bind events to their event-handler methods. At the same time, the ASP.NET page framework automatically calls the event-handler methods based on their predefined names. This can lead to the same event-handler method being called two times when the page runs." The article therefore recommends that you always set AutoEventWireup to false while working in Visual Studio .NET.

Efficient ASP.NET State Management Practices
ViewState is great for storing control state but can degrade performance—especially on web sites with large page sizes. If you've ever looked at a page that contains a large DataSet, you know the amount of data stored in ViewState can be overwhelming. Every byte added to a web page by enabling its ViewState causes two bytes of network traffic, one in each direction. Evaluate whether each web page you write requires ViewState and avoid it when possible to speed up the page-load cycle in your applications. You should typically use ViewState only for controls that need to persist state. You can turn ViewState on or off at four levels: machine, application, page, and control. Limiting the size of the ViewState and eliminating its unnecessary usage would boost the application performance to a large extent due to the reduced size of the rendered pages and hence the network traffic. It should be noted that each byte of the view state causes two bytes of network traffic for each request, one from the server to the client and the other from the client to the server. For more information on ViewState and how to turn it off at control, page, application, or machine levels, see this article .

You can remove the runat="server" form tag completely to reduce page size by 20 bytes. If you don't remove this tag, the page itself passes on about 20 bytes of information to ViewState—even when the page's ViewState property is set to false.

Caching is one of the best strategies for storing relatively static application data. Caching reads data from memory to avoid repeatedly retrieving data from a database, file, or any other repository, and it can provide huge application performance gains. Use Page Output, Page Fragment or Data Caching directives depending on your requirements. Cache application-wide data that multiple users of the application need to share and access, but avoid storing user-specific data in the cache.

Use Session State only for storing a single user's session data. Avoid storing too many objects in the Session and turn Session State off for pages that do not need to access session data. You can turn Session State on or off at the same four levels as ViewState: machine, application, page, and control.

Note that there are three Session State storage modes. The right type of storage mode to choose depends on factors such as, speed, security, scalability, and reliability. Even though the InProc mode of Session State storage is the fastest, it is not at all well suited to a production environment and not scalable for large sites. The OutProc storage mode is well-suited for web sites with heavy traffic, while the SqlServer mode is great for securing session data. No matter which mode you choose though, Session State has one major disadvantage: the resource will be increasingly strained as you scale up. There are always tradeoffs. The best mode for security, scalability, and reliability is not always the best mode for performance, and vice versa.

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