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Sorting through options in automated performance, stress testing tools

Which automated performance and stress testing tools offer the most bang for the buck? Advice on testing tools and automation is offered by software testing and quality assurance expert John Overbaugh.

My group runs into a lot of problems with performance volume stress testing and is looking for some automated tools to help us. Can you recommend types of tools and toolsets within those categories? Are there any production volume-level tools that are free or not too costly?

Sure there are a number of high-quality tools for generating production-level performance load testing. Most of them are built for web applications, and those are all server/platform agnostic. Some open source tools of mention include JMeter, OpenSTA, and Microsoft's Web Application Stress tool. These tools function pretty much the same: they record and/or playback http requests against a specified server. They lack much in the way of user experience--their UI is anything but sophisticated. However, they do a decent job of driving predicable, repeatable load against a web server.

JMeter and OpenSTA are designed to be used either standalone, or within a coordinated suite of machines to drive higher load levels.

Numerous commercial products exist as well. Load Runner is by far the most popular commercial product, although my personal take is that this application is 1) very, very expensive and 2) quite complicated. It's syntax is a C-like language, requiring a fairly advanced understanding of programming in order to use the application. It's setup is also rather complex. Most companies to take the expense and time of setting up Load Runner like it quite a bit.

Visual Studio Team Edition/Test Edition has a fairly powerful performance testing application built into it. Unlike Load Runner, VSTS's tool speaks a variant of C#, which I find to be easier for non-programming testers to pick up. It drives a solid, predictable load level as well and is one of the tools in use in my team today.

My personal favorite for load-testing web applications is WAPT (Web Application Performance Test Tool), a low-cost commercial alternative to the commercial load tool. I find WAPT to be very adept at generating load, and it has great real-time and post-test UI and feedback. While it costs a fraction of what other commercial tools cost, I believe it's equal to or even better than alternatives for generating load and I have been very happy with it as a solution for several projects.

Dig Deeper on Stress, Load and Software Performance Testing

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