Performance testing is an important step in the development process. Despite its importance, it is a commonly overlooked step in the development cycle. Most developers will not show much interest in conducting rigorous testing on their codes to check how they perform when placed under heavy load. Interestingly, sometimes decision-makers and stakeholders also don’t realize how important performance testing is.
Performance testing can be significantly challenging. This means that it can be an arduous task for most of the teams. Many will not make performance testing an integral part of the continuous integration workflow. Instead, they will do performance assessment at the end of the development process, which results in creating a new set of issues and change in code base to fix performance bottlenecks near to the production release.
Challenges of Performance Testing
So what are these divergent challenges of performance testing that discourage most developers from integrating these tests into the process? Here you can find these challenges and also ways to overcome them.
1. Selecting the Wrong Tools
Many times the team will not select the right tool for performance testing services. The selection of the wrong tool often causes loss of testing days. The tool may also not be able to recognize the application’s controls. The process of selecting the right tool depends on many factors, including:
- Application technology stack
- Application communication protocol
- Performance tester’s skill level
- Tool’s licensing cost
The QA manager and team must thoroughly assess the application under test. They should also evaluate the tool’s licensing cost and select the best tool for successful testing.
Apache JMeter is among the most popular Java-based open source testing tools in the industry (or Software community) for performance testing. It has been designed to perform load testing and measure the performance of applications. It can be used for performance assessment and a wide range of services. Some of its key benefits include:
- Configure simultaneous/concurrent samplings of a wide range of functions
- Writing own tests
- Assess database server performance
- Supports web/mobile APIs testing
Some of the other popular and able load testing tools include Locust, Gatling, and Blazemeter.
2. Lack of Knowledge
Another major challenge for performance testing services is the lack of knowledge of its need. Most decision-makers and stakeholders have limited knowledge or don’t recognize the importance of performance testing during the development process. This can create a wide range of performance issues after the application is released, often causing it to crash in important events or peak load.
Performance testing should be planned as part of the end-to-end testing strategy. This strategy should involve everyone including the product owners, stakeholders and test architects.
Performance testing must be conducted involving databases, web servers, app servers, Load Balancer, network, IIS server and third-party apps. This can help ensure more effective performance testing/assessment and deliver a good user experience to our customers.
3. Inability to Create a Comprehensive Test Strategy & Coverage
A comprehensive testing strategy ensures that project risks are identified and prioritized. It also helps guide the actions required to address the risks. Creating such a testing strategy can be a big challenge in itself. Such a testing process will involve:
- Identification of application performance characteristics
- Planning of tests to exercise the performance characteristics
- Simulation of real user interactions
- Testing Web/Mobile APIs
- Testing services to comply with the test strategy
- Analyze the user pattern and production usage
Performance test results often fail to be effective because there is improper brainstorming when the test strategy and coverage are created.
It is important for the performance testing team to spend the time and effort in the understanding and analysis of application architecture. The team should also analyze other performance traits such as load distribution, availability requirements, usage model, technology stack, resilience requirements, geography of usage and reliability requirements
It is important to create a comprehensive, clear, and proper testing strategy for ensuring that all these performance characteristics are validated to generate effective performance test results.
It requires vast amounts of talent and knowledge to ensure coverage of critical business and performance functionalities. The scenarios should cover a wide range of parameters. The core functionalities can be simulated by gathering data on different scenarios. It is important to predict user data properly because most users will be using the application from their own context.
4. Time & Budget Limitations
Performance testing requires time and some budget to deliver effective results. The reason time and budget are not properly allocated is due to the absence of proper planning during the development process. This results in relying on low-skill resources that don’t have a full understanding of performance testing activities and best practices.
Most development teams are so much used to rapid development and deployment cycles that they think there is not enough time for additional steps. The fact is that this thought process has been developed because of the need for faster workflow. The truth is that there is never a shortage of time when it comes to testing the quality of a product.
Lack of budget allocation can increase the chances of using open source tools. This challenge can be overcome by planning proper performance testing from the very beginning. This must be done while keeping the resources, timeframe, and budget allocations in mind. If time is still a big concern for your team, you should either add more testing engineers to the team or limit the scope of the testing as per project priorities or goal. It is better to add skilled and experienced performance testing engineers who can clearly define the testing parameters.
5. Testing in Production Environment
Load testing in the production environment is difficult and a significant challenge in itself. During this type of testing, we need to ensure that there will be no impact on real-time users using the product. Any changes to the production environment can have an impact on the user experience. The solutions to this challenge are as follows:
- Production environment trends must be closely monitored to identify the irregularities
- Load testing activities must be planned in a separate performance tuning environment, a replica of production and not in an actual production environment. In case, there will be any budget constraints or other challenges to set up a production-like environment then we should have proper planning to avoid any impact on the end users.
- The need for demand execution in actual production can be met by running such activities during off business hours and taking back-up of production database or setup/link separate database for performance testing on the production environment.
In the past, performance testing was conducted to simulate basic user actions at a protocol level. The availability of advanced performance tools in the market now allows testers to balance between exploratory and automation testing.
6. Proper Analysis of Performance Test Results
It is also a challenge to properly analyze performance test results. This is a major challenge and is faced by many testers. This is because in-depth knowledge of both system and application is required for deep analysis of performance test results.
Experienced performance testers should follow the testing process. They can understand the scenarios and can keep refining the tests on a regular basis. Such engineers can continuously review/monitor the application performance and add performance impacting scenarios for improving user experience.
It is also important to choose performance testing services with experience across the following areas:
- Operating system concepts
- OSI model
- SystemWeb architecture
- Networking concepts
- Client-side performance concepts
- Data structures
- Server-side performance concepts
- Load balancer and Firewall
It has been observed that DevOps teams that integrate with load testing teams have been significantly more effective. This is a clear sign that automation and integration of performance testing services is an essential step in the development process. It has become easier to test in a cloud environment. The choice of the right testing tools can make it easier to debug new lines of code. Some tools also make it easier to test new iterations before deployment. This helps reduce the risks of causing major failures during the production environment.
CI/CD Unit testing further allows managing the complete software development cycle from a single interface. This helps the DevOps team to get a comprehensive view of the entire process. DevOps best practices recommend incorporating testing in the development pipeline and not at the end. So when it comes to performance testing, all the elements of DevOps cycle are ready. The results of the load test will also become more effective, as you will be able to get deeper insights from the process.
Performance Testing Best Practices
Performance testing can become even more effective when you follow all its best practices:
- Get developers, performance testing engineers, and IT involved when creating the performance testing environment
- Set up a test environment that accounts maximum-possible user activity
- Keep in mind that the application will be used by real users. You must understand that the results will affect users and not just the test environment servers.
- Best performance environment is a replica of production or as close to the production systems as possible (downscaled version of production in the right proportion)
- Baseline measurements give you a starting point to determine success or failure
- The performance test environment must be isolated from the quality assurance testing environment
- Maintain test environment consistency
- A performance testing tool will not do everything that is required. There may be restrictions due to limited resources. Testing tools must be researched for the right fit.
- Keep the audiences in mind when preparing performance testing reports. Software and system changes should also be included in reports.
- Actionable metrics can be determined by calculating averages. You can also find value by tracking outliers.
So, it is recommended to follow all these best practices to get the best out of performance testing services. Even if you have a highly time-sensitive continuous integration workflow, integration of performance testing is an important investment. Even when you lose some amount of time during the testing process, the benefits it offers in return are worth it. Besides, it is too valuable in helping to mitigate the risks. You cannot simply ignore the importance of performance testing in the development process.