Blackboard Performance Audit and Tuning Engagement

Project description

We have engaged external consultants from Blackboard to undertake a major performance audit of the core Blackboard Learn software, commencing in August 2011. The purpose of the audit and tuning project is to to ensure that Blackboard and its key components are able to cope with the expected load from October 2011, to include a projected 20% increase on the 14,500 users (accessing Blackboard 6 times per week) experienced in October 2010, coupled with system-wide use of the Content System and upgrade to Blackboard 9.1

The goals of the project are to:

  • Validate the architecture and system configuration
  • Assess the stability, reliability and performance levels of the environment
  • Identify potential performance risks within the environment
  • Identify opportunities for performance improvements within the environment

The performance audit and subsequent tuning will hopefully ensure that core Blackboard Learn software is running as smoothly and quickly as possible, as well as testing how key critical activity areas perform under different types of current and predicted future demand. The initial priority will be to review and improve core service stability (which has both hardware and software compenents) and then move on to improving the general responsiveness of Blackboard.

The funding for the performance audit was partly met by an underspend on the IeLS project matched by funding from Information Services and was undertaken both to support the objectives of the IeLS project and also as a direct response to user feedback which indicated  that the speed of the Blackboard system had been problematic for some users in 2010-11.

Project timeline

Below is a summary of the actions:

January 2011 

  • Collection of key data for use in creation of tests

August 2011

  • Onsite interviews with key stakeholders
  • Creation of customised tests based on University of Bristol priorities
  • Initial "benchmark" testing
  • Significant increase in database hardware provision
  • Server tuning applied to increase capacity (network traffic and files)
  • First round of testing complete (run between 12 midnight and 5 am to minimise impact on users). 
  • Recommended tuning applied to key Blackboard component (JVM)
  • Content System fix applied
  • Re-run of key critical tests to determine impact of applying recommendations

September 2011

  • Interim report with initial findings
  • Significant increase in application server CPU provision
  • Increase in table space for data storage
  • Patch applied to Logout to fix resolve browser cache and Content System document display issues
  • Re-run of key critical tests to determine impact of applying major CPU recommendation
  • Patch applied to fix database issue
  • Database optimisation

October 2011

  • Final round of testing, to include custom tests (run between 12 midnight and 5 am to minimise impact on users).   

Project contact

Hilary Griffiths