The research from independent testing lab Mindcraft, commissioned by computer memory company Kingston Technology, found that installing more memory had a greater effect on performance than adding processors.
As many applications are licensed on the basis of how many processors are driving them, tackling the problem of slow applications can prove costly.
Mindcraft's study measured Windows 2000, Solaris and Linux server performance with web applications, databases, and other demanding functions. It found that extra memory improved performance by up to 40% over adding an extra processor with no added memory.
The report found that the speed of database applications was increased considerably with extra memory. As more memory was added the operating system and database management system could keep more data in main memory, eliminating or reducing the frequency of slow disc access, which leads to slower application response times.
Increasing memory from 0.5Gbytes to 2.0Gbytes on a dual-processor Xeon system running the Open Source Database Benchmark under Windows 2000 Advanced Server boosted performance by 1,510%.
Mindcraft president Bruce Weiner said the advantage came from running more applications in the internal memory without using the hard disc. As well as providing good return on investment, this was cheaper than adding extra processors, he said.
Phil Dawson, programme director at analyst firm Meta, said, "Companies need to make sure they have a balanced memory, processor and input/output network infrastructure. Adding extra memory to under-utilised servers is certainly an option, although extending the life of servers that are already being thrashed can, in some cases, prove costly."
Dawson said improved web caching, database tuning, and other actions to smooth performance should also be considered when looking to boost performance.
This was first published in November 2003