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CHAPTER 12 CACHING AND PERFORMANCE TUNING
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So, now you ve set up the System Monitor to monitor the resources your application is using. To get some useful results, you need to monitor the resources in a realistic testing scenario. This is the subject of the next section.
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It s important to think of your ASP .NET application as a real piece of software, just like any other software you ve ever written, and to test it in all the same ways. Of course, there are a lot of different types of testing processes you can (and should) apply to a piece of software during the course of its development. For example, two main types of software testing are functional testing and load testing. Functional testing is about checking that the application conforms to the design specifications. You want to verify that each module performs its tasks correctly, that there are no broken or missing links, that client-side scripts run smoothly, that web pages look fine on every different browser you intend to support, and so on. Load testing is about simulating the amount of load that the application needs to be able to support, and checking that the server can handle that load properly (and without implications such as memory leaks). As you ll see, you can use special tools to simulate large amounts of user activity, and hence reproduce the necessary load. Load testing falls fairly naturally into two areas: Performance testing: This involves incrementally increasing the load on the server while it can properly handle it, with the objective of finding out the maximum number of requests per second your server can handle without degradation. Stress testing: This is about subjecting the server to a greater amount of load than it is capable of handling. The objective here is to make the server break, so that you can find out how it behaves in such a situation. Although you are not expecting the server to handle the overload, you do want the server to behave in a decent manner (for example, without any data loss or corruption). In this chapter, we re particularly interested in performance testing. We ll place reasonable levels of load on the server to see how well it copes with that load and to identify bottlenecks, with a view toward improving the overall resource usage of our application. To do this, you ll use the performance objects you ve configured in the System Monitor. You ll also need a way to simulate a number of end users browsing the Friends Reunion application simultaneously. That is the purpose of the Web Application Stress tool.
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In order to generate amounts of load on your server that you could not generate by other means, you can use a tool that is specifically designed for that job. In this chapter, we will use Microsoft s Web Application Stress (WAS) tool. There are two reasons for choosing WAS here: it is simple to use, and it is available for free. You can use this tool to simulate a specified number of users, to specify the pages these simulated users will be surfing, and so on. At the time of writing, WAS is freely available from http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/ details.aspx FamilyID=e2c0585a-062a-439e-a67d-75a89aa36495. It s about 9.5MB in size.
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CHAPTER 12 CACHING AND PERFORMANCE TUNING
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Before you install WAS, it s worth considering on which machine you should put this tool. If you don t have a couple of networked PCs, then you can follow the exercises in this chapter by running WAS, the Friends Reunion web application, and the database server on the same machine. However, when you run WAS, it will take up most of the resources of the machine that it runs on, so you should be aware that your results will be skewed by the fact that WAS is using resources that would usually be available to the web application. If you do have access to a couple of machines, and you can take advantage of this, you ll get much more realistic results. Keep one machine for the Friends Reunion web application and database server, and install WAS on the other one. (In this case, it makes sense to think of the former as the server machine and the latter as the client machine.) The installation process is straightforward. The download consists of a single file, called setup.exe. Just run this file and follow the on-screen instructions of the installer. Although WAS is not officially supported by Microsoft, the product comes with a very complete online help that should aid you in getting started using it. You can also read the guide at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/itsolutions/ecommerce/maintain/optimize/ d5wast_2.mspx to learn more about it.
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Microsoft also has a more recent tool, called Application Center Test (ACT), which supersedes Tip WAS. ACT is supported by Microsoft, but it s not free. It does come bundled with VS .NET (but only the Enterprise Architect and Enterprise Developer editions). It provides enhanced features, such as a complete reporting capability and integration with the VS .NET IDE. You can learn more about ACT at http:// www.microsoft.com/applicationcenter/.
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