|By Rebecca Clinard||
|September 24, 2012 07:30 AM EDT||
The ability to conduct effective performance testing has become a highly desired skillset within the IT industry. Unfortunately, these highly sought-after skills are consistently in short supply. "Front-end testers" can work with a tool to create a realistic load and although this is an important skillset, creating the load is just the beginning of any performance project. Understanding the load patterns and tuning the environment makes the unique talents of a "performance engineer" worth their weight in gold.
Performance engineers require skills in data analysis such as resource usage patterns, modeling, capacity planning, and tuning in order to detect, isolate, and alleviate saturation points within a deployment. Performance testing generates concurrency conditions and exposes resource competition at a server level. When the competition results in a resource (such as a thread pool) becoming over-utilized, this resource becomes a bottleneck or a saturation point. Performance engineers need to first understand the underlying architectures and develop a sense of where to look for potential scalability issues. Much of these "senses" or skills come from experience, working in many multi-tier environments and successfully tuning bottlenecks. Here are some tips to make the challenging but rewarding transition from a front-end tester to a performance engineer.
Wisdom, Determination, Patience, and Communication
Who said there isn't a whole lot of psychology in technology? Whether you are determining the current capacity of a deployment or you are recreating a production problem, it's often a very complex task- so many moving parts within the infrastructure, so many numbers to analyze from so many sources, data sets of raw test results to turn into understandable formats, so many people to keep in the loop, so much technical coordination... I could go on and on. It's your professional soft skills which will keep you on the right course. It requires determination to unpeel the layers of an onion and investigate each tier of the deployment. It requires the wisdom to spot trends instead of pursuing the tangents of anomalies. It requires the dedication to keep an eye on many different metrics and isolate resource saturation. And it requires the patience to reproduce scenarios in order to make conclusions based on proof/evidence. And you need to accomplish all of this while being an excellent communicator!
Methodical Approach - The Constant
Spend your time wisely in the beginning and set up the most realistic test scenarios. Then "set" the performance scenario in stone. This means Do Not change even the most minute details in your test case: All transactions flows, all mixtures, all think times, all behaviors - no variations at this point. This is the "constant" in your experiment and it is the only way you can reproduce and compare results. Any deviation within the test case scenario will result in different throughputs which affect resource patterns. Not following this tip will surely lead you on a collision course with Analysis Paralysis!
Architectural Diagram - Identify Potential Bottlenecks by Visualization
Make sure you ask for and receive an architectural diagram of the entire deployment. Map out business transactions to resources utilized within the environment. Make sure you understand all the transaction flows, from front end load balancers down to the shared resource database. Study the deployment and hook up precise monitors, leaving no blind spots. Visualize where contentions or bottlenecks COULD occur. Each resource of the environment must be monitored for signs of saturation. In reality, it's in the identification of where to look for bottlenecks that is the more difficult task. Alleviating these bottlenecks is the easy (and most rewarding) part. But without an architectural map, your journey will easily end by the frustration of getting lost in the dark.
Tuning Hardware and Software Level Bottlenecks
"Tuning is an Art". "Tuning is a Science". Which is it? Hardware servers are restricted by the physical resources (disk io/memory, cpu). Software servers are much more configurable and this is where expertise in needed for tuning. Performance engineers must understand the workings of a "server" in thread pools, caching policies, memory allocations, connection pooling, etc. Tuning is a balancing act. It's the situation where you tune the software servers in order to take full advantage of hardware resources, without causing a flood. Simply opening up all the gates isn't going to help when the backend is saturated with requests. Tuning must be conservative, weighing all the benefits as well as the consequences.
Proof: Reproducible Results
Typically, a seasoned performance engineer will tune a layer of the environment only when the results are reproducible. Always use trends instead of points in time, mere spikes are not cause for architectural changes. As a rule of thumb, you should reproduce 3 times before you make a change. Sometimes this takes a while... So be prepared to be patient. For example, if you are emulating a production login rate of 3 users per second, but the performance deterioration doesn't occur until you have 2000 active users, it will take a while to see it. Making an unnecessary change simply muddies the waters, keep it clear and recreate those exact conditions.
Tune the First Occurring Bottleneck
Make sure you tune the layer which showed contention earliest in the performance test, not the first identified bottleneck. When monitoring a large complex system, there are many counters to keep in your sights. Don't jump the gun and tune a thread pool when you see it becomes saturated, this could actually be a symptom of the problem, not the root cause. Correlate (using graphing is easiest) the point of time of degradation of performance to the first saturation within the environment. Understandably, there is a ton of information to look at - keep it simpler by just looking at the free resources based on percentages (free threads, free cache, and free file descriptors) and this will allow you to spot a bottleneck quicker. When a free resource runs low, there's a possible bottleneck. Understand the resource utilization and free resources will allow you to understand a bottleneck before it affects the end-user response time. In other words, watch as the resource becomes utilized. When free gets low, keep it on your radar for a cause of performance degradation.
Iterative Tuning Process
Tuning is an iterative process. Know that once you have alleviated one bottleneck, you will surely encounter another one. But do not fret... All aspects of servers are limited and since nothing is infinite you will eventually reach the end. Tuning manipulates the gates, requests which don't have a resource are queued and must wait to be serviced. Tuning becomes a process you must repeat until the workload reaches target capacity with acceptable response times.
Validate, validate, validate. Just as important as recreating and tuning based upon proof is validating that the tuning change had the desired effect. Did it indeed impact scalability in a positive way? Often, performance engineers test out theories. And sometimes, the validation stage will cause a change to be reverted. It's ok that not every change will make it to production. The key is to use a very scientific approach in which you prove the result as well as the requirement.
I hope you gleaned some pearls of wisdom.
Creating the load and emulating production workload is a means to end - you obviously need to create the load before you can capacity plan or understand the scalability of the deployment. But it is the skills in performance analysis that are most valuable. The performance engineer who walks into a project, takes the lead, wastes no time in learning the environment, creates and/or executes the realistic tests, identifies current capacity, isolates and alleviates bottlenecks, documents results, mentors the juniors, and clearly and effectively communicates with everyone from developers on up to the CIO/CTO's, is truly a GOLD MINE.
Becoming a true performance engineer is no easy task, but it's well worth the effort!
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, explored the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context with p...
Dec. 1, 2015 10:00 PM EST Reads: 476
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Dec. 1, 2015 04:00 PM EST Reads: 507
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
Dec. 1, 2015 03:00 PM EST Reads: 387
Most of the IoT Gateway scenarios involve collecting data from machines/processing and pushing data upstream to cloud for further analytics. The gateway hardware varies from Raspberry Pi to Industrial PCs. The document states the process of allowing deploying polyglot data pipelining software with the clear notion of supporting immutability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Shashank Jain, a development architect for SAP Labs, discussed the objective, which is to automate the IoT deployment process from development to production scenarios using Docker containers.
Dec. 1, 2015 03:00 PM EST Reads: 149
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
Dec. 1, 2015 02:45 PM EST Reads: 449
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
Dec. 1, 2015 02:15 PM EST Reads: 454
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Dec. 1, 2015 02:00 PM EST Reads: 552
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
Dec. 1, 2015 01:45 PM EST Reads: 359
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
Dec. 1, 2015 12:00 PM EST Reads: 314
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Dec. 1, 2015 11:45 AM EST Reads: 480
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
Dec. 1, 2015 11:45 AM EST Reads: 376
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Dec. 1, 2015 11:00 AM EST Reads: 519
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them to design hosted applications.
Dec. 1, 2015 10:45 AM EST Reads: 141
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
Dec. 1, 2015 10:00 AM EST Reads: 583
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
Dec. 1, 2015 09:00 AM EST Reads: 486
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at Built.io, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
Dec. 1, 2015 08:00 AM EST Reads: 400
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Dec. 1, 2015 08:00 AM EST Reads: 399
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
Dec. 1, 2015 08:00 AM EST Reads: 257
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Dec. 1, 2015 06:30 AM EST Reads: 515
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
Dec. 1, 2015 05:00 AM EST Reads: 627