Original Looks for Performance Problems with New TestLOAD Tool
June 28, 2005 Alex Woodie
You’ve finished developing the new customer Web portal, gone through QA, and now you think it’s ready for production. Hold on just a second: Have you considered how response times will scale when it’s accessed by 5, 50, or 500 customers simultaneously? Will it play well with your other iSeries workloads, or slow the entire system down? These are the types of performance questions that Original Software‘s new TestLOAD tool can help answer.
As an iSeries user, you understand the value of keeping your server online. Unless your OS/400 server has remained online for years, in which case you are likely jaded and complacent in the eyes of your Windows colleagues, you take pains to avoid the public humiliation that ensues when your company is unable to do business because “somebody in IT screwed up.” Keeping applications and data available is important, for your company and, therefore, for your job. That’s one reason why you chose the iSeries.
But even the iSeries has its limits. For instance: Let’s say you bought an iSeries Model 820, outfitted with a given amount of batch and interactive CPW, RAM, and DASD, and a certain number of disk arms and Ethernet ports, with the plan of running it at an average of 50 percent capacity the first year, and maybe getting up to 85 percent of capacity by the third and final year of the lease, at which point management will approve the upgrade to the 64-way i5 Model 595, outfitted with about 500 TB of RAM. Or so you hope.
What you didn’t know when you ordered your modestly outfitted i820 was that the sales manager had secretly committed to developing an online portal where your largest customers can place orders, get order status, and check balances. Or, out of the blue, your company acquired its biggest competitor, adding hundreds of new users to your critical business applications. Or your new advertising campaign has been really effective. Or any number of unexpected things happened that will have untold consequences for your back office systems.
This is where Original Software’s new TestLOAD utility comes in. Original designed TestLOAD to recreate, as accurately as possible, the stresses that large numbers of users can put on iSeries servers and the applications that run on them.
Automated regression testing, which has been Original’s specialty for so many years, is only half the battle, the company says. You need to know how your new applications will run in the real world, and if they will fail to meet performance expectations. Armed with this knowledge, developers can choose to fix the software, request that i595 upgrade, or advise management to ease back on growth before users or customers get frustrated with slow response times.
TestLOAD lets developers launch hundreds of virtual users (via scripts), which go about reading screens and inputting data in interactive or server (batch) modes. To simulate how different users interact with the system, TestLOAD can kick off a variety of different scripts, and run them in a sequential manner, or stagger them to more closely resemble real world usage. Users type at different speeds, and this can be replicated in the TestLOAD environment by increasing or decreasing the keystroke delay. There is also a variable data feature to simulate the different transactions users must complete. The software can also create artificial background loads to simulate multiple applications simultaneously running on the iSeries, which is the case with many OS/400 servers in this age of server consolidation.
After running a stress test, TestLOAD generates reports that track response times by tasks, help identify where bottlenecks will develop, and how system performance changes as the number of users increases. The software lets developers preset acceptable threshold limits for each performance parameter, so anomalies are flagged and made immediately apparent, the company says.
Original is selling TestLOAD in several ways, including as a standalone tool, or as an integrated part of its TestBench suite, which handles functions like data extraction, automated test case preparation, establishment of a test library, data rules definition, and auditing capabilities. Original is also renting access to TestLOAD for companies working on a single project.
The company plans to offer TestLOAD in bundled packages that include consulting services from the testing experts at Original. These services include: establishing the objectives of load testing; analyzing the hardware and software that needs to be checked; analyzing the numbers and types of users and likely user activities; assigning an appropriate number of virtual users; setting performance thresholds; creating scripts and test data; and comparing test results to objectives.
TestLOAD 1.0 is available now. Licenses for the software start at $16,000 per server (consulting services are extra). For more information, including rental rates, contact the company at www.origsoft.com.
This article has been corrected since it was first published. The cost of a license for TestLOAD does not entitle the buyer to consulting services, which will be available in separate packages. IT Jungle regrets the error. [Correction made 6/28/05.]