Lately, the digitization of traditional offline services has been progressing rapidly. Each day, new applications emerge, offering customers the convenience of accessing essential services online. Consequently, numerous companies now encounter a fresh challenge: ensuring uninterrupted operations and delivering services to clients around the clock. How can this be achieved?
In our experience, service performance issues are frequently overshadowed by the constant stream of system releases. The focus often lies on swiftly providing clients with the desired functionality and neglecting the potential consequences. The application may appear exceptional, boasting numerous impressive features that delight users. However, once users begin utilizing it on a large scale, everything inevitably falls apart.
Addressing performance issues reactively can prove extremely costly for a company, as the issues in the business process cannot be compared to the complete unavailability of the system for clients. Then larger the business and the customer base, then higher the cost of such mistakes, potentially resulting in millions of dollars in losses. A mere two-hour downtime for a system responsible for providing cash loans to a major bank can lead to a seven-figure decline in net profit. Additionally, numerous services fail to withstand the demands of high sales seasons or events like Black Friday. However, if you’re considering scaling your business and are uncertain about your system’s capacity to handle it, there is a solution: performance testing.
Performance testing is a crucial process that enables you to simulate the workload on your system by utilizing virtual users or entities that need to be processed within a specific timeframe. By conducting performance testing, you gain valuable insights into how your system performs under a predetermined and controlled load in a testing environment. This enables you to assess the system’s behavior before rolling out new services to customers.
Within performance testing, engineers typically focus their efforts on these main areas:
- Load testing
- Stress testing
- Endurance or stability testing
- Volume testing
Now, let’s delve into the analysis of when and why you should employ each type of performance testing and the value it can provide to your company.
Load testing is a type of performance testing that aims to assess how a system performs under anticipated levels of load. When designing the architecture for a high-load system solution, it is common practice to determine the expected volume of operations or users that the system needs to handle. For instance, if you have a web application and you anticipate a daily active user (DAU) count of 100,000, load testing enables you to simulate a gradual increase in load on the system, starting with 10,000 users and gradually scaling up until reaching the target load indicators.
The outcome of this test provides you with a precise understanding of whether the system can effectively handle the anticipated DAU after the next release. If the system falls short, load testing helps identify areas for improvement, allowing you to address potential issues proactively and avoid problems in the future.
The primary objective of stress testing is to assess the performance of your system under exceptionally high loads. For instance, prior to a peak sales season, you may want to determine the system’s capacity in terms of the number of users it can handle with the existing configuration and infrastructure. Stress testing provides the answer to this question.
During the test, the load on the system is systematically increased until it reaches a point of complete failure. It is crucial to conduct such tests on separate test environments to avoid any disruptions to the ongoing work of the current IT team or, more importantly, production users.
Endurance or stability testing
If you need to test different hypotheses regarding the failure of your system caused by external or internal factors, such as fault tolerance testing or system recovery testing after a failure, the performance engineer initiates a comprehensive performance test. This test involves various manipulations of the system, aiming to ensure its stability even under the influence of diverse external and internal factors. The objective of such a test is to verify that the system continues to function reliably. In case any issues arise, it serves as an opportunity to develop pre-established instructions and plans in collaboration with support specialists, preparing for potential real-life scenarios experienced by users.
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Performance testing is not limited to simulating user actions; it also encompasses the testing of data processing services. These services can include reporting services, batch processes, ETL processes, and more. In such cases, the focus is on emulating the processing of large amounts of data within a specific timeframe. The objective of performance testing in this scenario is to ensure that these services, particularly after new updates, effectively process diverse data with the required performance levels.
Depending on your business and system type, you can conduct specific tests to assess the performance of your system, aiming to proactively identify and address potential bottlenecks. This helps minimize the occurrence of similar problems in the future.
During performance testing, the test environment and infrastructure play a crucial role. To obtain accurate results, it is essential to create a test environment that closely resembles the production environment. This involves matching hardware, containerization technologies, databases, system configurations, and more. If replicating the entire production setup for performance testing is not feasible, an alternative approach is to use comparative results interpretation. This method involves creating a less powerful test environment, with a proportionately reduced applied load. By correctly extrapolating the test results, it becomes possible to determine the impact of identified issues on the production environment. To conduct such tests, the performance engineer analyzes the productive environment and user action statistics while developing the load profile and testing methodology. This analysis helps form the requirements for the performance testing environment in advance.
If you believe that your application is designed flawlessly and there are no possibilities of performance problems, you may be disappointed down the line, as performance issues can arise with every release that your team deploys to production. The following are the most common performance issues:
- Threading Issues
- Memory issues
- Logical issues
- Unoptimized web scripts
- Improper caching
- Hosting issues
To identify all these issues within your system, it is crucial to employ proper load emulation. Consequently, performance testing is typically carried out by trained specialists who possess the expertise not only to create load scripts using popular tools like Jmeter, Gatling, or K6 but also to replicate test environments as accurately as possible. They develop various emulators or stubs, install and configure monitoring systems, and effectively interpret the results of load testing to conduct initial troubleshooting.
If you lack such expertise but desire to be proactive rather than waiting for customer issues to arise, and if you aim to ensure continuous scalability and robustness for your systems, our team of First Line Software experts is here to assist you. We can comprehensively create and establish a performance testing process tailored to your needs, including script preparation, test environment setup, and seamless integration into your CI/CD pipeline. Learn more about our QA services.
Delivery QA Director at First Line Software
Alexander Meshkov is QA Delivery Director at FLS. Alexander has over 10 years of experience in software testing, organization of the testing process, and test management. A frequent attendee and speaker of diverse testing conferences, actively engages in discussions and keeps up-to-date with the latest trends and advancements in the field.