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IT X-Games: Spike Load Testing

nashizawa on ‎10-29-2009 08:53 PM

"It scared me to death. It just doesn't make sense. You're still on your motorcycle at the height of the jump going 'this thing's not going to rotate around.' I knew it was possible. It just doesn't seem logical."

- Travis Pastrana, motocross rider quoted after trying his first back flip

If an IT executive or QA manager were asked if  a member of their load testing team do a midair back flip on a motorcycle, judging solely by their views on load testing, I’m pretty sure their response would be something like:

“Sure. They can start out on a leisure ride, and then they can gas it up the ramp and when they hit the apex, they’ll execute the back flip, then land safely, and then be on their way.”

Why do IT execs and QA managers believe that they can execute a successful spike load test by simply starting a traditional load test, and then ramping up the number of virtual users until they have a large spike load test? Very often, much to their disappointment, it’s not that simple. Spike load puts the extreme in load testing.

Like extreme sports, spike load testing raises the stakes of successful outcomes. The great news though is that when those outcomes are met, the results are amazing. Let’s review the attributes of a spike load test:

  • Uses tens and maybe even hundreds of thousands of virtual users (puts the rapid acceleration into the leisure ride)

  • Requires the orchestration of an extra-large, on-demand test bed with the compute power to generate the spike load (puts the ramp into the leisure ride)

  • Requires robust data planning and data refresh strategy (puts the airborne into the leisure ride)

  • Is bounded by a non-negotiable deadline because large load testing prepares for  the peak load of a specific event (puts the back flip into the leisure ride)

  • May involve Web 2.0 / RIA front ends, which invalidates previous benchmarking and adds complexity to the technical preparation (puts a flaming hoop into the leisure ride)

  • May involve load testing during a maintenance window, which means you must have a successful spikeload test without the possibility of a second chance (puts the Grand Canyon into the leisure ride)

The stakes rise with each added challenge that spike load testing brings to the table. Because the scale of a company’s business and reputation are directly tied to the scale of their websites, the extreme stakes must be dealt with for extreme business results.

There are three things that you absolutely need in order to successfully perform spike load testing and protect your business and reputation:

  1. An elastic test framework which can expand in an on-demand fashion to generate large loads

  2. An easy way to create virtual users for both traditional websites and for today’s rich-internet-application technology such as AJAX, Flex and Flash

  3. The experience, knowledge and best practices to streamline the large load testing processes to ensure your outcomes are met

Note that all three focus on not just ensuring outcomes, but also expediting the time-to-value.

Now, you may be thinking that I’m overusing the terms, ‘best practices’ and ‘experience’.  Quite frankly, I feel they are often overused, especially in the IT world. But when it comes to spike load testing, experience cannot be over-valued. Here is a list of questions that an experienced spike load tester should be able to answer with confidence:

  • How are virtual user scripts created so that they are ultra-scalable?

  • How are virtual users ramped up during a large load test?

  • What run-time settings should be set during a large load test?

  • What are the special data handling considerations for large load testing?

If you don’t know the answers to those questions, then your chances of successfully pulling off a large load test are greatly diminished.

Check out the new solution from HP SaaS called, HP Elastic Test. It’s architected and priced in a cloud compute, elastic fashion:

- adj
A common expression used to describe the ability to expand and contract compute resources in an on-demand fashion. The purchasing of elastic compute power is utility-based or otherwise known as ‘pay-as-you-go.

Example: Validating the performance of internet, global-class applications requires an elastic load testing solution.

It’s also backed by 9 years of spike load testing experience. HP SaaS performs the scripting and spike load test orchestration, using all of their experience and best practices.

Validating the scale of your website represents business stakes at extreme levels. If you think about it, load testing is all about risk mitigation and protecting your business and reputation. Why not extend your risk-mitigation strategy by going with a proven vendor with industry leading technology?

Or put in another way…

This is load testing…


This is load testing with HP Elastic Test….


 Any questions?

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