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What is load testing and why do it?

by | Jan 6, 2023 | Backend Development, Load Testing

Load testing is a type of performance testing that is used to evaluate the behavior of a web application under heavy workloads.

It is an essential part of the development and deployment process for web applications, and can help ensure that your web application can handle the expected traffic and usage without experiencing performance issues or failures.

Load testing involves simulating real-world usage scenarios and traffic patterns on your web application, and measuring its performance and behavior under these conditions. This can help you identify potential bottlenecks or issues with your web application, and take steps to fix them before they affect your users.

In this blog post, we will explore what load testing is, why it is important, and how it can benefit your web application. We will also provide some tips and best practices for conducting effective load testing, and discuss some common challenges and pitfalls to avoid.


What is load testing?

Load testing typically involves generating a high volume of requests to your web application, and measuring its response times, throughput, and other performance metrics. This can help you determine how your web application performs under normal and peak usage conditions, and can provide valuable insights into its behavior and performance.

Load testing can be performed manually, or it can be performed automatically using a load testing tool or service that can generate requests and measure performance for you. We’ll explore a popular load testing tool called “Locust” later on in this post.

Load testing can also help you validate your web application’s scalability and capacity. By simulating different workloads and traffic patterns, you can determine the maximum number of users or requests that your web application can handle, and can identify the point at which it starts to experience performance degradation or failure. This can help you plan for future growth and ensure that your web application can handle the expected traffic and usage. By performing load testing, you will have a much better idea of the costs that you will incur with different amounts of users which can help you plan for future growth.

In addition to simulating heavy workloads and measuring performance, load testing can also help you identify potential issues with your web application, such as memory leaks, concurrency issues, or database performance problems. By identifying and fixing these issues before your web application goes live, you can ensure that it will perform well and provide a great user experience.

Load testing can also help you evaluate the effectiveness of your web application’s caching and performance optimization strategies. By simulating different workloads and traffic patterns, you can determine the impact of your caching and optimization strategies on your web application’s performance, and can make adjustments as needed to improve its performance.

Additionally, load testing can help you identify potential security vulnerabilities in your web application. By simulating heavy workloads and traffic patterns, you can determine the impact on your web application’s security, and can identify potential vulnerabilities or weaknesses that need to be addressed. This would be useful in determining how your application functions during a DDOS, for example making sure that transactions are not processed twice due to a hidden race condition.

Best practices and tips for load testing

At AppNative, our preferred tool for load testing is called Locust. The Locust load testing tool is an open-source, distributed, and user-friendly load testing tool that allows you to define and simulate user behavior and traffic patterns on your web application. It is designed to be easy to use and to scale, and can help you determine the performance and behavior of your web application under heavy workloads.

To use the Locust load testing tool, you first need to define the user behavior and traffic patterns that you want to simulate. This is done using a simple Python script, that allows you to specify the user behavior, the number of users, the rate at which requests are generated, and other details.

One of the most difficult aspects of load testing is accurately modeling your users’ usage. This is because users can interact with a web application in many different ways, and their behavior can vary depending on their goals, preferences, and other factors.

To accurately model your users’ usage, you should carefully consider the kinds of requests that a user will make to your web application, and the relative frequency of these requests. For example, a user will usually view other posts on a social media platform much more often than they will create their own posts. Similarly, a user will usually browse products on an e-commerce site more often than they will add items to their cart or complete a purchase.

To model these usage patterns accurately, you need to carefully analyze your users’ behavior and determine the most common types of requests and their relative frequency. This can be done using data from your web application’s logs, analytics tools, or other sources, and can provide valuable insights into your users’ behavior. If your application is not live yet, we would recommend asking the whole team to individually come up with their estimated request ratios, and then compare your estimates and decide on an appropriate number to use as a worst case, and another to use as a best case.

Once you have determined the most common types of requests and their relative frequency, you can use this information to create a load testing script that accurately simulates your users’ usage.

You can run the load test by starting the Locust load testing tool, specifying the target web application and the number of users to simulate. The tool will then generate the specified number of users and simulate the user behavior and traffic patterns that you have defined, and will measure the performance and behavior of your web application.

 

We recommend using Locust

The Locust load testing tool provides a real-time web-based dashboard that allows you to monitor the progress of the load test and view the performance metrics and results.

This dashboard provides a detailed view of the performance and behavior of your web application under the simulated workloads, and can help you identify potential bottlenecks or issues.

For small to medium applications with under 5000 concurrent users as a scaling target, locally running locust on one or two developers machines is enough to perform a valid load test, and is quick and easy to reproduce.

In a situation where you have over 5000 concurrent users as a target, you may want to consider using Locust in its distributed load testing mode.

Distributed load testing involves running a load test across multiple machines or devices to generate a high volume of requests to your web application. This can help you simulate a larger number of users and traffic patterns, and can provide a more accurate and realistic representation of your web application’s performance and behavior under heavy workloads.

When you should consider load testing

We would recommend load testing before your initial launch of a product, and before any major releases or large marketing pushes. This is because these are typically high-stress periods for your web application, and can provide valuable insights into its performance and behavior under heavy workloads.

By load testing your web application before its initial launch, you can identify and fix any potential bottlenecks or performance issues that could affect its performance and user experience. This can help ensure that your web application is ready to handle the expected traffic and usage, and can provide an excellent user experience.

Similarly, by load testing your web application before major releases or large marketing pushes, you can ensure that it is ready to handle the increased traffic and usage that these events may generate. It also ensures that your new release hasn’t introduced a performance regression, which could otherwise be occurring at the most frustrating time for users just as they try out your new features.

Why it is essential!

Overall, load testing is an essential part of the development and deployment process for web applications, and can help ensure that your web application is ready to handle the expected traffic and usage without experiencing performance issues or failures. It allows you to more accurately forecast your expected cloud cost, and gives you peace of mind that your web application will scale if you have a sudden influx of users on your platform.

 

Need some help with Load testing on your platform? We’d love to have a chat and give you some advice. Get in touch

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