Stress Testing the application!

Yesterday I needed to quickly test one of web modules for performance. Easiest way was to do some stress testing, simulate real world environment (100 users hitting url at the same time) and then checking the service response time. It looked simple, I just needed a stress-testing tool, which could take url of my webpage and return me the performance data. But it turned out much more complex than that.

First shock came when I came to know that not many professionals are doing stress testing for their applications. I checked with some of my friends and got the same answer that they were not doing stress testing. How could I blame others when I did stress testing for one of my applications like 4 years ago.

Anyway, I knew that I would have to figure out things from scratch. I was told about Apache Benchmark (ab).  That looked promising to start with and I was able to get some performance data for static sites. But I was not able to look at the output, that ab was bringing back from the site. I tried to figure out how to check it for some time, but it turned out to be complex process, and I wanted to get over with the testing as soon as possible as other pending work was waiting.

So I though of using some UI based tool rather then command based (that’s the disadvantage of getting used to Windows). I googled around and found Jmeter, which looked very promising, and my kind of tool (open source). Again it started off well. And this time I was able to get back the output. The Jmeter could show the output in multiple formats, including HTML. This also helped to see that the output I was getting back from website was actually an error message instead of the correct page. The tool was showing the test case as success, because the error message was actually embedded in the correct HTML page (based on some conditions, it was to be shown or hidden). Now I figured out that this was because the tool was not able to set values in session for multiple test cases. Jmeter looked promising and I was sure that there must be some place where I could set the session settings (it had a lots of settings options for cache/ cookies etc). But too many setting options could only confuse. I again spent a couple of hours on this tool before giving up.

Time was running out, and I needed a tool that could help me testing my application without much complexity. So I thought of trying trial version (14 days or some limited features) of some paid software, when I figured out webserver stress tool’s. That worked like piece of cake. All the required settings were just 3-4 screens. Setting up sessions meant just checking the check-box for cookies. Clear output files with detailed logs, Summary log, and logs for each user simulated, url logs etc made it easier to compare different performance parameters. The paid version is also cheap (less than 250$) for this.

Anyone has better ideas for load/ stress/ performance testing of the application?