Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Your Web App, Their Experience: Load Testing 2.0

From TechNewsWorld

Traditional load-testing methodologies can measure the strength of an enterprise's internal infrastructure. However, if external, third-party components aren't delivering snappy Web application performance, customers likely won't care whose fault it is -- they'll just go away. Load testing 2.0 is a way to assess your Web app's performance from the customer's point of view.

Imagine that it's "show time" for your company's annual peak period of e-commerce traffic. If you've ever been an e-commerce manager for a toy company on Black Friday, a floral company the day before Mother's Day, or a sporting events ticketing company a month before the Super Bowl, then you can surely relate.

Your online customer service representatives are trained and primed to help your customers. Your warehouse shelves are stocked, and your logistics providers are all lined up at the door. Your marketing promotions and campaigns are in full throttle, and your feature-rich Web applications including search, online catalogs, shopping carts, order status information, ratings and reviews, streaming video and more are all ready to roll.

Then -- boom! -- something in your most critical Web application goes awry the very day or days that exceptional performance is needed most, bringing your e-commerce operation to a screeching halt. Thousands of shopping carts and product searches go abandoned, and you have more disgruntled customers than you can imagine.

"Impossible," you might say, "we've conducted internal testing of our Web applications inside and out! All our tests have passed, and we are confident our internal infrastructure can handle our best-case traffic and then some." I'm here to tell you -- testing internal components is not enough to "get it right." With potentially huge revenue hits and brand image on the line, is anything less than exceptional performance really something you can live with?

You're Only as Strong as Your Web App's Weakest Link
Let's start with a look at today's Web applications, which have evolved from single-function tools to extended, interdependent, multi-tier delivery chains comprising numerous third-party applications and services. The performance of your Web application in its entirety hinges on the performance of each and every third-party application or service comprising it. Consider an online sales application which includes search, shopping cart and check-out functionalities. Together, these functionalities comprise a highly interdependent Web application delivery chain, and poor performance at any step can bring down performance of the entire application.

Today's modern Web sites incorporate an average of six third-party applications and services delivering content and functionalities from beyond the firewall, all converging and assembling in your customers' browsers. Third-party applications and services are more prevalent than one might think and include such commonly used features as CDNs, Omniture and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Analytics. While these third-party applications and services are designed to enable a richer online experience, they also present a liability since it's estimated they comprise 50 percent or more of the time a user spends waiting for a Web site or application to load.

In a recent study, Aberdeen Group found that a 1-second increase in response time can reduce online sales conversions by 7 percent. In the event of poor application performance, customers simply don't care which of your third-party application providers is to blame. Instead, they will hold you responsible, and failure to guarantee performance anywhere in your Web application delivery chain can result in significant damage to your brand and revenue.

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