Performance Testing Defined

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At its most basic, load testing is the act of generating traffic against a site.  The site’s response is measured, and a report is generated that shows in great detail exactly what happened. Various levels of load are used, depending on the question to be answered.

It is important to note that terminology in the testing space varies from tester to tester, and even software vendors use different terminology to describe the same concepts.

Types of Performance Testing Include:

Load testing: Load testing is the simplest form of performance testing. A load test is usually conducted to understand the behaviour of the system under a specific expected load. This load can be the expected concurrent number of users on the application performing a specific number of transactions within the set duration. This test will give out the response times of all the important business critical transactions. If the database, application server, etc. are also monitored, then this simple test can itself point towards bottlenecks in the application software.

Stress testing: Stress testing is normally used to understand the upper limits of capacity within the system. This kind of test is done to determine the system’s robustness in terms of extreme load and helps application administrators to determine if the system will perform sufficiently if the current load goes well above the expected maximum.

Soak testing: Soak testing, also known as endurance testing, is usually done to determine if the system can sustain the continuous expected load. During soak tests, memory utilization is monitored to detect potential leaks. Also important, but often overlooked is performance degradation, i.e. to ensure that the throughput and/or response times after some long period of sustained activity are as good as or better than at the beginning of the test. It essentially involves applying a significant load to a system for an extended, significant period of time. The goal is to discover how the system behaves under sustained use.

Spike testing: Spike testing is done by suddenly increasing the load generated by a very large number of users, and observing the behaviour of the system. The goal is to determine whether performance will suffer, the system will fail, or it will be able to handle dramatic changes in load.

Configuration testing: Rather than testing for performance from a load perspective, tests are created to determine the effects of configuration changes to the system’s components on the system’s performance and behaviour. A common example would be experimenting with different methods of load-balancing.

There are many other types of tests that can be run, and each type of test is designed to answer specific questions.

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