Application Performance Testing in Production Environment

Posted by Suresh Kannan
March 5th, 2012

Performance testing in production is not practiced widely owing to many risks involved, which include taking the entire production environment offline thus affecting availability, taking part of the production environment offline thus affecting performance, and the risk of updating production data during the test.

However, for applications running on large infrastructure for which there are no production equivalent test environments (e.g. Superdome servers / farm of servers etc), it is not uncommon to reuse the system resources of Production and point it to a test database sitting on a disk sub-system which is equivalent to Production.  This typically happens in a period of low load (weekends, holiday season etc) when the actual Production application can be temporarily migrated to some other smaller hardware such as a Passive environment or a DR site.

Generally, production database is almost never used in a test, due to the risk of having test data getting mixed with real data. In rare cases where a production database is leveraged for a test, it is used purely for read-only or view transactions.

One practice to be somewhat prevalent for Application going live for the first time is to use the production environment for performance testing as part of the UAT. The other relative practices are to make pilot test with real users.  Here, the production release is opened to users in stages; in the first stage a limited number of users are asked to use the system for a defined period of time before opening up the application to the entire user community. Occasionally such an approach may also be used to observe the impact on system performance by imposing a fraction of the full expected load (say by using users of one full department).  Such an option is chosen in cases where the performance test scenario in the test environment may not have been able to fully capture real user behavior or where we may also wish to benchmark the performance test results.

To summarize the following precautions/Best practices has to be adopted for Application performance testing in production environment

  • The test has to be scheduled in non-working hours when the live production traffic is expected to be nearly zero.
  • Part of the production environment (say one application server node from a large cluster of application servers) may be isolated for the purpose of using it in a performance test with read-only usage of the production database.
  • Approvals from all relevant stakeholders and directors need to be taken prior to the test.
  • A conference call has to be arranged for the duration of the test, in which all the stakeholders would participate.  All project teams would monitor their systems during the test, and if any system issues are found to occur, the test has to be stopped immediately.

To Conclude As the industry is striving towards steady state Performance testing which demands for higher test accuracy which in turn is largely dependent on the Environment setup and Network traffic simulation. Extrapolating the test results/metrics to Production environment is also not convincing to make decisions.

In that case -It is not a bad idea to leverage Production environment for Performance validation which ensures high accurate performance testing to fix actual performance bottlenecks at an earlier stage that might encounter during the go-Live day.

I would agree – it is not that easy to accomplish production performance Testing but still it all depends on how cautiously we plan and how wisely we execute the Test in production that would eliminate risks associated with it.

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