Author: Richard Bishop

I'm a Senior Performance Consultant at Intechnica. I am an experienced IT consultant with over fourteen years of experience gained in a number of technical roles, including more than 10 years experience as an application performance tester and test manager. I specialise in a number of technical disciplines including Microsoft server operating systems and HP testing tools (LoadRunner and QTP). I am an excellent communicator with both technical and business audiences. I left HBOS (Lloyds Banking Group) in November 2009 after six years working as a senior performance tester and test manager. During my time at HBOS, I was responsible for performance testing customer facing web-sites as well as key internal and core banking applications using LoadRunner. I managed a team responsible for the performance testing of the HBOS Faster Payments system using Iliad FasTest. This was, and remains, the most ambitious test project ever undertaken by HBOS plc. As well as training and mentoring my colleagues in the performance test team, I acted as a technical advisor on Performance Center, LoadRunner and HP Diagnostics software throughout Lloyds Banking Group. I take an active role in the UK and worldwide testing community. As well as being co-leader of the UK HP Software user group,VIVIT, I have been invited to sit on Vivit's Board of Directors to help develop Vivit services for members throughout Europe. I have been called to speak at UK and worldwide conferences by HP and by the British Computer Society at their SIGIST testing conferences on the subject of performance testing and "building performance test centres of excellence". After leaving HBOS, I created my own company "Richard Bishop IT Ltd" and worked through 2010 and early 2011 working for a client in London two days per week and remotely from home. I took on a new role at Intechnica in Manchester in May 2011. Intechnica designs, develops and tests high performance web applications, specialising in cloud application development and testing.

argyle and bute

Is Argyll and Bute’s web team going to suffer due to their colleague’s PR disaster?

As bad weather lashes Britain, a storm of another kind is causing difficulties in Argyll and Bute. A 9-year old girl, nicknamed “VEG”, who blogs on her site “NeverSeconds” (http://neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk/) about her school dinners has been prevented from photographing her school meals and tweeting about their quality. Her cause has been taken up by Jamie Oliver who this morning tweeted this to his 2.3 million followers.

Since then #neverseconds and “Argyll and Bute” are trending on Twitter and articles referring to this are appearing on news sites both nationally and internationally.

 

As bloggers and tweeters (me included) add to the storm, Argyll and Bute’s webserver seems to be having difficulties….

 It shows that you can’t plan for peaks in load such as this, but perhaps lessons will be learnt. It would be a shame for the IT guys to get it in the neck as well as their colleagues in PR.

Visit Richard’s website, where this post also features.
Cloud services

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, blitz.io 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.

dynaTrace

AWS instances, their ever-changing hostnames and the implications for software licensing

I’ve recently been doing some performance testing for a client and evaluating the use of dynaTrace for monitoring application performance under load. As well as an installation of dynaTrace at the client site, we have a demonstration/evaluation licence which is installed on an AWS cloud server. As well as being useful for client demonstrations, this gives us the opportunity to perform proof of concept exercises and “try things out” away from production systems.

Last week, in an effort to save on the cost of keeping the AWS instance up and running all the time, I decided to shut the server down using the AWS console. When I went back to the server and restarted it, I had the following error message in dynaTrace.

I did some investigation and I found that dynaTrace locks the licence key to the hostname of the server on which it is installed. This is all well and good in a normal environment, but I noticed that the name of the host server changed each time that I rebooted. When I installed dynaTrace, my machine name was ip-03a4d76 and when I restarted the server the name had changed to ip-0a3b11c9.

I looked at the server IP address and saw that as the server restarted (even though I was using an elastic IP address to address the server externally), the hostname changed when the private (internal Amazon) IP address changed. The hostname was a hexadecimal representation of the private IP address.

My IP address was 10.59.17.201 and the hostname (which has since changed again) was ip-0a3b11c9 (0A = 10, 3B = 59, 11 = 17 and C9=201).

I spoke to the dynaTrace, the supplier of our software, and they told me that it can be tied to a MAC address, rather than a hostname if required, but that didn’t help me since I understand that MAC addresses change each time AWS instances restart. Instead I looked at ways of fixing the hostname and found that it was remarkably easy (when you know where to look).

On each Windows AWS server there is a program on the start menu called “EC2 Service Properties”. Run this program and uncheck the box “Set Computer Name”, you can then set a HOSTNAME normally which persists after each reboot. Your hostname-dependent software can then be reinstalled or re-licensed and you can relax in the knowledge that your software will run properly next time you restart your server.

Ian is the Head of Performance at Intechnica

Do you have the right skills for the Cloud?

Intechnica’s Head of Performance, Ian Molyneaux recently wrote an article for silicon.com in which he said, “The benefits of cloud computing are there for the taking – but only if you have the right skills to exploit them”.

Ian is the Head of Performance at Intechnica

We all know that in the world of Information Technology, different skill sets are in demand at different times. Cloud computing is currently “flavour of the month” with Gartner predicting that by 2015 half of CIOs expect to be operating their applications and infrastructure from the cloud.

To support this shift from old fashioned “tin” to a virtual, cloud-based infrastructure, technologists need to brush up on a number of key skills. There are numerous benefits in moving to the cloud such as reduced cost, rapid deployments and on-demand access to a large pool computing resources. Despite the obvious benefits there are a number of key skills which are critical to successful cloud deployments.

These skills are:

Application development and management. Applications needs to be designed specifically to exploit the potential of the cloud, they need to be monitored throughout the application lifecycle to allow updates and improvements to be incorporated into subsequent releases.
Security awareness is paramount, as data communications move out of the data centre and into the public domain.
Deployment should be automated otherwise you’re missing out on flexibility, one of the key benefits of the cloud.

The cloud is full of commercial opportunity but it is not as simple as many expect. IT departments need to look carefully at their teams to consider who in their talent pool are self-learners, who have transferable skills and who are unlikely to make the change.

Read the full article on silicon.com.