Unless your computer systems have been severely neglected, the time required to run Axys reports on any given day is unlikely to disappoint most users. Axys taps data and produces most de facto reports promptly. Axys users with less than a hundred portfolios are unlikely to care about processing speed issues, but for those of you that have several hundred or thousands of portfolios, the following performance enhancing tips for Axys can shave hours or perhaps days of processing time at quarter end:

1. Reign in Overzealous Virus Scanning
Norton Antivirus and other Antivirus products are engineered to perform real-time virus checks on all files every time they are accessed. While this functionality makes a lot of sense for office documents that could harbor viruses and the bulk of your company files, repetitively checking Axys file types is unlikely to uncover any viruses. In order to speed processing, disable real-time Antivirus checks on either selected folders like Axys3 or specific file types — like CLI files. It is still prudent to scan all files for viruses in a regular evening process. It just doesn’t make sense to check them each and every time they are accessed.

2. Optimize Network Configuration
In this day and age we still occasionally run into companies that have obviously spent plenty of money on technology, but overlooked the network needs of their investment operations area. IT consultants and/or in-house staff need to understand that Axys is not a client server application. As such, processing takes place on a user’s local machine, but is also dependent on server speed since files effectively need to be transferred to the local workstation so they can be processed. All workstations should be configured with gigabit network cards and connected to the server hosting the Axys application via gigabit switches. This sounds relatively straightforward, but “the devil is in the details.” If a multiple switches exist between the server and the workstations all of the switches involved need to be gigabit switches. The server should have a gigabit card. Most importantly the network cards on the workstations and server should be configured to connect at gigabit speeds.

3. Process Data Directly from the Server
If improving the network speed can enhance Axys performance, removing the network factor from the equation could further boost processing speed. In most circumstances, the operations team does not have the ability to connect to the server that houses Axys and run applications at their whim. Processing from the server can make sense in some smaller installations or in situations where the operations staff has been blessed with their own dedicated server that they have authority to use as they wish. However, processing directly from the server does not guarantee improved performance over processing from a networked workstation. It is possible that a server with poor processing power would under perform when compared with a faster computer connected to the server via a gigabit network connection. As IT professionals ourselves, we have reservations regarding this approach to resolving speed issues and do not currently believe it is a best practice.

4. Distribute Processing Across Multiple Workstations
Establishing the framework to be able to do report production in parallel empowers firms to scale their production as their business grows. If proper planning is done up front to organize the work required by various business units at a company, report production can be parceled off and done simultaneously or asynchronously as various business units demand. Proper planning entails creating the reports, scripts and macros to support parallel report production. Without the necessary infrastructure design and corresponding development, scripts and macros architected for a single user environment can’t be run autonomously as needed.

5. Buy a Faster Workstation(s) and/or Server
Buying a faster workstation should increase your processing speed, but it is conceivable that a bottleneck could exist at the server that limits the positive effect of purchasing a faster workstation. Likewise, buying a brand new server that is connected to older workstations will only do so much. When considering new hardware purchases, make sure you examine all possible bottlenecks. In our experience assisting clients with the development and integration necessary to automate their reporting systems, we found individual user’s Axys processing performance varied greatly. Recognizing the need to benchmark Axys processing speed, we created a simple report in REPLANG that allows us to quickly evaluate Axys performance from any workstation. This utility and other Axys tools are available from our website.

Feel free to download our basic speed test report (speed.rep) at http://www.isitc.com\aug or recreate it from the code listed below:


format 0

.Axys Processing Speed Benchmark Test\n

; written in replang by Kevin Shea (aka AdventGuru) & updated 01/12/2007
; Disclaimer: This routine works fine for the specific instance it was
; created for, but could need additional modifications for different
; circumstances.

#limit 10000
#accounts 0
ask #limit Enter the number of records to read?
#limit #limit 1-
.Start time $:now\n

label cc
load cli

#accounts #accounts 1+
if #accounts #limit >
  goto ee

next cli
goto cc

label ee
. End time $:now\n
.#accounts read.\n\n

As you review and potentially implement the tips from this article, perform follow up speed checks to measure the effectiveness of the methods detailed. Test processing with our “speed report” from each individual workstation and your Axys server if possible. If all of your equipment is standardized you will likely see very little difference in the benchmarks of various workstations. In my own tests, the processing time of 10,000 records went from 46 seconds to 3 seconds, making me wonder why I didn’t optimize my environment sooner.

This article was originally published in the Advent User Group newsletter in 2007.

About the Author:
Kevin Shea is President of InfoSystems Integrated, Inc. (ISI); ISI provides a wide variety of outsourced IT solutions to investment advisors nationwide. For more information, please visit isitc.com, contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202, or e-mail at kshea@isitc.com.