A Guide to the Must-Have Features for Load Testing Services
Load tests are a type of test used to validate a system’s capability to handle increasing concurrent user traffic over a set time up to a maximum threshold. This type of test is performed by creating simulated or real-time user traffic and routing it to a system component. During the load test, the user traffic is “ramped up,” which increases volume at specified intervals throughout the test.
Traditionally, load tests have been executed in various ways. They can be executed from local developer machines, on-premises, or cloud-hosted servers. These solutions, however, need a hefty investment of manpower, knowledge, and maintenance. They also scale poorly: Engineers will need to provision more infrastructure over time or implement automation for scaling the servers up—and maintaining said automation!
Another consideration related to load tests, and tests in general, is managing the tests an engineer creates and keeping track of test results and runs. These tests have typically been stored locally on a developer computer or remotely hosted on a server, but hosting tests this way makes the tests prone to being accidentally lost. For example, a server may be removed to save money, or a developer may leave the company. To make things even more difficult, these tests have also required technical knowledge to execute. For example, an engineer would need to remotely access the server via ssh and run commands for the tests to execute.
A solution of last resort for companies with limited resources has been to hire a firm specializing in software testing and turn over the responsibility to them. However, this alternative is being gradually replaced with scalable Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions with low administrative and maintenance overhead.
SaaS solutions work to fix the traditional issues of performance test maintenance, creation, and execution. They provide an easy-to-use interface for all the load test cases. Teams can return to this interface and execute tests rapidly without worrying about understanding the finer details of the test or the underlying infrastructure.
This article will explore the benefits and real-world applications of implementing SaaS load-testing services in software projects.
Summary of the features and benefits of SaaS load testing services
The table below describes some key advantages of SaaS-based load testing services.
Explanation of features and benefits of SaaS load testing services
Low overhead and maintenance
Running performance tests can take considerable resources depending on the scope and scale of the test. A SaaS solution for load testing noticeably reduces overhead by eliminating the need for public or private cloud infrastructure.
In a traditional implementation, a team must consider and calculate the CPU and memory required to run the tests and predict the virtual user (VU) cost. The team must then deploy these resources to the cloud or on-premises and maintain the infrastructure. Finally, teams must ensure that resources such as servers are cleaned up after test completion.
By relying on the SaaS provider to handle infrastructure setup and maintenance, engineering teams can operate more efficiently, directing their energy and resources toward innovation and growth.
Leveraging SaaS also means automatically receiving updates to your performance testing tool and getting the latest security, performance, and functional updates. Using SaaS providers also translates to minimal downtime and the ability to focus organizational resources on core business functions.
Infinite scalability on demand
One of the most compelling advantages of using SaaS for load testing is the ability to scale infinitely according to demand. Traditional testing solutions often require careful planning and allocation of resources to simulate peak loads, a process that can be both time-consuming and costly.
With SaaS, businesses can scale up or down almost instantaneously, paying only for the resources used. This pay-as-you-go model allows organizations to align their expenses more closely with actual demand, improving efficiency and reducing waste.
One of the defining characteristics of SaaS—and, by extension, load-testing SaaS solutions—is reliability. By depending on a specialized provider, businesses can enjoy consistent uptime and stability that may be challenging to achieve with in-house solutions.
SaaS providers often offer ongoing support and continuous maintenance, ensuring their products have the latest updates and follow an SLA to guarantee uptime. This level of support further enhances the reliability of the service, as it minimizes the risk of disruptions and ensures that the tools are continuously operating at peak performance. This feature leads to more reliable test results and test runs.
Ability to test any technology stack
One of the most remarkable features of SaaS load testing services is the ability to test any technology stack without needing to manage a repository or package environment. The SaaS provider does the heavy lifting, configuring the infrastructure and making sure that it has the correct programming language and package manager versions. It also ensures that builds are consistent and that there is no need to maintain developer environments for performance testing.
Through open-source package managers, such as NPM for Node.js or pip for Python, engineers can effortlessly test technologies like Kafka, Redis, MySQL, and more without writing additional code.
This capability fosters an environment of innovation and flexibility. Engineers can experiment with different technologies and integrate them into existing systems, enabling a more agile and responsive development process within the organization.
Another aspect of working with different stacks is supporting various architectures. One such architecture is microservices. Microservices represent a significant trend in modern software development, and support for this architecture is essential for any contemporary load-testing tool. SaaS load testing services excel in this area by offering compatibility with various microservices technologies, such as gRPC, HTTP, GraphQL, and AMQP.
Engineers should be able to access their desired technology stacks by wrapping them around their performance testing tools. Here is an example with GraphQL within Multiple:
Example of importing a package to test GraphQL
In the above, it is possible to import a package supporting GraphQL (qraphQLClient) while running the test within the broader context of our tool. This context is represented by ctx and runs within the testing tool’s built-in function vuLoop.
This flexibility enables complex testing scenarios that accurately reflect the real-world conditions of modern distributed applications. By aligning with the latest architectural trends, SaaS load testing tools ensure that they remain relevant and effective in an ever-evolving technological landscape. Access to open-source tooling and package management tools allows teams to get the “latest and greatest” whenever needed.
This feature also allows for more innovation. Organizations looking to deliver new concepts and features want to prototype before committing resources, so they can iterate quickly and reduce time to market.
A second significant advantage of SaaS load testing services is making running tests as easy as clicking a button. Most SaaS products will be able to store test scripts written by developers and enable non-technical staff to execute them as needed. This strategy gives the team more flexibility regarding who can run the tests and when.
Enabling of data-driven decision-making
SaaS load testing services provide an array of data-driven insights. With detailed reports on transaction count, error count, latency, and other vital metrics, businesses can quickly identify and act on problem areas. Metrics, like CPU and memory, can complement these reports to discover system design or architecture weaknesses.
The following image provides an excellent overview of the data types a team should look for in its test results.
A few key takeaways from the image above: The X-axis shows the load test timing, while the left Y-axis represents RPS or requests per second. The right Y-axis displays the actual value of the metrics. These three metrics alone can be cross-referenced to our application resources to discover weaknesses, but what is even better is being able to break the requests down by type. Below the chart, a table shows various query types, such as update, insert, and delete. An analysis like this can help a team identify bottlenecks quickly and accurately while ensuring that scenarios reflect real-time traffic. Not all customers will only be reading from the database, so there is a need for different methods, protocols, queries, etc., based on what is best suited to the application.
Including historical data also allows for longitudinal analysis, enabling businesses to track performance over time. By comparing current results with historical data, organizations can identify trends, anticipate potential issues, and make more informed strategic decisions.
Role-based access control
Security is paramount in load testing, and role-based access control plays a vital role in maintaining the integrity of the process. Businesses can minimize the risk of unauthorized access or misuse by controlling who can execute tests.
Most SaaS load testing services offer customizable permissions, allowing companies to define roles and access levels according to their unique needs and organizational structures. This tailored approach ensures that the right people have the appropriate access levels, enhancing both security and collaboration.
At a bare minimum, teams should look at tools that allow for user addition and removal as well as base access rights that reflect read, write, and administration. Below is an example of what this area may look like:
Robust logging and easy debugging
SaaS load testing services typically offer detailed and customizable logs. These logs capture essential information that can be analyzed to identify the root causes of any issues, facilitating a more efficient and effective debugging process.
Many services also include specialized debugging tools that streamline identifying and resolving issues. These tools can significantly reduce the time and effort required to diagnose problems, enabling faster resolutions and minimizing the impact on project timelines.
Support for all load testing types
SaaS load testing services often support all significant types of load testing, including load, stress, soak, and spike testing. By offering a comprehensive suite of testing tools, these services enable a more holistic approach to performance evaluation.
These various testing types simulate different real-world scenarios, providing a more nuanced and realistic assessment of an application’s performance under actual operating conditions. By accommodating this diverse range of testing types, SaaS load testing services deliver a more complete and accurate picture of an application’s readiness and resilience.
Summary of key concepts
SaaS load testing services offer an approach to performance evaluation marked by reduced overhead, enhanced reliability, flexible scaling, comprehensive support for modern architectures, robust data-driven insights, strong security features, and wide-ranging testing capabilities.
These services significantly reduce the burden on a team and shine in today’s agile landscape, where velocity is critical, and developers are always looking to deliver the best features possible to customers at the highest quality.
Lastly, and most importantly, remember to do what makes the most sense for the project and team. Consider the team’s skill sets, project requirements, and how tooling will fit into the mix throughout the entire software development lifecycle.
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