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In today’s world where people remain online more often than not, the website and other online assets heavily influence the success and acceptance of enterprises.
Companies need to go all out to ensure that their online assets run optimally. Web administrators run a whole gamut of performance and functional tests to ensure that the websites perform optimally. While there are extensive testing tools for such tasks, many of them are too complex. Apache JMeter open source software fills a big void in this space by making such tests easy. Though the tests possible with JMeter may still be done manually or with other tools, there are several advantages in using JMeter.
Here is a rundown of the positive features of JMeter.
Comprehensive Tool – One Tool Fits All Purpose
The biggest advantage of using Apache JMeter is the facility of undertaking both performance and functional testing of any required online asset – be it web service, database, FTP or web server, using a single tool. JMeter may also be deployed to test applications that run in the cloud.
JMeter’s core function is to facilitate load testing of web applications. It generates dumb-load of varying quantity and measures the server response times during such loads. The response times of various components of a web application usually increases corresponding to increase in load on the server, and there are chances that such increased response times may affect the render time of the web application adversely. For instance, a web application heavy with Ajax requests, when put under load, may encounter increased server response times, causing all Ajax-requests to become slower, and in the process offer a harrowing experience for en d-users. The tests conducted using JMeter makes such glitches explicit, allowing web administrators to take remedial action so that the site does not slow down and offer a bad experience for end users.
JMeter has of late expanded in scope to incorporate other test functions beyond load testing. The tool now hits functional application layers, finding use to undertake functional and performance tests on both static and dynamic resources, including files, Perl scripts, servlets, databases, Queries, Java Objects, FTP Servers and more. Web administrators may now use this tool to manage the performance of their websites easily. JMeter combined with Selenium offers an even comprehensive range of functional tests.
JMeter now finds use in running automated functional tests in a big way. It facilitates the use of automated regression test while the servers are under increased load, to test the entire range of functionality offered by the website or application thoroughly. Performance testing, when the server is under heavy load and when the business logic of the application works hard to handle all requests effectively is extremely important to detect whether the application behaves out-of-norm when put under stress.
Such extensive testing will make explicit important dimensions such as what happens when the database, equally stressed due to increased load and responding slower than normal, returns incomplete data, or worse, when the application faces a time-out on data or application-logic. It also makes explicit how errors are reported to the end-user, whether the application still functions normally within the browser when certain aspects of the application platform are malfunctioning, and several other crucial parameters that has a bearing on the performance of the website.
Ease of Use
JMeter come ready-to-use, and most of the default settings work fine for the average user. For advanced users who want deep customization, reviewing the configuration settings is equally easy. The settings are available in the jmeter.properties file, located in the bin folder. The file is well documented and easy to read and change when needed. Starting JMeter is just a matter of double clicking jmeter.bat in the bin folder.
It is also easy to obtain any additional jars as required. For instance, use of JMeter for JDBC, JMS or JavaMail requires additional jars which are not included in the core JMeter installation. However, the user guide on the website offers clear cut details on how to obtain the required additional jars and use it.
Extensive Documentation and Support to Build Test Plans
Another positive feature of JMeter is the extensive support available to build test plans, which makes the whole process a breeze. To test a SOAP interface layer all that is required is the URL and SOAP request. It is possible to develop the test plan starting with these basics and add on variables, counters, parameters, CSV files, loops, logs, and anything else. There are virtually no limits in designing the test and making it as maintainable as possible.
Managing and maintaining JMeter scripts can be challenging unless the user knows to use the tool effectively. But here too, help is on hand. The JMeter website is lush with documentation of all hues, including wikis, user manual, docs and user experiences. The user manual describes how to create specific test plans for web, database, JMS, Webservice and other options, complete with step-by-step instructions, bitmaps, examples, best practices, tips, samples of regular expressions, step-by-step guides on how to use the variables and predefined functions, and component reference that describes in detail how every component can be used.
In-Depth and Robust Reporting
The success of performance and load tests depend not just on how effectively the tests are carried out, but also on the effectiveness of the reports it generates. Without effective reports, including screenshots of the actual situation as it unfolds, the purpose of the tests itself may be lost as web administrators would not get the required insights to act on the drawbacks that degrade user experience.
JMeter offers several possibilities for reporting. The most common option – “View Results Tree,” mostly used for functional testing, displays the requests and the response as text, XML, HTML or JSON.
Another component “Aggregate Graph” delivers on the advanced kind of logging with graphs and statistical data required for Performance Testing. This report makes it possible to monitor all kinds of statistical data like the average, # samples, median, 90% line and min / max, all per request and total average, during the performance run. The data may be written to a file in plain text, csv or xml mode, and post-formatting, used to create a performance report. It is also possible to view a graph of the statistical data by selecting the column, entering the width, height and titles and click the Display Graph button, and save this graph or table data to a file.
Free and Flexible
Lastly, Apache JMeter is an open source free tool, and a pure Java desktop application. Its open source nature means that it is not just free, but also open to modify and customize as required. It becomes possible to download the source code and make modifications to it as required. There is also the possibility of contacting developers through a handy mailing list.
As competition becomes fierce to attract eyeballs, the importance of tools such as JMeter that make testing websites easier, is all set to increase further.