Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Gregor Petri, John Basso, Dana Gardner, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Mobile IoT, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Agile Computing, Release Management , @CloudExpo

Mobile IoT: Article

Best Practices for Load Testing Mobile Applications | Part 2

How to conduct realistic tests and how to best analyze the results

Mobile applications and mobile websites have become a major channel for conducting business, improving employee efficiency, communicating, and reaching consumers. In Part I of this article we discussed the differences between testing traditional and mobile applications, specific challenges associated with mobile load testing, mobile testing basics and best practices for recording mobile load test scenarios. In this Part 2 of the article, we will look at how to conduct realistic tests and how to best analyze the results.

How to Run Realistic Load Tests
Once you've recorded a mobile test scenario, you need to be parameterize it so that it can emulate users with different identities and behaviors as it is played back to produce a realistic load on the server. This step is required for traditional and mobile web applications, and the tools used to complete it are the same. When playing back the test scenarios, however, there are several challenges specific to mobile load testing.

Simulating Network Conditions
Today's mobile devices generally access the server over networks that are slower than those used by desktop computers. Network conditions have a significant effect on the user experience, and the effect may be more or less pronounced depending on the application. Network characteristics including bandwidth, latency and packet loss have a huge impact on client response times and on the way the server is loaded. By simulating different network conditions in a test lab environment you can forecast the effects of changes in the network infrastructure on the application's performance. Doing so also allows you to discover application issues in the development cycle, therefore reducing costs.

Bandwidth, Latency and Packet Loss
For example, low bandwidth increases the time it takes to download a resource, which then results in higher page load times. If the customer is connected longer, front-end servers hold sockets longer, load balancers have more active TCP sessions and application servers use more threads.

Mobile networks have limited bandwidth and high latency compared to Wi-Fi and broadband. Since the latency is a time added to each request and webpages are composed of many sub-requests, the time required to load a webpage on a mobile device greatly depends on the latency.

Limiting bandwidth and simulating latency and packet loss during a load test allows you to check that all of your users, including mobile users, will get the best user experience and acceptable response times while ensuring your servers won't have problems under load.

Bandwidth and Response Times
The bandwidth is directly correlated with how long it takes to download data from the server. The lower the bandwidth, the higher the response time. A server that provides acceptable response times for desktop users using DSL or another high-speed broadband service may deliver a poor end-user experience to mobile users with lower bandwidth.

It is important to validate your service-level agreements (SLAs) and performance objectives with tests that use the same bandwidth limitations as your users to avoid making decisions based on misleading test results. Such tests must incorporate bandwidth simulation, which is the process of artificially slowing down the traffic during a test to simulate a slower connection.

Bandwidth and Server Load
Clients using lower bandwidth connections also affect the server. The lower the bandwidth, the longer the connections. Longer connections, in turn, lead to more simultaneous connections on your web server and your application server. Thus, mobile users tend to consume more connections than their wired counterparts. Most servers have settings that limit the number of simultaneous connections that they can handle. Without a testing tool that realistically simulates bandwidth, these settings cannot be properly validated.

Simulating Bandwidth Limitations for Individual Virtual Users
When load testing, effective bandwidth simulation requires the ability to individually limit the bandwidth for each user or groups of users, independent of the others.

Consider a situation in which you need to verify performance when 100 mobile users are accessing the server. In this scenario, you'd want to simulate 100 virtual users, with each user limited to a 1Mbps 3G connection. In this case, the total bandwidth for all users is 100Mbps (100 users * 1Mbps/user). Though it is possible to use WAN emulation software or a network appliance to globally limit the bandwidth for the load generation machine to 100 Mbps (or any other arbitrary limit), in practice this does not provide a realistic test because it does not impose a strict 1Mbps constraint on each user. Bandwidth simulation support must be integrated in the load testing tool to enable bandwidth limits to be applied to individual virtual users.

To conduct an even more realistic test, you'll want to simulate a mixed population of users accessing your application with a variety of bandwidths. With a tool capable of bandwidth simulation on a per virtual user basis, you can determine the response times for users at each bandwidth across a range of bandwidths in a single test. This saves times when you need to compare the response times of web applications and business transactions for clients who have different bandwidth limits.

Simulating Browsers and Browser Capabilities
When a browser requests a resource from a web server, it identifies itself via the user-agent header sent with each request. This header contains information about the browser and the platform on which it is running. Servers use this information to deliver different versions of the content based on the client system. As noted earlier, many web applications deliver different content to mobile users and desktop users. Some further differentiate mobile users into subgroups based on information in the user-agent header, delivering less text and smaller images to devices with small screens. This can lead to bandwidth consumption and loading times that vary widely with the browser and platform being used.

As a result, the ability to manipulate the user-agent header is essential not only for recording test scenarios, but also for playing them back. Tools that lack this capability will fail to retrieve the appropriate content from the server.

Simulating Parallel Connections
Mobile browsers, like desktop browsers, can generate the HTTP requests needed to retrieve the static resources of a web page in parallel. Rather than waiting for each image to finish loading before requesting the next, this approach requests multiple images at once to shorten the overall page load time. To measure response times accurately, load testing tools must replicate this behavior by generating multiple requests in parallel. Moreover, they must simulate the appropriate number of parallel connections as this number may differ from one mobile browser to another. Again, tools that lack this capability are not performing realistic tests, placing the results they deliver into question.

Identifying the Most Appropriate Settings for Realistic Tests
Finding the appropriate values for key test settings - such as the user-agent, bandwidth, and number of simultaneous connections - can be a challenge. More advanced load testing tools can help testers set these values. For example, test scenario playback is greatly simplified by tools that can automatically inform the tester of which user-agent string and number of parallel connections to use based on the browser name, version, and platform. The process is further streamlined when the tools can suggest the most appropriate upload and download bandwidth settings based on the technology used (for example, Wi-Fi, 3G, 3G+, and so on) and the quality of the signal (for example, poor, average, or good).

Using the Cloud
You can use load testing with the cloud after (or in conjunction with) on-premise testing in the lab to improve the realism of your tests by generating high loads and testing from different locations, while saving time and lowering costs.

Generating a High Load
For consumer-facing apps and websites, it's often difficult to predict the number of users your applications will have to handle. Traffic spikes that results from a promotion, marketing campaign, new product release, or even unexpected social network buzz can be substantial. To generate a similar load in-house, you would need a significant investment in hardware. Using the cloud, you can generate the same high load using on-demand resources at a much lower cost.

Testing from Different Geographies
Your web application's real users likely access the server from many different geographical locations and use different networks. To properly validate the application and the server infrastructure, your virtual users should operate under similar real world conditions.

Testing the Entire Application Delivery Chain
When your real users are located outside the firewall, you should run your virtual users from the cloud to validate the parts of the application delivery chain that are not tested when testing from the lab, including the firewall, load balancers, and other network equipment.

Tools for Testing with the Cloud
While the cloud represents an opportunity to rapidly increase the scale and improve the realism of load testing at low costs, cloud testing is most effective when it's used to complement internal load testing. Note that the primary factor in the success of load testing with the cloud is not the move to the cloud, rather it's the tool you select and how well it uses cloud technology. In particular, it's best to select a solution that is integrated with multiple cloud platforms, enables in-house test assets to be reused in the cloud, and supports realistic, large-scale tests across multiple geographical regions.

Analyzing Results
The default results of a load test are frequently delivered as averages. For example, load testing tools will typically show what errors occurred and the average response times for a request, web page, or business transaction regardless of the type of users being simulated or the bandwidth available to them.

Because bandwidth may vary widely for the different kinds of users simulated, the errors and response times can also vary widely. Taking an average of results with significant variation does not provide an accurate picture of what is really happening. To gain meaningful insights and to validate your SLAs and performance requirements for each network condition, it is important to go beyond the default results and analyze the results for each kind of user.

Conclusion
In many ways, mobile load testing is similar to load testing classic web applications. As a result, testers can leverage much of their existing knowledge and reuse existing techniques - like using the cloud for realistic, large-scale tests. However, there are specific requirements for testing mobile applications that are not addressed by traditional load testing techniques. Recording mobile test scenarios, conducting realistic tests that simulate real-world bandwidth and browser characteristics, and properly analyzing the results are some of the key areas that require special attention for mobile applications. Addressing challenges in these areas is essential to ensuring mobile web applications are sufficiently tested prior to release and that they will perform well under load in production.

More Stories By Steve Weisfeldt

Steve Weisfeldt is a Senior Performance Engineer at Neotys, a provider of load testing software for Web applications. Previously, he has worked as the President of Engine 1 Consulting, a services firm specializing in all facets of test automation. Prior to his involvement at Engine 1 Consulting, he was a Senior Systems Engineer at Aternity. Prior to that, Steve spent seven years at automated testing vendor Segue Software (acquired by Borland). While spending most of his time at Segue delivering professional services and training, he was also involved in pre-sales and product marketing efforts.

Being in the load and performance testing space since 1999, Steve has been involved in load and performance testing projects of all sizes, in industries that span the retail, financial services, insurance and manufacturing sectors. His expertise lies in enabling organizations to optimize their ability to develop, test and launch high-quality applications efficiently, on-time and on-budget. Steve graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell with a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Computer Engineering.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
ReadyTalk has expanded the capabilities of the FoxDen collaboration platform announced late last year to include FoxDen Connect, an in-room video collaboration experience that launches with a single touch. With FoxDen Connect, users can now not only engage in HD video conferencing between iOS and Android mobile devices or Chrome browsers, but also set up in-person meeting rooms for video interactions. A host’s mobile device automatically recognizes the presence of a meeting room via beacon tech...
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
It’s 2016: buildings are smart, connected and the IoT is fundamentally altering how control and operating systems work and speak to each other. Platforms across the enterprise are networked via inexpensive sensors to collect massive amounts of data for analytics, information management, and insights that can be used to continuously improve operations. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Chemel, Co-Founder and CTO of Digital Lumens, will explore: The benefits sensor-networked systems bring to ...
On Dice.com, the number of job postings asking for skill in Amazon Web Services increased 76 percent between June 2015 and June 2016. Salesforce.com saw its own skill mentions increase 37 percent, while DevOps and Cloud rose 35 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Even as they expand their presence in the cloud, companies are also looking for tech professionals who can manage projects, crunch data, and figure out how to make systems run more autonomously. Mentions of ‘data science’ as a skill ...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, discussed how leveraging the Industrial Internet a...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
Big Data, cloud, analytics, contextual information, wearable tech, sensors, mobility, and WebRTC: together, these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Erik Perotti, Senior Manager of New Ventures on Plantronics’ Innovation team, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it ...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effi...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device.