Modeling the Real World for Load Testing Web Sites

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The percentage of users that abandoned a Web site will vary from site to site depending on how vital the content is to the user (e.g., a user may only be able to get their bank balance from their bank's Web site, but could get a stock quote from numerous competitors). One thing is certain; the longer a user has to wait, the more likely it is that they will abandon the Web site. Therefore, in order to model the real world, test scripts should include a randomized event that will terminate a test script execution for a particular client if the client is forced to wait too long for the page to download. The longer the delay, the more likely that the client will be terminated.

4. Usage Patterns
Unlike typical mainframe or client-server applications, Web sites often experience large swings in usage depending on the type of visitors that come to the site. U.S. retail customers, for example, typically use a Web site in the evenings (7:00 p.m. EST to 11:00 p.m. PST). Business customers typically use a Web site during regular working hours (9:00 a.m. EST to 4:00 p.m. PST). The functionality of a Web site can also have a significant impact on usage patterns. U.S. stock quotes, for example, are typically requested during market trading hours (9:30 a.m. EST to 4:00 p.m. EST).

When attempting to model the real world, you should conduct some research to determine peak usage ramp-up and ramp-down, peak usage duration, and whether any other load profile parameters vary by time of day, the day of the week, or another time increment. Once researched, schedule tests that will run over the real Internet at appropriate times of the day/week.

5. Client Platforms
Different client-side products (e.g., Browsers and O/Ss) will cause slightly different HTTP traffic to be sent to the Web server. More important, if the Web site has been designed to serve up different content based on the client-side software being used (a technique commonly referred to as browser sniffing), then the Web site will have to perform different operations with correspondingly different workloads.

Some browsers allow users to change certain client-side network settings (threads, version of HTTP, and buffer sizes) that affect the way the browser communicates and thus the corresponding workload that a browser puts on a Web server. While few users ever change their default settings, because different browsers/versions have different defaults, a more accurate test load would vary these values.

6. Client Preferences
Most browsers also allow users to change client-side preferences; but again, few users actually change their default settings. However, different products/versions of a browser may have different default settings. For example, a browser with cookies disabled will reduce the amount of network traffic due to the cookies not being sent back and forth between the Web site and the browser; however, it might increase the resource requirements of the application server as it struggles to maintain a session with the user without the convenience of the cookie.

If encryption is going to be used to send and receive secure Web pages, the strength (or key size) of the encryption used to transfer the data will be dependent upon a negotiation that takes place between the Web server and the browser. Stronger encryptions utilize more network bandwidth and increase the processing requirements of the CPUs that perform the encrypting and deciphering (typically the Web server). Therefore, users with low settings (e.g., 40-bit keys) will put less of a strain upon a Web server than users with high settings (e.g. 128-bit keys).

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About the author

Steve Splaine's picture Steve Splaine

Steven Splaine is a chartered software engineer with more than twenty years of experience in developing software systems: Web/Internet, client/server, mainframe, and PCs. He is an experienced project manager, tester, developer, and presenter, who has consulted with more than one hundred companies in North America and Europe. In addition, Steven is a regular speaker at software testing conferences, lead author of The Web Testing Handbook and Testing Web Security, and an advisor/consultant to several Web testing tool vendors and investors.

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