Ian Molyneaux & Larry Haig's Wednesday tutorial, "Performance Testing 101". (via @iWebTweets)

Velocity Europe 2014 in pictures

We just got back from Barcelona, where Intechnica sponsored, exhibited and spoke at Velocity, the leading Web Performance conference in Europe. Thanks to everyone who visited us on our stand or attended “Becoming a Web Performance Warrior” on Monday, “Mobile Performance: When is Good Practice Irresponsible?” on Tuesday or “Performance Testing 101″ on Wednesday.

Check out our gallery of photos after the jump.

Free consultation for Velocity attendees

We’d like to offer all Velocity attendees a free consultation; Whether you’re interested in Application Performance Management implementation or services, performance testing, performance troubleshooting, a Performance Maturity Audit, or finding out about our products such as TrafficDefender, Perkins CI or PERF Central, get in touch to arrange a free consultation today.

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8 Ways to Get the Most From Velocity Europe 2014

Sharp shooting at last year's conference. Photo: O'Reilly Conferences (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Sharp shooting at last year’s conference. Photo: O’Reilly Conferences (CC BY-NC 2.0)

In just a few days, we’ll be jetting off to Barcelona for Velocity, the top Web Performance and Operation conference in Europe. This will be our second year as sponsors (anyone who came to London last year might recall playing our James Bond quick draw game), but even more excitingly, our first year speaking. Quick plug: Check out our talks on Monday and Tuesday, and tutorial on Wednesday, and come say hello at booth 517!

[Not got your Velocity pass yet? Get a 25% discount with our code INTECHNICA25]

Velocity only comes around once a year and it’s a great opportunity to learn, meet like-minded folks, get new ideas and inspiration and soak up the web performance Zeitgeist, so it’s important to make the most of the occasion.

Here are just a few tips on being adequately prepared to rock before, during and after Velocity.

Have your goals in mind

People go to conferences for various reasons, and Velocity is no different in this regard. For attendees, it could be to learn about a specific area, like mobile, or even a specific tool or language. You could be looking for a job or tips on how to get promoted where you are. Or you could be there just to learn about the wider advances and trends in the industry.

Even for vendors or businesses looking to hire or investigate new solutions, it’s important to set your goals before the conference and keep them in mind while you’re there.

Check out the attendee directory before you go

In case you didn’t know, there’s an Attendee Directory for Velocity designed to help you set up networking before you even get to the conference. If there’s someone specific you want to make sure you meet in Barcelona, be it an expert in a specific field or even someone who might hire you, it makes sense to reach out before you get there and set a time and place to meet. Just make sure your message is personal, professional and will be of interest to the other person.

Plan your schedule carefully with your team

There is a packed schedule of sessions throughout Velocity, with a choice of three (at times four) sessions vying for your attendance. Luckily it’s quite straightforward to plan your days out using the Velocity website, by adding sessions to your personal schedule.

One thing to keep in mind if you are going with colleagues is that you have the opportunity to cover a lot more sessions by cross referencing the sessions you are each interested in. If there are clashing sessions of particular interest, you could delegate team members to different sessions and compare notes later. Pro tip: You can download your schedule as an iCal file, and easily share your schedule with colleagues via the public link in your account settings!

Don’t just go to sessions – expand your horizons

While there are a shed load of great sessions and tutorials to check out, don’t think Velocity is just about sitting and listening. There’s also the opportunity to interact with speakers, O’Reilly authors and other like-minded attendees. Go out of your way to take part in Office Hours where you can ask speakers questions directly, Birds of a Feather sessions where people interested in a specific topic can chat, book signings, and networking opportunities.

Follow the hashtag – #VelocityConf

If you’re on Twitter, make sure you check out #VelocityConf during the conference. In fact, why not save the search in your Twitter client ahead of time?

Following along on Twitter, and tweeting your thoughts on what you’re seeing and hearing using the hashtag, is a great extra way to get involved in conversations and interact with other attendees. Don’t be afraid to jump in and contribute! You might even gain some new followers.

Get the app

Did you know there’s a Velocity app? Well, you do now. It offers a convenient way to see what sessions are happening when, make notes, see a floor plan of the conference and much more.

What conference would be complete without its own app?

What conference would be complete without its own app?

There are versions for iOS and Android, both free.

Go out of your comfort zone

This applies to both networking and the sessions you attend. I’m not sure if anyone really enjoys striding up to a table full of strangers and getting involved in the conversation, but if you have something valuable to add, you could end up making friends/influencing people.

Similarly, if you’re unsure as to which sessions to go to, why not go to a session on something you know nothing about? It’s a leap of faith but if the speaker is good, you’ll get into the topic and it could be more valuable than you thought.

Share the knowledge

Finally, but very importantly, don’t keep your notes to yourself. As already mentioned, you should pool your notes with colleagues, even if you went to the same session, and share what you learned with your teams and organisation. If you business has a Wiki or internal knowledge portal, be sure to upload your notes to it, or even write blogs or do a presentation on your findings. After all, it’s likely not everyone in your business who wanted to go was so lucky enough to attend Velocity…!

Once again, if you’re going to Velocity, come and say hello to the Intechnica guys at stand 517. See you there!

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Brace yourself: Black Friday is coming… in 9 weeks. Will your website stay up?

Winter is coming, which means Black Friday is coming. And Cyber Monday… and Boxing Day – the three busiest days of the year for online retail.

Each year more and more shoppers in the UK are becoming aware of the crazy bargains touted by retailers, both in store and online. And if you think Black Friday and Cyber Monday are only relevant in the US, consider these stats from 2013:

  • Last year, John Lewis reported a large rise in online traffic from midnight to 8am on Black Friday – up 323% on other November Fridays.
  • From 7am to 8am, they saw a 1,340% spike in mobile traffic.
  • Even smaller brands are affected: Maternity focused retailer Isabella Oliver saw a 1,200% increase in traffic on Black Friday.
  • Amazon UK reported than Cyber Monday was even bigger than Black Friday, selling 47 items a second.

The Christmas period in general is a big deal for online retail, accounting for 26% of the year’s sales overall, but while eCommerce and marketing teams are plotting the best campaigns and optimisations to capitalise on the season, IT teams are also working hard to ensure everything runs smoothly.

This is very important when you consider that a crashed website can generate no revenue.

So… will your retail website stay up when the traffic starts pouring in?

Won’t elastic, auto-scaling infrastructure keep us going?

There are lots of ways to ensure websites will remain fast and not crash when Christmas shopping fever hits, but eventually it comes down to sheer available capacity. When you have a fixed infrastructure, this looks like the chart below:

fixedinfrastructure

The black line is the capacity of the website, with the blue line being traffic level over time. For most of the time, you’re not using most of your available capacity – you’re balancing having enough overhead and spending on infrastructure you never use. But in the example above, the blue line (let’s say it’s 7am on Black Friday) peaks above the website’s capacity in the red area, which represents downtime – customers unable to use the site. During this time, everyone already on the site suffers slowdown or gets booted off altogether.

One popular solution is cloud-based auto scaling infrastructure, which looks like the below:

elasticscalingexpected

The expected result is that you scale your infrastructure up and down with your traffic levels, which means you only pay for what’s being used and you can scale up to react to spikes and peaks in traffic.

This works well, but in practice the most sudden and extreme traffic spikes look more like this:

elasticscalingspinup

Because the process of scaling the infrastructure up and down is automated and it takes several minutes to spin up additional servers (as seen in the flat line and red area above), there is lag in auto scaling elastic infrastructure. This means that elastic auto scaling is still vulnerable to sudden peaks (say from a TV advert or celebrity/sponsored tweet) and the website can still experience downtime, even to those who came to the site before the traffic hit.

Pulling the rug out from customers’ feet

The trouble with capacity is that once a website is full, it doesn’t only stop more people from getting in; it effectively slows down or throws off everyone already on the website. Even if a customer has spent 10 minutes filling their basket, servers don’t discriminate and the chances are those baskets will be abandoned.

So what’s your plan?

Fortunately, it’s not too late to invest in an insurance policy against your website becoming overloaded and unable to generate revenue. Intechnica have developed a solution that can manage any overflow in traffic, protecting the website from performance issues while delivering a good, consistent experience to new visitors.

The best part for the IT team is that it’s extremely quick and hassle free to implement – no code changes or extra capacity needed – so it can still be put in place in time for that seasonal peak traffic.

Protecting revenue even at full capacity

The solution is called TrafficDefender, and it works like this:

traffic-defender-queue-diagram

TrafficDefender protects existing website visitors by deferring potentially overwhelming traffic away from the website, keeping revenue flowing beyond website capacity

TrafficDefender watches how many visitors are entering and leaving a website (or entering and becoming inactive). Once capacity is reached, new visitors are automatically directed into a queue to get into the website. Instead of getting an error page or nothing at all, they see a branded page showing where they are in the queue, how long they’ll be waiting and whatever else the website owner wants to put on the page (exclusive discount codes, games, product photos etc.)

As soon as existing visitor’s session ends (either through becoming inactive or navigating away), the next visitor in line is taken straight to the website as promised.

This ensures that you are always delivering the clean, uninterrupted experience to existing customers all the way through their visit, even with the site “over” capacity.

Webinars coming up in October

Join us at 11am UK time on any Thursday throughout October to hear how TrafficDefender works and how it can keep your website running, even if Christmas peak traffic would otherwise bring it down.

Click here to book your place now.

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Performance Testing Mobile Apps: How to capture the complete end-user experience

Intechnica will be part of a live webinar presentation on August 26th (10am UK time) focused around the challenges of capturing mobile end-user experience in performance tests.

Today, so much emphasis is placed on end-user experience, particularly when it comes to mobile where end users expect the same level of performance from mobile apps as they do from web apps.

In the discipline of performance testing the end-user experience of mobile users is highly impacted by characteristics of the devices and the quality of the network. This makes it difficult for testers to accurately replicate production conditions with conventional testing tools and approaches.

Head of Performance Ian Molyneaux (author of “The Art of Application Performance Testing”, second edition available soon from O’Reilly) will join fellow performance testing expert Henrik Rexed (Neotys) to provide insights on:

  • What are the challenges of including mobile end-user experience in performance testing
  • What are the metrics you need to collect from the application, from the network and from the device
  • How to capture, correlate and analyse the relevant metrics and get a true picture of mobile app performance

Register now for the webinar, or if you can’t make it on the 26th, register anyway to receive a recording once available.

 

Ian Molyneaux and Andy Still

Velocity Europe 2014 registrations open, Intechnica speakers announced

O’Reilly have officially opened registrations for their annual Velocity Europe conference, taking place this year in Barcelona from 17-19 November, with two talks to be contributed by senior Intechnica staff.

Velocity Conference, which takes place each year in Santa Clara, New York, Beijing and Europe, is the premier Web Performance & Operations conference in the world.

We’re delighted that our CTO, Andy Still, along with Head of Performance Ian Molyneaux, will be speaking at the conference. Andy’s 40 minute session is entitled “Mobile Performance: When is Good Practice Irresponsible?”, while Ian will give a 90 minute “Performance Testing 101″ tutorial closely tied to his recently published 2nd edition of “The Art of Application Performance Testing”.

Ian Molyneaux and Andy Still

Ian Molyneaux and Andy Still will be contributing a tutorial and session respectively at Velocity Europe 2014

An early bird discount rate is available for a limited time from the Velocity website, which also lists the announced schedule to date.

Which sessions are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comments.

Velocity Europe 2014

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Gritty performance at the Great Manchester Run from Intechnica team

Well done to the nine members of the Intechnica team who successfully completed the 10k Great Manchester Run yesterday. Despite the heat and the headwind, they all worked incredibly hard and managed a mean average time of 55 minutes.

After weeks of office banter, ranging from modesty around running ability to out-and-out claims of superior athletic prowess (much more of the former), it was Nathan who ultimately finished at the front of the pack with an impressive time of 50:48. I’m sure next year they’ll all be pushing to beat his time!

But it really was more about the taking part, as proven by the total of £350 raised on the team’s Just Giving page for local charity Forever Manchester. An amazing result, which you can still add to via their donation page.

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Performance testing is not a luxury, it’s a necessity

Recently I chanced upon a post posing the question of whether Software Testing is a luxury or a necessity. My first thought was that testing should not be a luxury; it’s much more expensive to face an issue when it arises in a live system, so if you can afford to do that, perhaps that’s the true “luxury”. However, testing is now accepted as a fundamental aspect of the software lifecycle and Test-Driven Development (TDD) stresses this aspect.

Unfortunately too often software testing is understood only as functional software testing and this is a very big limitation. Only if your software is supposed to be used by a very small number of users can you avoid caring about performance; only if your software manages completely trivial data can you avoid caring about security. Nevertheless, too often even the more advanced companies that use TDD doesn’t consider performance and penetration tests; or, at least, they do it only just at the User Acceptance Test (UAT) stage.

Working for a company that is very often requested to run performance tests for clients in the few days before the live release, we are often faced with all the problems that the development team has ignored. It’s hard when we must say “your system can’t go live with the expected workload” when the client’s marketing has already advertised the new system release.

Intechnica is stressing the performance aspect so much that we are now following the “Performance-Driven Development” approach. The performance requirements are collected together with the functional ones, addressing the design in terms of system architecture, software and hardware. Then the performance tests are run together with the unit tests during the entire software lifecycle (following the Continuous Integration practice).

I think that such an extreme approach may not be suitable for everybody, but recently I tested the performance of a new web application for a financial institution. We had already tested it 3 months earlier, but during these 3 months the development team has added new features and fixed some issues, the web interface has slightly changed, and as a result, almost all the test scripts became unusable and had to be fixed.

This tells me that the performance requirements must be considered throughout the entire development stage. They must be expressed and included in the unit tests because that is the only place where defined software contracts are used. Performance tests can be done at the UAT stage, but, just as no serious company would implement a UAT without having first functionally tested the code, so should you measure performance during the development stage. Additionally, an Application Performance Management (APM) tool is highly advisable to monitor the application and to find out the cause of performance issues rapidly in development as in the production environment.

Is testing a luxury? I’d prefer the luxury of a good dinner to the “luxury” of wasting money for an application found unfit for launch on the “go live” day.

This post was contributed by Cristian Vanti, one of our Performance Consultants here at Intechnica.