Welcome!

Silverlight Authors: Automic Blog, Michael Kopp, AppDynamics Blog, Kaazing Blog, Steven Mandel

Related Topics: @DevOpsSummit, Java IoT, @CloudExpo

@DevOpsSummit: Blog Post

Death, Taxes & Performance Testing By @Neotys | @DevOpsSummit [#DevOps]

It is hard to comprehend just how quickly the companies that provide these services need to ramp up their operations every year

Life's Certainties: Death, Taxes and Performance Testing

This year I filed my taxes using a popular online web tax service and started to wonder how many other people were using the same services to do their taxes. There had to be millions. I looked it up - and according to the IRS over 80% of the 150 million tax returns that will be filed this year are expected to come in electronically. About a third of them - or 45 to 50 million - are self-prepared, online submissions from people like me.

It is hard to comprehend just how quickly the companies who provide these services (TurboTax, TaxSlayer.com, eSmart Tax, H&R Block, and many others) need to ramp up their operations every year. Taxpayers don't receive their W2s and other tax documentation until the end of January, so there is virtually no activity in that particular month. Then, once people have their forms at the beginning of February, a huge spike in traffic occurs.

Online tax companies go from an absolute standstill to 100 mph in a matter of days.

How do these companies do it? Tax laws change every year, so that online application is basically a brand new release when users start pounding away at it in February. What is it like to test the performance of a website that sees a higher traffic spike than an eCommerce site on Black Friday - with no warm-up period preceding it? How do they get performance right the first time that they face an onslaught of users?

Odds are your industry does not bear the same extreme performance characteristics that these tax software providers face. However, you can learn a ton from their tried and true testing methods. We at Neotys encourage you to read on to see how your site can become truly bulletproof.

The Twin Peaks of Tax Season

You may not realize that taxpayer traffic actually has two peaks. The first peak occurs right at the start of February, with people who file as soon as they have their paperwork. These are the early-birds who want their tax refunds from the government as quickly as possible.

The second peak happens in the first half of April, as the rest of the population scrambles to meet the April 15 tax-filing deadline. For tax software companies, there are basically no site visitors until January is over. Then, the floodgates open. Forget the soft launch!

Faced with that initial and immediate spike in traffic, tax companies freeze their software applications until activity subsides. Environments are locked and change is minimized as January winds to a close. From a software performance perspective, there's not much to do during this period of time. However, when the first wave of activity starts to die down in March, an opportunity arises to do a small release. At this point maintenance can be done on the site - patches and minor upgrades mainly - and all the data gathered during February can be put to use to fix lingering problems. Then it's back to lockdown for the April filing peak.

Because of these dynamics, the critical time period for testing an online tax site is October through January. This is when all of the site's core functionality and operating environments are tested, along with integration, load, and performance. The entire company has to rally around one thing: making sure everything is ready for that first day of February. Because that's when the switch is turned on.

How to Build Bulletproof Testing Methods
If you want to be sure that your applications will remain high-performing even in the face of spiking demand, take a few tips from the people who operate online tax software. Put in place strong load testing, stress testing, and performance monitoring systems. Let's take a look at a few specific guidelines in greater detail.

Load Testing with Agile Development
If you are using a load testing framework that has the right capabilities, you can get rid of a lot of the hassle of load test scripting by turning it into a click-and-script-only exercise. You record a script once, set up all the dynamic data and correlated data, save these items to the framework, and automatically apply them when rescripting. It minimizes manual work, allowing you to integrate load testing into your continuous integration process. Then you can compare the performance of individual sprint releases against each other with ease, and present the information to development teams in a simple report so they can analyze the data and make improvements.

Virtual Users
Run lots of user tests for long periods of time. This will help to flush out memory leaks that may only present themselves after weeks of normal usage in production. Virtual users can help you avoid having to shrink think times (the time taken by the users to think or to navigate to different pages in the application) which can lead to unnatural issues with session counts, connections, and garbage collection. The more virtual users you can use, the closer you can get to simulating reality.

Workload Adjustments
It's common for load testing to get pushed to the end of a cycle, but you don't have to let that happen. Use risk assessments and project prioritization to find testing activities that will add value without increasing resources. Design new tests to be executed during what is normally considered down-time. Instead of waiting for project leaders to give the go-ahead for testing, reach out to them early. This approach might allow you to proactively manage your workload and get more done.

Bandwidth Limiting
Bandwidth limiting allows you to emulate connectivity from physical locations to see what real response times look like. You can identify bandwidth intensive applications that might consume the majority of the internet pipe and determine whether or not they are necessary. This technique lets you create conditions that mimic what your users actually go through, and it can help you identify a whole class of problems that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Monitoring Systems
Automation is everything. Don't stop with automating test execution - also think about how you can automate other typical tasks. A good place to look is your monitoring systems. As your server environment grows and changes, setting up new monitors can take time and resources. Manual steps associated with these changes introduce risk, opening the door for inconsistent monitoring that misses critical events. The ability to copy monitors (for multiple hosts) in addition to out-of-the-box monitoring for open source systems dramatically reduces the time to setup a test scenario. What took a day in the past can now be completed in less than an hour.

Troubleshooting in Production
When you are going from zero to 100 mph, you don't want to leave anything to chance. So even when you are testing, you should look at all the performance data you would normally review in production. This helps guarantee that your production monitoring tools provide the detail needed for troubleshooting. Whenever possible, run at least one test from outside your firewall. Some issues can only be found using this approach. You should consider cloud testing for this strategy. You'll also want to build a good test-in-production process to certify the production environment.

Performance Testing - Or Death for Your Product
Unlike death and taxes, performance testing is advantageous to make your site as bulletproof as possible. These tips will help you to plan early, subject the system to stress, and monitor performance so that you get as close to real-world as possible without having to subject actual users to performance problems. If you can make your site as rugged as tax software, you'll be well-equipped for any scenario that comes your way.

More Stories By Tim Hinds

Tim Hinds is the Product Marketing Manager for NeoLoad at Neotys. He has a background in Agile software development, Scrum, Kanban, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Testing practices.

Previously, Tim was Product Marketing Manager at AccuRev, a company acquired by Micro Focus, where he worked with software configuration management, issue tracking, Agile project management, continuous integration, workflow automation, and distributed version control systems.

@ThingsExpo Stories
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things’). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing? IoT is not about the devices, it’s about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. In his session at Internet of Things at Cloud Expo | DXWor...
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader Sergey Grebnov provided an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.