Wednesday, September 9, 2009

IE Market Share Holding Steady in Enterprises

Surprise! Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is still the dominant web browser among enterprise users. After reviewing the latest browser usage statistics from the exo.repository, we found that over 80% of users at large IT organizations continue to use IE at least 4 hours a day, a result that contradicts the conventional wisdom that IE’s usage share is declining overall.

Figure 1 – Latest Browser Market Share Statistics

At the same time, the next most common browser, Firefox, is slowly creeping up on IE’s share, with nearly 50% of enterprise users now opting for the popular FOSS alternative. And though it’s a relative newcomer to the “browser wars,” Google’s Chrome is rapidly making inroads – our data shows that over 15% of users have at least tried one of the various Chrome beta or post-beta releases.

Note: The above statistics were generated from the over 6 billion process records collected from the nearly 20,000 registered, active users. If you’d like more information about the, please visit


Announcing the exo.charts Library

We’re pleased to announce the availability of our latest free service offering: The exo.charts library is a collection of dynamically updating chart objects that provide a targeted view into the contents of the exo.repository.

Figure 1 – a sample chart form the exo.charts library

For example, there are objects that track market share for popular software categories and others that expose trends in PC memory size and CPU architecture proliferation. The underlying summary data is updated weekly, ensuring that each chart object is displaying the very latest repository statistics.

We invite you to visit the exo.charts library where you’ll find samples of each available chart type as well as instructions on how to embed an exo.chart object into your own web site, blog or discussion forum. If you have any questions about the exo.charts service, please don’t hesitate to contact us at


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Don’t Wait for SP1? Mea Culpa!

Just when we thought it was safe to dismiss the conventional wisdom and recommend Windows 7 RTM for immediate deployment, along comes a last minute “showstopper” bug to make us look like fools. It appears that Microsoft missed a potentially critical flaw in its current NTFS driver stack, resulting in a massive memory leak when certain file access patterns – namely, those involved in the file data read portion of the chkdsk.exe disk check utility – are executed against a non-system NTFS partition.

The bug, which we have since confirmed in the lab, is potentially catastrophic in that it causes the offending executable – either chkdsk.exe, explorer.exe (in default Windows 7 UAC mode), or the DLL Host process (when UAC is locked down to Vista levels) - to consume all available memory and, in extreme cases, destabilize the system to the point where a “blue screen” kernel failure occurs.

Needless to say, this is a very serious bug, one that Microsoft would do well to correct ASAP via an emergency Windows Update hotfix. Regardless, the appearance of such a deep, fundamental flaw in what was supposed to be a ship-ready build of the Windows 7 code has shaken our confidence in the product. We are therefore recanting our previous recommendation that organizations skip the usual Service Pack 1 wait and instead suggest that they put all such plans on hold while we monitor this situation for a satisfactory conclusion.

As is often the case with Microsoft, prudence is still the best policy.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Google Chrome 3.0: Obesity as a Way of Life

We received a tremendous response to our previous series of entries documenting the expansive memory requirements of today’s multi-process web browsers. At the time, Internet Explorer 8.0 had just entered its second beta release, while Chrome 1.0 was still under wraps at Google. Both proved to be massive memory hogs, requiring tens of megabytes of RAM to render each opened tab.

Eight months later, and the web browser landscape has changed dramatically. Internet Explorer 8.0 is now a shipping product and bundled with Windows 7, while Chrome 2.0 is currently Google’s latest “soft RTM” version of their nascent browser (with version 3.0 undergoing a very public beta). Meanwhile, the Mozilla folks have shipped a major update in version 3.5 – though, like its predecessors, it remains a single-process application.

Given the number of recent developments, we felt it was time to revisit our original test series and to update the data points to reflect the new “state of the art” in both browser and OS technology. Using the same set of eleven target web sites, and updating the OS (Windows 7 RTM) and browsers (Chrome, IE 8.0.7600.16385, Firefox 3.5.1) to the latest versions, we once again executed our test methodology.

Note: As before, we relied on the free tools and resources of the to monitor and record system and process metrics from each test scenario.


Figure 1 – Browser Working Set (MB)

The first thing to take away from this latest data set is how Chrome 2.0 is now more RAM-efficient than IE 8.0. Previously, Chrome was slightly “fatter” than IE 8.0, at least in terms of shared code (Working Set). However, in our revised testing, Google’s browser consumed roughly 18% less RAM when rendering the same pool of web sites in a multi-tab (one site per tab) configuration.

Unfortunately, Google’s victory was short lived as the latest beta release ( of Chrome 3.0 proved to be quite a bit hungrier in terms of RAM consumption. Chewing up an impressive 451MB of RAM, Chrome 3.x easily out-gobbled IE 8.0 by 5%, and topped its own immediate predecessor, Chrome 2.0, by 24%.


Figure 1 – Browser Private Bytes (MB)

Things looked even worse for Chrome 3.0 when the discussion shifted to Private (i.e. non-shared) Bytes. Here, Chrome 3.0 consumed a staggering 565MB of RAM – a half-gigabyte – while rendering our target site list. By contrast, Chrome 2.0 used just over 360MB, while IE 8.0 chewed-up 378MB to render the same sites.

Of course, we would be remiss if we failed to mention how the latest iteration of the single-process Firefox measured up to its multi-process competitors. In terms of Working Set size, Firefox consumed roughly half as much RAM as Chrome 2.0, and a third as much as Chrome 3.0. Needless to say, if you’re looking for the mainstream browser with the lightest RAM footprint, Mozilla’s Firefox 3.5 is still your best option.

Bottom Line: Google’s browser-cum-OS project has once again reset the bar for “fattest”Internet application. In its current incarnation, the Chrome 3.0 beta consumes roughly three times as much RAM as Firefox, and even outpaces the bloated IE 8.0 in the race to consume all available memory. Given the above revised data points, we can’t help but fear for any future (e.g. Chrome OS) that involves Google as the primary architect of our system software.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Windows 7: Don’t Wait for SP1

IT organizations considering their long-term Windows deployment plans should forgo the conventional “wait for Service Pack 1” wisdom and instead move directly to Windows 7 upon its release. That is our conclusion based on an analysis of the RTM build. Using the tools and resource of the exo.repository, we put Microsoft’s new OS through its paces and came away satisfied that it is indeed ready for immediate deployment.

Factors we considered include:

  • Architecture – Windows 7 is architecturally nearly identical to Windows Vista. Most changes are superficial, with the core kernel structures and driver model carried over from its immediate predecessor. This lack of code “churn” at a base level should translate into a relatively clean release, with none of the stability and/or compatibility issues that plagued the RTM build of Windows Vista.

  • Performance – Windows 7 performs almost identically to Windows Vista with Service Pack 2. Testing by DMS engineers shows that Microsoft’s new OS executes linear tasks (OfficeBench) roughly 3-5% faster than Vista while consuming slightly less (8%) memory and spawning fewer (5%) execution threads. However, Windows 7 still lags behind Windows XP by 20-25%, placing it squarely in the Vista-based OS camp in terms of real-world system requirements.

    This is actually a good thing. The PC ecosystem is just now catching up with Vista’s hefty requirements, so delivering an OS that improves on Vista’s capabilities, while maintaining its overall hardware footprint, is a significant accomplishment, especially for a company not generally known for its coding prowess.

  • Compatibility – With its limited changes at the kernel level, Windows 7 provides nearly perfect backwards compatibility with Windows Vista. Most Vista-compatible drivers and services run flawlessly under Windows 7, while applications that have been modified to work with Vista’s User Account Control (UAC) will generally work without incident under Windows 7’s less stringent (in its default configuration) implementation.

    Add to this the availability of Virtual Windows XP Mode and Windows 7’s compatibility story is far stronger that Vista’s when it was first released. Organizations that have been exploring their Vista upgrade options should find Windows 7 to be essentially interchangeable with its older sibling.

Overall, we feel that Windows 7 is a solid release and is sufficiently polished that IT organizations can ignore conventional wisdom and deploy it in its initial RTM state.

Note: Register today for your free portal account and gain access to all of the tools and resources mentioned in this blog entry.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Passing the 10K User Mark

It’s official: The recently registered it’s 10,000th contributing site. We can now state confidently that the exo.repository has truly reached a critical mass level, with live metrics data streaming in via Windows systems from every corner of the globe.

Now that we’re passed our initial community building stage, expect more frequent updates to the as we begin to sift through the mountains of data to bring you the critical trends and candid observations that only the can deliver.

A special thanks to all of our users, without whom this important milestone would not have been possible. Stay tuned!


New Whitepaper on Application Virtualization

We’re pleased to announce the release of our first white paper from the project. Titled “Application Virtualization 2008/2009,” this original research deliverable provides a comprehensive look at the execution overhead and runtime performance characteristics of the leading application virtualization solutions from Microsoft, VMware, Citrix and Symantec.

Highlights include:

  • A detailed analysis of system and process-level overhead, including agent-related CPU and memory consumption.
  • Extensive OfficeBench benchmarking data derived from our own DMS Clarity Studio testing framework.
  • Planning and deployment recommendations for IT shops considering application virtualization technology.

You can download the white paper here (PDF). For more information on the or DMS Clarity Studio, please visit our web site: