Why is a standalone 10Mbps network with 10-20 200MHz PCs, running NT4 on 64MB RAM, able to outperform much larger networks with state of the art Windows XP machines? Well, it surely outperforms the systems of many larger organizations if you want to run a normal database application with a good server.
Thinking of it, it does make sense: Modern desktop CPUs are not the bottleneck any more, harddisk seek time has not improved significantly and without other applications and network traffic, 10Mbps LAN is faster and more stable than many WANs - it surely has a lower latency because of the geographic limit. Also, Windows XP (and Vista?) haven't introduced anything really revolutionary with regard to speed, so the bottleneck in many systems is really the latency on the WAN.
Conclusion: For some GUI applications, performance was not improved by the improvements in desktop PC performance during the last 10 years, because network latency is the most important performance bottleneck.
My old Win98 SE PC starts up and shuts down way faster than my dual core Vista 3GB RAM supermachine. And I cannot type nor print any faster in Office 97 (90% of what I do) than in Office XP. So guess what I use most of the time?
Replace the NT's with Linux/FreeBSD and you'll wring out even more performance! I have some old machines running BSD and they saturate the network stack quite effortlessly, while my Vista Ultimate on a C2Q 2.4 GHz/2GB RAM languishes behind!
Maybe I wasn't clear enough in my post, but NT4 actually outperforms the XP systems, in just running the application, and it is the same application that is being used in both places.
Suggesting FreeBSD or Linux totally misses the point: The point is, that you can improve the desktop PC speed as much as you want - increase CPU speed by 15x, increase CPU count by 4x, increase memory by 30x, and it will still perform exactly the same, because the bottleneck is not in the PC, but in the network latency.
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