Linux Containers Authors: Liz McMillan, Vaibhaw Pandey, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: @DevOpsSummit, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog

@DevOpsSummit: Blog Post

Don’t Get Spooked! How to Plan and Execute Last Minute Performance Testing | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps

Load tests can be super-scary if you aren't expecting them

It's 4:49pm on a Thursday. The phone rings.

Wendy, the Performance Engineer: Hi, this is Wendy.

Larry, Head of Development: Wendy, I'm so glad I caught you before you took off for the day. How are you?

Wendy: Ummm, fine.

Larry: Great. Listen, we were able to jam that great new feature into our latest build and want to make sure it's included in this weekend's load testing. Can you get that going for us so that we have results on Monday?

Wendy: On... Monday?

An owl hoots in the distance.

Load tests can be super-scary if you aren't expecting them. They take a fair amount of planning and coordination to pull off. They don't just happen by themselves.

Why would you need to run an unexpected load test? Turns out there are a number of reasons. For example, let's say your app crashes in production. Once you recover from the crash and determine what went wrong, which is pretty high-pressure in itself, you then have to run some tests to make sure the problem won't happen again.

Or like Wendy above, maybe your dev team surprises you with a new feature or with an early build, and you have to cram in a load test before you've had a chance to properly put everything in place.

The point is, things like this can creep the average performance tester out. But you don't need to get spooked. Planning your load test doesn't have to take tons of time if you approach it the right way and if you set yourself up for success from the start.

Follow this advice and all will end well.

It's All About the Scenarios.

Load tests are by their very nature big and complicated. That doesn't mean they have to be inefficient. The key to executing a large, complex task is to focus. For load testing, you want to focus on the pathways that matter most. Don't waste time testing code that hasn't changed or testing a feature that users rarely access. Instead, keep your eye on the prize and you'll give yourself the most confidence you can in your app's ability to grow and scale.

Performance engineering is all about the experience, which exists at the intersection of the user and the app. That means you'll want to focus your load testing on those user paths that are most likely to be followed. Plus, you need to account for any relevant attributes of the application itself, how it was built, and how it is changing.

There are a few ways of approaching this:

  1. Focus on pathways that users are likely to go through: Take some time before you turn in at night to cuddle up with Google Analytics. Understand how visitors are accessing and traversing your site: where do they enter? How do they navigate? What are their goals? Look for the 20% of pathways that host 80% of the people. Better yet, find the 5% of pathways that host 95% of the people. Pages like your home page, your main login, or a hot viral video landing page will give you the biggest bang for your load testing buck.
  2. Focus on pathways that involve money or other KPIs: If you are an eCommerce site, your checkout process really matters. If you are a content site, view counts of your top articles drive your advertising rates and your financial engine. Whatever you do, there is a path on your site that plays a role in how you get paid. These pathways are critical to test under load because they are what turn a website into a business.
  3. Pathways that involve new or recently changed features: If you are looking for the parts of your app most likely to break under load, a great place to look is in anything that's new or changed - especially if you have a robust load-testing practice and high confidence in the scaling specs of your site. Work with your dev and functional QA teams and watch your change logs to identify revised or updated code blocks, as well as any recent areas of quality regression. New features can hold unexpected surprises in production. These make great candidates for the focus of your testing.
  4. Pathways that involve known bottlenecks: Finally, every app has its secrets. There's that one SQL query that doesn't scale like the rest of the app, or that particularly troublesome module that's never been fully trustworthy even though no one knows why. Like the abandoned house just at the edge of town, it's the unknown things lurking inside that create the biggest scares. You'll always want to be looking out for these dangerous areas, as they have a way of never quite dying.

When you have to throw a load test together quickly, figure out which of these areas gives you the best approach for focusing your efforts in light of the circumstances you are under. Once you do, it'll be a lot easier to put the pieces in place that will let you quickly and confidently run your test.

Be Prepared to Act

Like the Boy Scouts say, be prepared. It's really hard to set up a load test quickly if you don't have good infrastructure to begin with, so spend the time now when things aren't crazy to get those systems in order.

Start with a library of scenarios that you can use as building blocks for complex tests. Theseperformance unit tests are a great way to quickly build highly customized scenarios that cover the pathways you have already identified.

Next, automate your tests and plug them into your test automation platform or your continuous integration platform. If you do this by stringing together your unit tests, you've got a system and the experience to easily and flexibly create a variety of different tests. Then, when that unexpected load test comes around, it's not as much of a fire drill. You know how to do it. You've got it.

You'll also want to have a good shared understanding of how to build and execute a performance testing plan. Create a test plan template as a starting point to give you structure when you are in a rush. It doesn't need to be complicated. With the right amount of forethought, it can really help you focus on the right set of pathways and go from there.

You should also have strong monitoring systems in place so you can keep track of important load testing key performance indicators, or KPIs. In general, your most important metrics for virtually any load test done in a hurry come down to concurrency, transaction rate, and the user experience. You should have the process to measure these KPIs down cold, so you'll be ready when you need them.

The cloud is a great resource to have on tap when you need to set up load generators in a hurry. You get even more value if you combine your load tests with synthetic users that can gather metrics against your live production site for trending and comparison purposes.


When you are under pressure to come up with a plan, time is not a luxury you have. That's why it's important to be prepared, choose your use cases carefully, and know what metrics you are looking for. It's not that scary if you simply break it down. For more tips on what you can do to be prepared, check out these performance testing horror stories from Brad Stoner and get his suggestions on how to avoid them.

Photo Credit: Kristy Hom

More Stories By Tim Hinds

Tim Hinds is the Product Marketing Manager for NeoLoad at Neotys. He has a background in Agile software development, Scrum, Kanban, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Testing practices.

Previously, Tim was Product Marketing Manager at AccuRev, a company acquired by Micro Focus, where he worked with software configuration management, issue tracking, Agile project management, continuous integration, workflow automation, and distributed version control systems.

@ThingsExpo Stories
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...