Load Testing Using Visual Studio 2008: Part 1

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Load testing an application helps the development and management team understand the application performance under various conditions. Load testing can have different parameter values and conditions to test the application and check the application performance.

Each load test can simulate the number of users, network bandwidths, combinations of different web browsers, and different configurations. In the case of web applications, it is required to test the application with different sets of users and different sets of browsers to simulate multiple requests at the same time to the server. The following figure shows a sample of real-time situations for multiple users accessing the web site using different networks and different browsers from multiple locations.

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Load testing is meant not just for web applications. We can also test the unit tests under load tests to check the performance of the data access from the server. The load test helps identify application performance in various capacities, application performance under light loads for a short duration, performance with heavy loads, and different durations.

Load testing uses a set of computers, which consists of a controller and agents. These are called rig. The agents are the computers at different locations used for simulating different user requests. The controller is the central computer which controls multiple agent computers. The Visual Studio 2008 Test Load agent in the agent computers generates the load. The Visual Studio 2008 Test Controller at the central computer controls these agents. This article explains the details of creating test scenarios and load testing the application.

Creating load test

The load tests are created using the Visual Studio Load Test wizard. You can first create the test project and then add the new load test which opens the wizard, and guides us to create the test. We can edit the test parameters and configuration later on, if required.

Before we go on to create the test project and understand the parameters, we will consider a couple of web applications. Web applications or sites are the ones accessed by a large number of users from different locations at the same time. It is quite required to simulate this situation and check the application performance. Let’s take a couple of web applications. It is a simple web page, where the orders placed by the current user are displayed. The other application is the coded web test that retrieves the orders for the current user, similar to the first one.

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Using the above examples we will see the different features of load testing that is provided by Visual Studio. The following sections describe the creation of load testing, setting parameters, and load testing the application.

Load test wizard

The load test wizard helps us create the load test for the web tests and unit tests. There are different steps to provide the required parameters and configuration information for creating the load test. There are different ways of adding load tests to the test project:

  • Select the test project and then select the option Add | Load Test…
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  • Select the test menu in Visual Studio 2008 and select New Test, which opens the Add | New Test… dialog. Select the load test type from the list. Provide a test name and select the test project to which the new load test should be added.
  • Both the above options open the New Load Test Wizard shown as follows:

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The wizard contains four different sets with multiple pages, which collects the parameters and configuration information for the load test.

The welcome page explains the different steps involved in creating a load test. On selecting a step like Scenario or Counter Sets or Run Settings, the wizard displays the section to collect the parameter information for the selected set option. We can click on the option directly or keep clicking Next and set the parameters. Once we click on Finish, the load test is created. To open the load test, expand the solution explorer and double-click on the load test, LoadTest1. We can also open the load test using the Test View window in the Test menu and double-click on the name of the load test from the list to open the Test Editor. For example, the following is a sample load test:

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The following detailed sections explain setting the parameters in each step:

Specifying scenario

Scenarios are used for simulating the actual user tests. For example, there are different end users to any web application. For a public web site, the end user could be anywhere and there could be any number of users. The bandwidth of the connection and the type of browsers used by the users also differ. Some users might be using a high-speed connection, and some a slow dial-up connection. But if the application is an Intranet application, the end users are limited within the LAN network. The speed at which the users connect will also be constant most of the time. The number of users and the browsers used are the two main things which differ in this case. The scenarios are created using these combinations which are required for the application under test. Enter the name for the scenario in the wizard page.

We can add any number of scenarios to the test. For example, we might want to load test the WebTest3 with 40 per user per hour and another load test for WebTest11Coded with 20 per user per hour.

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Now, let us create a new load test and set the parameters for each scenario.

Think time

The think time is the time taken by the user to navigate to the next web page. This is useful for the load test to simulate the test accurately.

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We can set the load test to use the actual think time recorded by the web test or we can give a specific think time for each test. The other option is to set the normal distribution of the think time between the requests. The time varies slightly between the requests, but is mostly realistic. There is a third option, which is configured not to use the think times between the requests.

The think times can also be modified for the scenario after creating the load test. Select the scenario and right-click and then open Properties to set the think time.

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Now once the properties are set for the scenario, click Next in the New Load Test Wizard to set parameters for Load Pattern.

Load pattern

Load pattern is used for controlling the user loads during the tests. The test pattern varies based on the type of test. If it is a simple Intranet web application test or a unit test, then we might want to have a minimum number of users for a constant period of time. But in case of a public web site, the amount of users would differ from time to time. In this case, we might want to increase the number of users from a very small number to a large number with a time interval. For example I might have a user load of 10 initially but during testing I may want the user load to be increased by 10 in every 10 seconds of testing until the maximum user count reaches 100. So at 90th second the user count will reach 100 and the increment stops and stays with 100 user load till the test completion.

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Constant load

The load starts with the specified user count and ends with the same number.

User Count: This is to specify the number of user counts for simulation.

Step load

The load test starts with the specified minimum number of users and the count increases constantly with the time duration specified until the user count reaches the maximum specified.

  • Start user count: This specifies the number of users to start with
  • Step duration: This specifies the time between the increases in user count
  • Step user count: This specifies the number of users to add to the current user count
  • Maximum user count: This specifies the maximum number of user count

We have set the parameters for the Load Pattern. The next step in the wizard is to set the parameter values for Test Mix Model and Test Mix.

Test mix model and test mix

The test load model has to simulate the accuracy of the end-users count distribution. Before selecting the test mix, the wizard provides a configuration page to choose the test mix model from three different options. They are based on the total number of tests, on the virtual users, and on user pace.

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The next page in the wizard provides the option to select the tests and provide the distribution percentage, or the option to specify the tests per user per hour for each test for the selected model. The mix of tests is based on the percentages specified or the test per user specified for each test.

Based on the total number of tests

The next test to be run is based on the selected number of times. The number of times the tests is run should match the test distribution. For example, if the distribution is like the one shown in the image on the previous page, then the next test selected for the run is based on the percentage distributions.

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Based on the number of virtual users

This model determines running particular tests based on the percentage of virtual users. Selecting the next test to be run depends on the percentage of virtual users and also on the percentage assigned to the tests. At any point, the number of users running a particular test matches the assigned distribution.

Based on user pace

This option determines running each test for the specified number of times per hour. This model is helpful when we want the virtual users to conduct the test at a regular pace.

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The test mix contains different web tests, each with different number of tests per user. The number of users is defined using load pattern. The next step in the wizard is to specify the Browser Mix, explained in the next section.

Browse mix

We have set the number of users and the number of tests, but there is always a possibility that all the users may not use the same browser. To mix the different browser types, we can go to the next step in the wizard and select the browsers listed and give a distribution percentage for each browser type.

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The test does not actually use the specified browser, but sets the header information in the request to simulate the same request through the specified browser. Like different browsers, the network speed also differs with user location, which is the next step in the wizard.

Network mix

Click on Next in the wizard to specify the Network Mix, to simulate the actual network speed of the users. The speed differs based on user location and the type of network they use. It could be a LAN network, or cable or wireless, or a dial-up. This step is useful in simulating the actual user scenario.

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The next step in the wizard is to set the Counter Sets parameters, which is explained in the next sections.

Counter sets

Load testing the application not contains the application-specific performance but also the environmental factors. This is to know the performance of the other services required for running the load test or accessing the application under test. For example, the web application makes use of IIS and ASP.NET process and SQL Server. VSTS provides an option to track the performance of these services using counter sets as part of the load test. The load test collects the counter set data during the test and represents it as a graph for a better understanding. The same data is also saved locally so that we can load it again and analyze the results. The counter set is for all the scenarios in the load test.

The counter set data is collected for the controllers and agents by default. We can also add the other systems that are part of load testing. These counter set results help us to know how the services are used during the test. Most of the time the application performance is affected by the common services or the system services used.

The load test creation wizard provides the option to add the performance counters. The wizard includes the current system by default and the common counter set for the controllers and the agents. The following screenshot shows the sample for adding systems to collect the counter sets during the load test:

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There are lists of counters listed for the system by default. We can select any of these for which we want to collect the details during the load test. For example, the above screenshot shows that we need the data to be collected for ASP.NET, .Net Application, and IIS from System1. Using the Add Computer… option, we can keep adding the computers on which we are running the tests and choose the counter sets for each system.

Once we are done with selecting the counter sets, we are ready with all the parameters for the test. But for running the test some parameters are required, which is done in the next step in the wizard.

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