Intechnica Technical Director to present webinar on cloud performance with O’Reilly and Dyn

On June 18th, Intechnica Technical Director Andy Still will be co-presenting a webinar, “Building Performance and Resiliency Into Cloud Hosted Systems” with Jim Cowie (Chief Scientist, Dyn). The webinar is hosted by O’Reilly, who previously published Andy’s book “Web Performance Warrior” (click here to download).

Register now

Andy will bring his years of experience in developing high usage, highly performant websites to the webinar, while co-presenter Jim Cowie of Dyn brings more than 20 years of experience in high performance computing, network modelling and simulation, web services, and security.

In this webinar you will learn and see examples of:

  • How your customers connect to your cloud providers over the Internet and where do performance problems occur
  • How you can create meaningful SLAs and protect your company from cloud bad behavior
  • How does Internet Performance affect overall page load times and what you can do about it
  • How you can use cloud geolocation to improve end user experience and content delivery
  • How you can find a way to lower costs while improving reliability and performance with a multi-vendor cloud approach
  • How you can avoid downtime during planned outages and maintenance

Head on over to O’Reilly’s website to register now!


The secret of a successful product launch? Don’t let the website crash

A good online checkout should be like shopping in a supermarket with plenty of open tills. Photo – Flickr/nateOne

Even when your warehouse’s shelves are stocked, your supply is directly proportional to your website’s availability, speed and performance. Your customer satisfaction levels also hit a glass ceiling when your website can’t cope with demand.

This morning, the Nexus 4 phone sold out in the UK through Google’s online Play Store in less than 30 minutes. However, buyers and would-be buyers alike reported website inconsistencies, errors, freeze-ups, slow-downs, failed transactions, mistaken duplicate transactions, and lack of purchase confirmation. And this is the renowned kings of web speed Google. So how do you keep a website up and customers happy when there’s such high demand?

Imagine a supermarket checkout area. Imagine queuing up, having your items scanned by a cashier, but before you can pay, the cashier starts serving the next person in the queue as soon as they arrive – then, if all the items you’re trying to buy sell out in the meantime, you’re not allowed to buy the item anymore and leave the shop empty handed.

All too often this is an accurate metaphor for buying high demand products online, and the problem is that these complicated systems need to be built with scale in mind.

A good online transaction should work more like a supermarket with plenty of checkouts open, where customers are served consistently, one at a time, first come first served.

Obviously there will be a lot of disappointment when demand naturally outstrips supply, such as when there are only 140,000 Glastonbury tickets or allegedly 30,000 Nexus 4 phones on sale, yet millions of people who want to buy one.

However, even without such restrictions or high levels of demand such as in the case of the Nexus 4, your supply is actually only as great as your website’s capacity to take orders. A crashed website means you’re not moving any stock whatsoever, and it’s left sitting in your warehouse, even where there is plenty of demand.

To make matters worse, transactional websites are very complex, meaning the chances are greater for the site to stumble or fall when a lot of people are using it at once – and people get anxious when payment details are involved, even if they succeed in buying your product – Anyone who tried to buy a Nexus 4 on the first day can attest to that.

Technology means we shouldn’t have to queue around the block for the latest gadgets. Photo – Flickr/dan taylor

It took a painful 24 hours for Glastonbury to sell out in 2004 and the experience lives on in the memories of those who suffered through it. Event organiser Michael Eavis was later quoted as saying “We can improve the software, definitely – but is it a good thing to sell them all out in one hour? We could have sold them out last night in five minutes, but is that a good thing? I don’t think it is you know, I’d rather string it out a bit.”

The software was indeed improved – fast forward to a year later and the same number of tickets went at a much swifter 3 hours. According to the man who built the system (and Intechnica co-founder) Andy Still, “Under testing, the system used for 2005’s Glastonbury ticket sales was capable of selling 100,000 tickets in under a minute, but we throttled it to give people a wider window to buy their tickets in the interest of fairness.”

So is it possible to sell out quickly without your website falling over? Yes, but only when the system is designed to perform properly.

Are you considering the Performance of your SaaS products?

The issue of Performance assurance is especially interesting from the perspective of SaaS users, since performance has such an effect on page views, user satisfaction, conversion rates, bounce rate etc. etc., and SaaS customers of course have no control over the infrastructure of the software they are using. They must simply have faith that the SaaS product is going to perform, and that the providers have taken this into account.

This is a consideration that US based social login SaaS provider Janrain recently came to Intechnica to explore – they wanted to prove to themselves and the market that their hosted registration, social profile data collection and storage service could handle any load that a potential customer might throw at it.

Using Intechnica’s TrafficSpike load testing tool and expert analysis, we were able to drill down to the performance capabilities of Janrain’s Capture product and give them that peace of mind of exactly how much it could handle comfortably.

To read more about our methodology and results, head over to Janrain’s blog, where there is a guest post by Intechnica Senior Performance Consultant Mike Horn.

How often do you consider performance when looking at SaaS solutions and partners? If you need evidence as to why it’s important to consider, check out this post.

What are the options for testing in the Cloud?

I’m in the final stages of preparing my presentation and workshop session for the UK Test Management Summit next week in London and its making me think more about cloud computing in general as well as performance testing. Either testing in cloud environments or using the cloud to deliver more scalable performance tests.

Intechnica’s research paper last year, entitled “How Fast Is The Cloud?” investigated the relative performance of a simple eCommerce application on various different cloud platforms including IaaS and PaaS options. We demonstrated that a well implemented cloud solution could out-perform traditional hardware but that poor implementations would confirm cloud-sceptics suspicions about poor performance in the cloud.

At Intechnica, as well as using cloud environments to functionally and performance test code that we’re developing for clients, we use cloud based performance test tools to test our customer’s own test environments. By using cloud based load generators (injectors) and the Intechnica TrafficSpike product, we can quickly provision tens of load generators, use them for a few hours and then decommission the servers. This allows for highly scalable, comparatively low cost performance testing particularly when compared to trraditional models where multiple servers sit idle waiting for the one day per week or month where they’re used to their full potential.

The trend in performance testing seems to be a move away from traditional performance test tools and towards cloud-based load generation. This is demonstrated by the growth in companies such as SOASTA, LoadStorm, and BlazeMeter. Our workshop at TMF will give test managers the opportunity to discuss these different test technologies and obtain a better understanding of cloud performance and the implications for their business. As well as this we’ll be giving attendees the opportunity to use Intechnica’s Cloudflex product to see how easy it can be to provision multiple, identical test environments for themselves.

I’m looking forward to meeting attendees next week to discuss the implications of cloud computing for those of us in the testing industry.