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4 New Realities That Expose Your Digital Strategy (and what you can do about it)

By Aaron Rudger | August 12, 2014

CATEGORIES: Web Performance
Wikipedia: Testing_bulletproof_vest_1923

Websites don’t crash anymore, right? The days when websites fell down due to under-provisioned datacenters and web farms are long over. Today’s virtualization technology, public cloud infrastructure and content delivery networks (CDNs) provide scalability on-demand, eliminating the risk of Wall Street Journal headlines.

No headlines, eh? Facebook experienced two significant outages in 45 days. A major CDN went dark for almost an hour last month. Huge interest in the World Cup brought down the video feed of a large broadcast network last month. The platform publishing this very blog went offline for days as a result of a protracted distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. But infrequent, high-profile outages like these don’t even begin to tell the story of new product and platform launches going out daily with poor performance as they scale to meet demand.

The fact is that while many technology advances have improved scalability, new realities make load testing more important than ever. Without a comprehensive load testing strategy, undetected bottlenecks might manifest as big scars on a release, or a thousand tiny cuts that gradually erode at your SLAs. Regardless, your business can’t afford NOT to be prepared.

Mobile

Every digital-focused company and brand is driving a strategy that engages customers well beyond the desktop. 1.5 billion smartphones and 102 billion apps downloaded last year can’t be denied. Target claims that 43% of their Web visitors only use a mobile device, while surveys show that 34% of all US mobile Internet subscribers use their phones as their primary device. And as adoption of mobile skyrockets, user tolerance for poor performance or flaky functionality has declined.

New Web services are being developed and updated every day to support mobile apps and sites. Write-once/publish-many approaches deliver services that are shared across multiple channels and platforms. And often, traditional Web infrastructures are (over) extended for mobile uses. They may perform well in the lab, or when tested from a Web front-end, but how is the user experience on a mobile device impacted when these services are stressed under high demand and usage?

Cloud architectures

Cloud technologies have been transformative for addressing scalability. Your architecture, if not predominantly dependent on the cloud like Netflix, leverages third party services. Because these services live in the cloud, the only way to accurately validate their scalability is to test from the cloud. The more services you integrate, the more you need to understand their interdependencies—especially when usage surges.

Continuous integration and delivery

You might be issuing releases six times a day, or only once every six weeks. Even in a slower release scenario, you’re likely issuing new code or configurations across multiple platforms, which increases the velocity of change. Test automation can validate functionality, but what about performance?

Rising security threats

Akamai estimates that the number of attacks has increased 22% over the past year, with each attack growing stronger and longer in duration. No one wants to find out their company is a target the hard way. But attacks are now more sophisticated and widely distributed than ever, making preparation and defense a significant challenge. How do you test your defenses and mitigation strategies?

Performance testing from the Internet finds application bottlenecks and weaknesses in your application delivery chain. It’s not a practice that’s typically well-understood, nor resourced as a core competency within an IT organization—and that’s OK. Web load testing can be delivered as a managed service and partnering with an experienced provider complements your internal performance testing discipline.

You can run performance tests to answer questions about the stability of applications and capacity of infrastructure. Historically, companies do this closely ahead of major events they forecast (like Black Friday, a major marketing campaign, or significant application release). They may only use tools in-house that create load against an application running in a lab. But the best practice is to complement “inside out” performance tests with “outside in” Web load testing, and breed this strategy into a constant culture of performance. Forward thinking companies use internal tooling with performance testing from the cloud to stress and exercise their current and emerging architectures continuously. And most importantly, they understand how performance testing for peak demand impacts their business in terms of abandonment, brand attitude and capacity investment. They understand performance in context.

How are you preparing your architecture for peak demand scenarios today? How well do you understand the potential risks and rewards of traffic surges and complex usage? What is the cost to your business when scalability suffers? Let us know what you think about the new realities your organization is facing today. And contact us if you’d like to get peace of mind knowing that you’ve addressed them in a holistic and balanced way.

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