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Tools and techniques for performance testing with Scott Barber

Many people think performance testing is a difficult effort riddled with complicated tools and measurements. As for those aspects that are complex, Scott Barber, Chief Technologist at PerfTestPlus, Inc., suggested leaving them to the specialists; there are easy parts that people who are just getting started with performance testing can take on. His presentation at STAREAST 2012, “Simple and Informative Performance Tests You Can Do Now” offered several entry points to this often misunderstood aspect of testing.

He discussed the definitions of performance testing floating around, from “performance testing makes websites go fast” to “performance testing optimizes software systems by balancing cost, time-to-market and capacity while remaining focused on the quality of service to system users.” Furthermore, he clarified definitions of some common testing terms. Load testing is about expected, anticipated conditions. Stress testing, conversely, is about outcomes you don’t expect, finding when and where something might happen or break.

Performance testing plays an important role in numerous possible objectives: determining compliance with requirements, evaluating release readiness, assessing user satisfaction, estimating capacity, validating assumptions and generating marketing statements. As such, it hardly makes sense for performance testing to come only at the end of production, explained Barber.

“Performance testing helps stakeholders make decisions regarding product value and project risk; specifically value and risk related to speed, scalability and the stability attributes of a system and its components throughout the product lifecycle,” he said.

He advocated raising visibility about performance testing within your organization by asking questions, which often boil down to “what’s the real goal?”; generating acceptance criteria and setting priorities. Report and talk about performance often, he suggested. He also recommended taking a few minutes to spot-check the performance of competitors’ sites; not many organizations do this, but a competitive analysis does not take much time and offers some useful data.

As far as getting started with actual performance testing, he provided links to several online tools:

Tools for determining speed:

https://browsermob.com/benchmarks/overview

http://www.websitepulse.com/help/tools.php

http://www.gomez.com/benchmarks/

Tools for making use of performance snapshots:

http://www.webpagetest.org

http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/

https://developers.google.com/pagespeed/

http://www.softwareqatest.com/qatweb1.html

These tools can offer data, often with accompanying graphics, in a rather short amount of time, and they aren’t the only ones; more tools become available every day.

Check out this video of Scott Barber at STAREAST 2012:

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