Jmeter Tips & Tricks: Tip 3

Tip 3: URL Encoding

This tip is a fairly simple one, but I often use it when building scripts.

URL encoding is quite often needed in heavier webapplications on the variables you extract with the Regular Expression extractor or other extractors.

How do you make this variable URL Encoded when not using the standard “Parameters” but you need to use the Body Data instead?

The given variable we are going to encode is something I see rather too often, a ViewState. In order to grab this thing from the page I have the following regular expression:

Reference Name: VIEWSTATE
Regular Expression: id="__VIEWSTATE" value=(.+?)"

So, now we have a variable ${VIEWSTATE} which needs URL Encoding. The way to do this, within the Body Data is as follows:

${__urlencode(${VIEWSTATE})}

So whatever your variable is, just put it in between the brackets in the ${__urlencode()} and you have your encoded variable.

 

Jmeter Tips & Tricks – Tip 2

Tip 2: Semi-random think time from a user

First of all, adding think-time to a Jmeter script can be done with a host different types of timers. The version I am going to propagate here works well for me, I have the feeling I have proper control over the timer this way and I can predict what it does. This does not imply that using a different way of adding think time is wrong in my view. I just happen to like this version.

My think time consists of two pieces: a Test Action with a Uniform Random Timer attached to it:

|__ Test Action > Action: Pause, Current Thread
   |__ Uniform Random Timer > Random Delay Max & Constant Delay Offset set

So, what do the Test Action and the Uniform Random Timer do?

The Test Action sampler is simply a sampler you can use to make a script wait for a specified amount of time.

The Uniform Random Timer however is a bit less simple to explain and understand:

The apache site states the following:

This timer pauses each thread request for a random amount of time, with each time interval having the same probability of occurring. The total delay is the sum of the random value and the offset value.

So what that means is the following.

uniform_random_timer

When setting the Random Delay Maximum, the timer will pick any random value between 0 and 2000. Now add to that the Constant Delay Offset and you have the actual wait (or pause) time JMeter will use in the script in between the requests.

 

So in this example the value will be somewhere between 1 and 3 seconds.

Disadvantage of this method: You will need to set this think time around every HTTP Request you want to have think time.

The functions as described in this post as well as in the previous Jmeter Tip can be found in this JMX file.

Jmeter tips & tricks – Tip 1

Over the years I have taught myself a few simple tips & tricks in Jmeter and I thought it might be nice to share them here. Some are simple, some are a bit more complex but I hope all of them will be useful to reuse for anyone. Where possible I will see if I can add an actual JMX file to download for your ease of use.

Tip 1: Crawling URLs

A URL crawler can be used for several things such as:

  1. verifying all URL’s on the site
  2. mimicking random browse behaviour and thus generating random load on the server

Setting up a crawler involves a few steps. First off you will need a thread group, as you need it with everything. Within that thread group you place an HTTP Request going to your base-page, usually the homepage of the web application.

Then the fun part starts, now we add a While Controller with a simple condition added to it:

LAST - exit loop when last sample in loop fails. If the last sample just before the loop failed, don't enter loop.

You can also make it with an empty Condition, however I prefer using this one so that if your script didn’t already break on an error, it will absolutely break on an error before hitting the loop.

Within the While Controller we now place another HTTP Request, where the path is set to

.*

Underneath the HTTP Request now add an HTML Link Parser.

You now should have a structure similar to this:

TestPlan
  |__ Thread Group
             |__ HTTP Request
             |__ While Controller
                       |__ HTTP Request
                                 |__ HTML Link Parser

The Link Parser does nothing other than extract links from the received HTML.

Next up is adding an If Controller to ensure the link we just grabbed indeed is working and if not, send the crawler back to the base page (e.g. the home page you defined in the first HTTP Request).
The If Controller needs some Conditions in order to do this. My preferred option is to add the following bit of JavaScript:

${__javaScript(!${JMeterThread.last_sample_ok})}

As a child node underneath this If Controller you now need to hang yet another HTTP Request, which sends the user back to your initial homepage. When filling in URL’s etc. please keep in mind that you should just keep life simple and make URL’s either read from a CSV file or simply add them as a global variable in the Test Plan.

The entire plan now should look like this:

TestPlan
  |__ Thread Group
       |__ HTTP Request > Home page
       |__ While Controller > Condition "LAST"
                 |__ HTTP Request > Path ".*"
                           |__ HTML Link Parser
                 |__ If Controller > Condition "JavaScript"
                           |__ HTTP Request > Back to Home page

Please be careful in using this script, this might lead to an unintended Denial Of Service attack if ran uncontrolled and with high load!

A sample JMX of this simple version of a web crawler can be found here.

Reusable components in JMeter – Part 2, Include Controller

In an earlier post I discussed why you might want to use reusable components in Jmeter scripts, in that post I only focused on one possible way of doing that, the Module Controller. For the second part, as promised, I want to discuss the possible uses of the Include Controller.

Why use the Include Controller?

The include controller pretty much does what it states, it allows you to include something external into your test scenario. With controller you can include other JMX files into one single JMX file. So imagine a similar scenario as in the previous post, where you create a JMX specifically for the registration on an application, but then through different channels.

Example: A given application has several ways to communicate to it:

  • Consumer webclient
  • Backoffice webclient
  • Mobile application (communicating via an API)

You can build a set of functional load scenarios for each side of the application, resulting in something like a frontend.jmx, backend.jmx and api.jmx

If you now want to have some full performancetests on the application you can combine these sets with the Include Controller into one big set without making it a huge, unmanageable JMX file.

How does it work?

In the JMX files as mentioned above, instead of a Thread Group you now use a Test Fragment to place your test steps in. If you do happen to use a Thread Group the settings for the thread group from the original JMX will be overridden with the settings from the thread group where the JMX is included.

To avoid confusion, the Test Fragment should be used instead.

TestFragment

Given the existing JMX files you need to use, you create a new project in Jmeter, which will be your master controller. Once you have built the different scenarios you need for your full scale performance test, you consider how these three should work together. Running 3 different JMeter instances, each with its own JMX is an option, however it will make life so much easier if you can actually create a proper flow with the different JMX files.
This Script will be relatively simple and may end up looking something like this:
IncludeControllerYou can now easily control several scripts, from within one or more thread groups within 1 Jmeter instance while still keeping things maintainable and reusable.

 

 

JMeter and WebDriver – 2 ways to combine them effectively

In my previous post I wrote about why it can be useful to combine running load tests in combination with functional automated tests (checks). In this post I will go in a bit deeper and give some ways to combine the two effectively and efficiently. Apache JMeter plus-2-256 Selenium Logo

2 ways to combine JMeter and WebDriver effectively

The two ways to combine Jmeter and WebDriver I will describe differ quite a bit. Depending on your situation you may want to choose one or the other for your purposes. Keep in mind, these are ideas of how I have used the two effectively together, this is not necessarily the best way for you!

Existing webdriver tests

Quite a lot of organisations already have a fairly solid base of testautomation in place, in various states of success. A relatively easy way to get performance metrics for your application is to add a timer to your existing webdriver automation scripts. For every (relevant and useful) action in the browser, you can add a start and done timer, resulting in the actual wait-time within the browser. This timer can be in an “always on” state within your automation suite. It will generate quite some data, which is not a bad thing. When you keep track of your metrics over the course of a complete cycle, for example throughout a sprint, these metrics will help give you and your team insights into possible performance regression.

Performance regression over several releases – Image linked from devel.kostdoktorn.se

While this will give you valuable information, it does not yet give you hard data of how the application runs when put under stress. In order to do that, you will have to create a separate load suite. The load suite will need to contain functional tests, similar to the ones you are running during regular (automated) regression. This way you are certain you are putting your business logic under stress and thus may slow the application down significantly. If your test environment is representative enough, or if you actually benchmarked it beforehand, you can add the Jmeter script to your automated run at planned intervals to start building up load on the server prior to the start of the full browser automated test run. Otherwise on a representative environment you can run the JMeter scripts to generate load, once the target load is reached, you can start your regular automated functional tests,

Advantages

The main advantage is that you are actively encouraged to reuse your existing automated tests. The tests under load are easily compared to the benchmark you make on a daily basis without load.

Challenges

Unfortunately there is no easyway to get to unified reporting other than to generate a set of CSV files and merge those.

Stand-alone performance measurement

As a consultant I also often end up in an organisation where there is no functional automation to reuse for a performance test. In this case I use a fully JMeter based solution for executing the performancetest, Both load generation as well as page-load times (e.g. browser rendering included) are run from JMeter. jmeter-pluginsIn order to run browser-based tests from JMeter I use the wonderful work of the people over at Jmeter-Plugins. They have created a host of wonderful plugins, but for this particular purpose I am very fond of their WebDriver Set.

The WebDriver plugins in JMeter allow you to write JavaScript testscenarios in Jmeter, which actually use the browser. This combined with the regular load tests from within Jmeter make for a strong performancetest.

Advantages

With this solution you achieve a very easy and quick way to get one unified reporting, from within the toolset showing the performance of your application, both the server response times as well as the browser response times.

Challenges

If you already have a testautomation suite running as well, taking this road implies setting up a second testsuite specifically tailored for performancetesting. The lack of reuse of existing tests makes this quite often the more expensive way of performance testing.

JMeter and WebDriver – Why would you want to combine them?

3 Reasons to combine JMeter and WebDriver in performance testing a webapplication


What is JMeter good at?

The Apache Foundation states the following about JMeter:Apache JMeter

The Apache JMeter™ desktop application is open source software, a 100% pure Java application designed to load test functional behavior and measure performance. It was originally designed for testing Web Applications but has since expanded to other test functions.

So in other words, it’s a tool you can use to generate functional load on an application or a platform. This also immediately describes what it is good at: generating load. Yes if implemented well you not only generate dumb-load but also hit the functional application layers with the tool. But the basic function of JMeter is aimed at generating load and measuring the (server) response times during this load.

What does JMeter NOT do?

Despite being capable of generating functional load, JMeter does not render pages nor is it very well equipped to execute embedded JavaScript (it is simply not equipped to do that actually), therefore JMeter will not tell you anything (out of the box) about the render times of pages. Especially not about render times when the server is heavily overloaded by your scripts!

What is WebDriver good at?

SeleniumHQ gives a wonderful description of what Selenium (or nowadays WebDriver) does:
Selenium Logo

Selenium automates browsers. That’s it! What you do with that power is entirely up to you. Primarily, it is for automating web applications for testing purposes, but is certainly not limited to just that.

In short, what Webdriver does is just about anything that happens within your browser. It does render pages, it does execute JavaScript, it retrieves the pages as if an actual human was clicking on a website. So for fully functional automated testing (or checking to stick with the more correct terminology) WebDriver is perfect.

What does WebDriver NOT do?

Well, it is not quite good at generating load. Since WebDriver basically requires a browser (yes, it is possible to run it headless of course) it is very difficult to generate multiple (virtual) users. That would require a bunch of browsers to start up, when talking about 10 users that may seem feasible, however when talking about generating real load (say several 1000’s concurrent users) a bunch of browsers becomes a lot more difficult to arrange.

Why combine them then?

The logical question then indeed is, why would you combine them? Below I have set out 3 clear reasons why combining JMeter and WebDriver scripts can be an excellent idea.

  • Impact of server-side load on render-times;
    When the load on a server increases, the response times of various parts of a web application may increase as well. These increased response times can have implications on the render time of the web application. For example: a web application heavy with Ajax requests is put under load, the server response times increase, this may result in all Ajax-requests becoming slower, therefore making the website extremely unfriendly to the end-user. When you just run a JMeter script, this will hardly be noticed, and if you do notice it, you cannot express the impact it will have on the user. You can merely speculate about it.
  • Impact of server-side load on functional behavior;
    Given that the server is experiencing increased load and therefore the business-logic of the application is working hard to handle all requests effectively, it can be safe to say the underlying database may also be stressed and therefore responding slower than expected. Slower response times of both application-logic and database requests can result in buggy behaviour of the application. For example incomplete data returned, or worse, a time-out on data or application-logic. How does the application deal with that? How are these errors reported to the end-user? Will the application still function normally within the browser when certain aspects of the application platform are malfunctioning? The best answer to this is by testing the functionality thoroughly while the application is under load. An easy way to test this repeatedly and consistently is by automating these functional tests, for example using (part of) the automated regression test while the servers are under increased load.
  • Advantage of screenshots of fully rendered pages and possible errors with the application under load;
    As a result of the two points mentioned above, it may be extremely useful for both developers/system engineers and your customer to see errors on the pages affected by the increased server load, such as stylesheets not loading or not loading properly, JavaScript not loading, images missing etc. Screenshots (or screencaptures in movie format) will help make clear to the customer what the problem is and more importantly how big the impact on the end-user will be.

I have listed 3 reasons why combining JMeter and WebDriver can be a good idea. I’d love to hear your suggestions of more reasons to want to combine the two.

In a follow-up post I will go into more detail on ways to achieve an effective combination of JMeter and WebDriver running along side each other, well timed and generating consistent logging and results.

JMeter and remote servers – a tutorial

In my previous post I discussed why you might want to run your own servers for load & performance testing. In this article I will elaborate a bit on how to setup your machines. The Apache Jmeter pages of course have an explanation on how to setup remote tests. What I have heard from colleagues and what I experienced myself, is that that explanation is not always as clear and concise as may be preferred. This is my attempt at giving a readable explanation on how to setup JMeter with remote instances.

Some basic terminology

I will use the terms Local and Remote to identify the different sides of the configuration needed to get things working.

  • Local is to be read as your workstation, e.g. the machine you use to build your JMeter scripts.
  • Remote should be considered any machine that will be running a (headless) JMeter instance and will help generate load on an object.

jmeter Client - Service image

How to setup JMeter locally to work with remote machines

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