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Fundamentals of Computer Systems Performance Analysis

David J. Lilja, Ph.D., P.E.

Course Overview

In this introduction to computer systems performance measurement and analysis, you will learn the typical goals of the computer systems performance analyst, the fundamental techniques used to study the performance of computer systems, and the advantages and disadvantages of the different techniques. You also will be introduced to the concept of performance debugging.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

After completing this 1-hour course, you will be able to:

Reading Assignment

The reading assignment for this course is Chapter 1 of Measuring Computer Performance: A Practitioner's Guide, David J. Lilja, Cambridge University Press, 2000.

If you don't have this book, you can purchase Chapter 1 in PDF format online at for a modest cost. The price for this course listed on this website does not include the cost of purchasing the chapter through However, the price has been reduced to compensate for the cost of purchasing the chapter required. If you plan to take all 6 courses (E132 to E137) based on this book, you may consider to purchase a hard copy of the book or the entire book in PDF format online through

Key Terms

Study Notes

Continual improvements in semiconductor technology have allowed the capabilities of computer systems to grow tremendously over the past several years even as their cost has continued to decline. Today you can buy a computer that sits on your desktop, or that you can carry in your hand, that is more powerful than the most advanced computer systems of only a decade ago. Yet, your cost for this powerful system is only a fraction of what these previous systems cost.

One constant within all of this change, however, is the need to understand the performance of these new computer systems. This understanding may be important to find and eliminate performance bottlenecks to allow the system to maximize its overall performance, for instance. Or it may be necessary to determine the level of performance that can be obtained for a given cost. Understanding performance is important whenever you are trying to satisfy some set of design constraints or to meet some set of requirements.

In this short introduction to computer systems performance measurement and analysis, you will learn about the basic problems confronting the computer systems performance analyst, the goals that are typical of any performance study, the different solution techniques available for a performance study, and the advantages and disadvantages of these various solution techniques.

The overall goal of this sequence of short courses is to introduce you to the fundamental ideas, methods, tools, and techniques used by computer system performance analysts. Completing this sequence of short courses won't necessarily make you an expert in computer systems performance analysis. However, successfully completing all of these courses certainly will help you to appreciate and understand the problems and issues related to measuring, analyzing, and interpreting the performance of computer systems.

We hope you enjoy your study into computer systems performance measurement and evaluation!


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.