Many of the shutdowns and other problems that electronic commerce Web sites experienced during the recent holiday season could have been avoided if developers had been able to effectively test the ability of their applications to handle heavy traffic.
Using WebLoad 3.0, released last month by RadView Software Inc., we could test any Web application to see how it handles high levels of traffic and also check its ability to meet necessary performance goals. Prices for WebLoad start at $4,000 for 100 virtual clients, which is on par with most of its competitors, although basic performance testing tools are available for free.
Nevertheless, WebLoad’s easy-to-use test script creation capabilities and powerful and flexible performance testing features make it well worth paying for. WebLoad 3.0 is one of the best Web server and application testing tools we’ve seen and earns an Analyst’s Choice designation.
By focusing on the performance of Web applications such as e-commerce stores, WebLoad also fills an important need that has gone mostly unmet by competing testing tools. Rival products either focus on developer-oriented debugging, as in products such as Segue Software Inc.’s Silk and Rational Software Corp.’s SQA Suite, or are mainly Web server performance-related, typical of products such as Mercury Interactive Corp.’s Astra SiteTest.
Although we could use any 4.0 or later browser from Netscape Communications Corp. or Microsoft Corp. with the AAT, if we wanted to create a test through a Secure Sockets Layer connection, we had to use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
WebLoad 3.0’s new Cruise Control test allows developers to see how well their Web applications meet performance goals. We configured Cruise Control to determine the level of traffic at which a test application’s response time would rise above 5 seconds. From the Cruise Control results, we could tell if we would be able to provide acceptable response times to visitors during peak traffic periods. Setting up a Cruise Control test is simple, and WebLoad’s useful wizard steps users through the process.
WebLoad also can do standard performance tests to detect how well the site runs under various traffic levels, which is useful for determining what hardware and software to use for a site.
It is possible to combine many WebLoad agendas in a single test in order to simulate many users performing different tasks on the site. We could define any number of virtual clients to use in testing (although this does depend on the license purchased from RadView) and could divide them among several load servers. Cruise Control tests also require a server to run as a probing client, which monitors the performance of the site during testing. All WebLoad servers run under Windows NT.
The main Monitor interface of WebLoad makes it possible for users to view tests as they run, which is very useful, especially if something isn’t working right and the test needs to be rerun. The program automatically generates graphs and reports during and after the test.
Although these are useful and will meet most needs, we would like a few more options, especially in the graphs.
We could export our reports as text or directly to Excel, which then let us do as much customization as we needed to.
WebLoad’s Monitor lets users view performance tests in real time.
Executive Summary: WebLoad 3.0
RadView’s WebLoad is a valuable tool for Web application developers who need to know how their applications will handle heavy traffic loads. With its very good test creation tools and ability to simulate a large variety of users, WebLoad lets businesses find out what their sites can handle without having to do it the hard way.
Pros: Can create test scripts that cover entire process of complex Web applications; able to test sites’ ability to meet specific performance goals.
Cons: More customizable built-in reports would be useful.