ForumFriday: Notes 8 Performance

February 8 2008

Rob Stitt has posted the comment "Notes 8 Standard Extremely Slow vs. Basic" in the Notes 8 Forum:

The performance of the Notes v8 Standard client vs. the Notes v8 Basic client is abysmal.  In fact, there is almost no way we can roll the Standard client out to our users because they will revolt.  

Often times, people say "it does thus & so in x seconds on my system".  That doesn't however, prove there isn't a serious problem.  What is more important is the RELATIVE INCREASE in time.  As you can see from stats I gathered on my system (which meets the required minimums), the increase in time between the Basic client and the Standard client is huge.

Note that these time the critical first & last impressions that users see when the start and exit the Notes client.

From my experience, other aspects of using the client (e.g., clicking on new messages, on icons, etc.) have similarly large increases in response time, but they are too small to measure with a stop watch.  Still, they contribute to a perceived (and real) sluggishness of the client.

If we rolled the Standard client out with these kinds of response times, I have little doubt people would start pushing us to go to Exchange/Outlook!

He then goes on to list some performance numbers. I am not going to dispute his numbers, but share some of my experience.

I took a personal laptop that I consider to be typical for most users. A Dell Latitude with 1 gig of ram, a single core Centrino, an Intel based video card (on board, not an ATI or Nvidia fance card) a standard 4,500 80 gig hard drive, and 100 meg network. I wiped the laptop and installed Windows XP SP2 on it clean.

I then installed some of the basic tools a user would need. Office 2003 Professional, including Microsoft Project and Microsoft Visio. Firefox 2.0.X. A VPN client (happens to be Cisco). Paint Shop Pro XI. Yahoo Messenger. iTunes. Standard load for a typical user. This is not a developer or admin laptop. No Visual Studio.NET or I also installed a corporate edition of Symantec Norton Anti-Virus and Client Security.

I then installed Notes 8 Standard 8.0.0, with the IBM Productivity Editors. The typical installation with no existing databases. I pulled down my mail file (12k documents, 1.6 gig) and my contacts (3k documents, 70 megs). I also pulled my blog and our internal CRM system and PSC project Management System, both Notes applications. I started using this machine and Notes 8 Standard to do my daily non-development work. Mostly email, calendar, and CRM sales related stuff. Creating documents, working with Word and Excel files, some browsing, etc. While a bit sluggish, it was usable for me. Then, I started to tweak the system.

First, I went and got the latest video drivers from the Intel site, not from Dell. After an install and reboot, quite a bit of the sluggish tab changing and preview changing went away. So, everyone check their video drives. That makes a world of difference.

Second, I made sure that Norton Anti-Virus was configured not to scan every file from the Notes directory. I set it to skip C:\Program Files\IBM\Lotus\Notes. Much of the disk thrashing seemed to go away.

Third, I set my machine to defragment the hard drive on a weekly basis and did a manual defrag. That really seemed to impact disk thrashing while using Notes 8.

Last, I made sure I was always working in a local database instead of a database on the server. Just like Outlook has you work locally because it runs faster, the same can be said for Notes. Once I moved to a local mail file and did the above three steps, I have had no preview stuttering at all.

Now, I am not going to post raw numbers. But the overall experience for me is extremely usable. Is it as fast as Notes 7.0.2? No. As fast as Notes 8.0.0 Basic? No. But the advantages I get from the functionality outweigh a bit of a trade-off in speed. And after a couple hours, I stopped noticing any speed issues.

Since then, I have done a few more tests that I will add here, but I do not think are necessary. As expected, upping the RAM from 1 Gig to 2 Gig made a drastic difference. Especially with any of the Office or Paint Shop Pro running. I also tried different hard drives. I swapped the 4,500 drive for a 7,200 drive, and wow. What a difference. Hard disk speed is one of the major bottlenecks left in any computer. I tried Notes 8 in a Virtual Machine running on an external USB2 drive running at 10k, and it is super fast.

Now, my main machine is a Dell Latitude D820. I have upgraded it to 4 gigs of ram. Dual Core Processor. The video card has 64 meg of ram and I update the video driver all the time. It also is a machine where I run Office 2007 and Visual Studio.NET 2008. If I have any Office 2007 application running, including Outlook (which I use for a personal email account and an Exchange test account so I can be educated on the product) that machine is just slow. With or Without Notes 8 running. Office 2007 is just a resource hog. Putting Notes 8 Standard with Office 2007 at the same time can be frustrating.

I have also done some testing with Notes 8.0.1 Standard. For me, it is noticeable faster. But it could be faster still. At Lotusphere, talking with some of the IBMers, I know there are folks who are focused on nothing but performance of the Notes 8 and 8.5 client. I hope they can make some major improvements.

So the whole point of this is to tell you that you can probably improve the performance with some tweaks to the machine running Notes 8 Standard today. You can improve the performance with hardware improvements, mostly in RAM and hard disk. And the future will bring some improvement.