Just like how great software allows organizations to build their success on technology, poor software performance can have far-reaching consequences. It stifles growth, impacts customer experience, and garners an overall bad reputation. Hence, in today’s software-driven, customer-obsessed world, the role of performance testing in building reliable, secure, performance-driven software becomes paramount.
More specifically, testing software’s performance becomes critical to eliminating bottlenecks. And the testing world affirms that. Test engineers, leads, analysts, and directors agree that performance testing knowledge is critical to success especially as software eats the world.
To that end, this article aims to introduce the field of performance testing, its types, and how some best practices should be followed to optimize software performance.
What is performance testing?
Performance testing helps in assessing the different performance attributes of an application/software, such as its reliability, responsiveness, stability, etc.
In essence, it’s a measure of the ability of a system to fulfill a task within defined dimensions. As a result, this testing format ensures that an application’s speed, scalability, and stability remain intact under a given workload.
Performance tests ensure software quality by evaluating application output, processing speed, data transfer velocity, and network bandwidth usage. These tests also assess the application’s maximum concurrent users, memory utilization, workload efficiency, and command response times.
In a nutshell, performance testing:
- Determines the application satisfies performance requirements
- Locates computing bottlenecks within an application
- Establishes the performance levels committed by the software vendor hold
- Measures the stability of the software/application with multiple concurrent users
As the focus on improving digital experiences increases, performance testing becomes even more critical in the testing universe. It needs a clear, well-planned test strategy to determine the types of tests that need to be performed to test the application.
Analyzing the user demands and how the components interact with a given stress scenario become important consideration points. The test strategy should closely mirror the real-life environment for the best outcomes.
Types of performance testing
Component-wise testing of the whole system generates the best performance testing outcomes. Doing this eliminates the risk of issues suddenly emerging during the testing process. Further, creating a comprehensive testing suite and robust tests that include baseline tests is vital for impactful testing outcomes.
Performance testing is a type of non-functional test. There are different types of performance tests that need to be conducted to determine system readiness. The key ones are:
Load testing evaluates the system performance as the workload increases. Workloads could mean the number of concurrent users or transactions that the system can handle. These workloads should fall within the parameters of normal working conditions.
Load testing monitors the system to measure response time and gives out the response times of all the important business-critical transactions. Testing the database, application server, etc., during load testing easily points out bottlenecks in the application software.
Tests the application beyond normal load conditions and determines which components fail first. As a result, it assesses the health of the application’s data processing capabilities and response to high traffic volumes.
This test is executed by applying varying loads to the application under test for an extended period. It evaluates the performance of the system under load over time.
Evaluates how well the system will scale by adding resources. More profoundly, it checks if the application can scale up effectively in the event of user overload.
This test determines software performance when workloads increase quickly, substantially, and repeatedly. Spike testing is similar to stress testing, but it tests the workloads beyond normal expectations for short amounts of time.
Also known as flood testing, volume testing evaluates how efficiently the software performs with extensive projected data.
Difference between performance and functional testing
Performance and functional testing sound similar, but this could not be further from the truth. In short, the differences between them are subtle yet important.
|Performance Testing||Functional Testing|
|Validates the ‘performance’ of the software||Validates the ‘behavior’|
|The focus is on user expectations||The focus is on user requirements|
|Must be automated for comprehensive test coverage||Can be either automated or manual|
|Demands the involvement of the customer, tester, developer, DBA, and N/W Management team||Needs the involvement of just the customer, tester, and developer|
|Requires a close production test environment & H/W facility to populate the load.||Production-sized test environments are not mandatory, and H/W requirements are minimal in Functional testing.|
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Best Practices of Performance Testing
Since performance testing is crucial in the software testing ecosystem, here are some key points to consider:
Shift performance tests left
Performance testing should not be a part of the last step of the development process. To clarify, shifting performance tests left helps identify issues and implement solutions early and leads to better time and cost optimization.
Stay away from assumptions
Assuming that a small set of performance testing results will be the same when elements change is a recipe for disaster. These assumptions must also be verified through performance testing.
Aim for better test coverage
Certainly one performance testing scenario is not enough – performance tests have to be comprehensive and address problems that can arise outside of well-planned scenarios. An AI-enabled, codeless performance testing tool increases the testing footprint and gives better scenario and test coverage.
Above all, starting at a lower load and scaling up incrementally produces efficient results that are easier to troubleshoot.
Isolating functions for performance testing are critical, but the individual component test results do not add to a system-wide assessment. Therefore, building awareness of what hasn’t been tested and covering as many functionalities as possible using the available resources becomes essential.
Choose the right test automation platform
Ensuring that the test automation platform uses the software in ways that real users would is important for good performance test outcomes. It’s an important consideration when performance test parameters are changed.
In a Nutshell
Since performance testing tests speed, stability, and scalability and is a non-functional test; it lends itself well to automation.
Automating performance testing accelerates testing and also ensures a large testing footprint and coverage. Emphasis on performance testing ensures that the application performs as expected and delivers a positive user experience. Since performance determines user acceptance and advocacy, getting the performance testing strategy right becomes one of the pillars for developing great software.