Virtual stress testing

The best defense is a good offense, especially when it comes to preparing your network for future resource demands.
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What do you do when you're charged with implementing a test strategy to assure the quality and availability of a very large, very complex Web site? You turn to automation, of course, just like Richard Lacroix of The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (Manulife Financial) did.


By adopting one of a new class of stress-testing tools that are specifically designed to simulate expected Web traffic, you can ensure that the entire back-end infrastructure can deliver accurate results in a timely manner.
When Lacroix joined the test team of Manulife, a Toronto-based firm that provides financial protection products and investment management services, in Aug. 1998, he faced early demand projections of 2,000 concurrent users. And he quickly realized that the required user volume testing effort far exceeded what could be accomplished with traditional manual testing.

This is not a unique scenario. In the past, IT could count terminals and desktops to determine the maximum user volume. Today's Internet access has blown the roof off the upper limit, with potentially unlimited demand on system resources. But by adopting LoadRunner from Mercury Interactive Corp., Performance Studio from Rational Software Corp., or Silk Performer from Segue Software Inc.--products in a new class of stress-testing tools that are specifically designed to simulate expected Web traffic, you can ensure that the entire back-end infrastructure can deliver accurate results in a timely manner.

How important is an accurate performance appraisal? Just let an e-trading site go down, and you've got material for the front page and the network news. What's especially painful about Internet performance missteps is that they're brought on by success: Many failures are related to skyrocketing demand. A $20 billion e-commerce market today is projected to be worth $300 billion within three years and in the trillions within a year or two after that, according to industry analysts.

Choosing and implementing the best tool

Manulife operates in 13 countries worldwide, with approximately 20,000 employees and agents managing almost a hundred billion dollars. The company launched a new project that would allow its members and participants to perform account balance inquiries, issue investment instructions, and make inter-account transfers on its Web site over a secure Internet connection. The necessary application relied on a development environment with multiple layers, including IBM's Websphere and MQSeries, along with its Lotus Notes and Domino products, all funneling into an IBM mainframe and DB2 database.

In a stress-testing product Lacroix required the automation tool to support 100% interoperability with the Manulife development environment and to properly handle SSL v3. Lacroix also needed a tool that allowed the technical QA staff to initialize a test bed and then hand it off to a team of nontechnical staff to run against daily content or code changes.



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