Benchmark Testing Key to Accelerate Your Software Performance

Benchmark Testing: Key to Accelerate Your Software Performance

We know that every software must pass through functional and non-functional testing to become market-ready for users. But to make sure that there are no quality issues in the software, be it functional or non-functional, you must set a benchmark for them to achieve. Benchmark testing emerges as the main element here, which is a big part of performance testing, a part of non-functional testing.

We will walk you through all there is to know about benchmark testing and also highlight some limitations of it. So, let’s begin.

What is Benchmark Testing?

Benchmark testing is a subset of performance testing that refers to a set of metrics or a reference point against which you can quality check your software or applications. The purpose of this testing is to compare the previous, present, and future updates of the application against a set reference. Following its name, benchmark testing simply means to see if the software your team is developing and testing meets a certain set of standards. The benchmark can be set by you, your team, stakeholders, or any user specification documents.

Let’s take an example for better understanding. If you are working on a notepad-like application, one benchmark for it can be the ability to save documents automatically online in the cloud. The benchmark can be based on how many documents you can save at once and if the saved documents can be accessed on other devices within some predefined time.

You can also check if the users can restore deleted documents within some predetermined time duration and then save them for use. For performance, the benchmark for this particular application can be based on how many users can create fresh documents at once and how well the tool will hold if multiple users save their documents in the cloud simultaneously.

Also, remember that benchmark testing must be repeatable and quantifiable. You should be able to set a benchmark to check the performance of the software for every iteration. And you should also be able to quantify the working of the application, if not in numbers, then in time. But every test run should be repeatable and quantifiable in benchmark testing.

Why is Benchmark Testing Important?

Benchmark testing is important for several reasons. It helps to ensure that the software reaches a certain level of standard before being delivered to the users. Several other concerns make this testing important:

  • It undertakes all the performance elements of the application for testing. The performance should be consistent and up-to-mark as the number of users increases in the future.
  • It ensures that your application complies with the best practices and certain standards for all users.
  • It checks if the application’s performance is as per the defined SLAs (service level agreement).
  • It is a good practice to execute if you are thinking of scaling your software in the future. You can set benchmarks close to your vision to check if the application is capable of such scaling.
  • After every new release, it tests the application’s impact, behavior, and characteristics.
  • Benchmark tests are repeatable. That means they keep the same conditions for the same tests run. This helps in comparing the results precisely.
  • When you run performance testing, it not only helps in improving the load and performance of the software but also the functionality of the application.

Purpose of Benchmark Testing

The foremost purpose of a benchmark test is to evaluate the software’s performance against a set of established references or benchmarks. It checks the strong and weak points of the application and highlights the areas that require improvement. But it has other purposes.

  • It assesses the performance of the new and existing features of the software during the development stage and offers insight into improving the system before market release.
  • It further provides access to the overall quality of the application to ensure that the product meets the user requirements and has the potential to grow with the business.

But know that all benchmarks do not have the same purpose.

Characteristics of Good Benchmark Tests

A good benchmark test is essential for evaluating the performance of various systems, devices, or software applications consistently and fairly. To be effective, a benchmark test should possess several key characteristics:

  • It is relevant and mirrors real-world usage.
  • Produces repeatable results.
  • Scales across configuration and is suitable for various systems.
  • The methodology and metrics are clear.
  • Stays updated and reflects current technology.
  • Follows standardized industry methodologies.
  • Provides clear metrics with easily interpretable scores.

Types of Benchmark Tests

Different benchmark testing types have their own set of metrics to assess the software. You can either run one testing type or choose a combination of two or more as per your need. Below are the types of benchmark tests you should know about:

System

Use this to evaluate the performance of the overall system, including hardware, network, and software elements.

Application

Use this to assess the performance of specific applications that include databases and web applications.

Hardware

This benchmarking testing type checks the hardware components of the system, such as processors, graphics cards, and memory storage.

Network

Use this to check the performance of network components, including local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN).

Storage

This testing type focuses on evaluating the storage systems’ performance, such as hard drives, SSDs, and storage area networks (SANs).

Creating a Benchmark Test Plan

Before creating a benchmark test plan, consider the following steps:

  • Identify and define the purpose of your benchmark testing. Document which testing you want to execute and what assessments you need to run for your application.
  • Determine which components need to be tested and if they come under hardware/software/application components.
  • Note down the specific metric and the right standard to evaluate the components by using your choice of benchmark testing type.
  • After defining the purpose, testing type, and metrics, select tools to run the performance tests. Opt for commercial or open source as per your need.

The testing tool you choose must carry features that support performance testing types, such as load, capacity, configuration, and more. And once you follow all these steps, your benchmark test plan is complete to start with the actual testing process.

Phases of Benchmark Testing

Now that you have a test plan ready and everything is proper as per your testing needs, you can start benchmark testing. These are the steps to follow:

Planning Phase

This is the first phase that refers to identifying and establishing a benchmark. It is the most important phase in benchmark testing and mostly involves stakeholders deciding the standards to check the application against.

Overall, it includes determining, setting, and prioritizing the benchmarks.

Application Phase

Once you have the benchmark set in place, analyze all the information you have gathered upon planning the test. It helps avoid any root-cause errors and sets accurate goals for the test process.

So, after you have decided what should your application look like and what features it must have, the next step is to apply this to practice and develop the software to incorporate all these plans.

Integration Phase

This is the intermediate phase that connects the planning and application phase with the last phase, i.e., the action phase. The results of the previous two phases are shared with the concerned individuals and teams who look at the test process goals.

After stakeholders and managers see the outcome of the planning and application phase, they will approve the next phase. The approval will include agreeing with the set benchmark (signing off the final design and features documents) and developing the application with these plans as the benchmark. Once approval is done, they will set an action plan in motion to monitor and check the final results after running the benchmark tests.

Action Phase

This is the last phase in benchmark testing that ensures all the data, set standards, and tests are taken into consideration and executed properly. It follows the action plan devised in the integration phase by the stakeholders. It further develops an action plan to regularly track the application’s performance to ensure it stays stable as per expectations.

Components of Benchmark Testing

Benchmark testing has certain components that support the complete process. These are the components:

  • Test Environment: It refers to the combination of hardware, software, and network you will use to test the application. The test environment mimics the production environment to ensure users do not encounter any issues when the product is released into the market.
  • Test Data: Refers to the data you input into the testing process. It includes sample data, generated data sets, and much more.
  • Test Plan: The overall description of the test consisting of the purpose and scope of benchmark testing. It further includes everything from the test environment, data, and metrics to evaluate the performance of the software.
  • Testing Tools: This component focuses on choosing the right testing tools to execute this testing. You can go for commercial or open-source testing tools as per your need and budget.
  • Report: It refers to the results of the benchmark testing and includes suggestions and areas of improvement within the application.

An understanding of these components will help you effectively design and run benchmark testing.

How to Do Benchmark Testing?

Benchmark testing is a vital process for assessing and comparing the performance of systems, software, or hardware. Let’s illustrate the steps of conducting this testing using an example of evaluating web browser rendering speed.

Benchmark Preparation

Begin by defining your objectives. In our scenario, we want to measure the rendering speed of web browsers. Select a relevant benchmark suite, which includes tasks simulating common user actions. Ensure consistency by setting up identical hardware, software configurations, and a controlled testing environment.

Test Creation

Create detailed test plans and scripts tailored to your objectives. For our web browser evaluation, develop scripts that mimic user actions like loading webpages and multimedia content. Customize the benchmark suite to fit your specific requirements and configure it correctly for accurate results.

Test Execution

Execute the benchmark tests on each system or software version under assessment. In our example, run the benchmark on multiple web browsers to compare their rendering speeds. Carefully record the test results, including response times, resource usage, and any unexpected deviations.

Test Analysis

Finally, analyze the obtained results. For instance, you might find that Browser A exhibits a 20% faster rendering speed than Browser B. Browser C, although not as fast as A, excels in resource efficiency. These insights will guide you in making informed decisions about browser selection based on your specific priorities.

Things to Consider While Performing Benchmark Testing

Performing effective benchmark testing requires careful planning and consideration. Here are key factors to keep in mind:

  • Clearly define the purpose and goals of the this testing to ensure it aligns with your specific needs.
  • Ensure consistent test execution by following standardized procedures and eliminating external influences.
  • Use realistic and representative data sets or workloads to mimic real-world usage.
  • Automate test execution to reduce human error and ensure repeatability.
  • Establish a baseline performance measurement to compare against during and after testing.
  • Consider the architecture and hardware configuration of the system before setting a benchmark for the testing.
  • Gather comprehensive data during tests, including response times, throughput, and error rates.
  • Verify that benchmark tests are repeatable and consistent to validate results.

Factors Affecting Benchmark Testing Results

Several factors can significantly influence the results of this testing. Here are the key factors essential to consider when conducting benchmark tests to ensure accurate and meaningful results:

  • The specific hardware components, such as CPU, RAM, storage, and network capabilities, can impact benchmark results.
  • The nature and volume of the workload, as well as the test data used, can significantly impact benchmark results.
  • The choice of benchmarking tools and their configurations can affect results as different tools may have varying levels of accuracy and suitability for specific testing scenarios.
  • The testing methodology, including the sequence of test scenarios, test parameters, and test duration, can impact results.
  • Factors in the test environment, such as network latency, server load, and resource availability, can influence benchmark results.
  • The operating system, software version, and configuration settings are some of the reasons that influence the results of benchmark testing.

Interpreting Benchmark Test Results

It can be tricky to interpret the results of this testing as it requires testers to fully understand the system under test and the benchmark conditions. You can follow some of these steps to make testing results interpretation easier:

  • Before starting the test, get a thorough understanding of the system that is under test, including its various components, such as hardware and software.
  • Revisit the goals of the benchmark tests and the specific performance metrics you aimed to measure.
  • Organize the data collected during the testing into a structured format that allows for easy analysis.
  • Calculate relevant performance metrics based on the collected data, such as response time, throughput, error rates, and resource utilization (CPU, memory, disk, network).
  • Compare the benchmark results against a baseline or previous test results to identify performance improvements or regressions.
  • Examine trends in the data over time or as the load on the system increases and identify patterns that may indicate performance bottlenecks or degradation.

Benchmark Testing Frameworks

Benchmark testing frameworks assist in running some primary tasks in this testing. There are many frameworks available today, but we will discuss some of the popular ones here.

  • Apache JMeter: It is a famous open-source framework that is popular for load testing, performance testing, and benchmark testing.
  • Gatling: It is also an open-source framework that supports activities such as distributed testing and real-time reporting with detailed test results.
  • Grinder: This is a popular open-source load testing framework that you can use to run benchmark tests.
  • stress-ng: It is a Linux-based stress testing framework that can run benchmark tests on components like CPU, memory, I/O devices, and more.
  • Benchmark Framework 2.0: It is by Alfresco and runs highly scalable, Java-based load and benchmark tests.
  • TechEmpower: It is an open-source framework that runs benchmark tasks, and it requires the correct configuration of the benchmark test environment.

Every one of these frameworks has its benefits and drawbacks. You can choose which one of these works for you as per your need.

Benchmark Testing Tools

There are many tools available in the market that you can use for this testing. Here, we list down a few popular ones:

3DMark

It is a benchmarking tool for Windows, Android, and iOS. 3DMark determines the performance of 3D graphics cards and CPU workload processing capabilities specifically for gaming systems.

PassMark

It is a PC benchmark and software testing tool that measures a system’s performance using tests, including CPU, memory, and disk performance.

SmartMeter.io

It is a performance and load testing tool that has enterprise-level features with a similar interface to JMeter.

NeoLoad

It is an automated performance testing tool that takes care of both API and end-to-end application testing.

Advantages Of Benchmark Testing

Let’s look at the advantages :

  • It holds the software to a certain standard, thereby continuously improving the quality.
  • This testing maintains high customer satisfaction.
  • It makes sure that all the different components of the application are working as per expectations.
  • Along with checking the performance, benchmark testing also verifies the functionality of the software.
  • It ensures that the complete test process is followed properly by making a test plan before executing the test cases.

Challenges Faced in Benchmark Testing

In addition to benefits, this testing also has a few challenges that you should know about:

  • It is difficult to finalize a concrete budget for the testing before setting a benchmark. And even after that, you might need to go a bit beyond if the benchmark gets modified.
  • Selecting the right tools for benchmark testing is important, and it requires sufficient time, money, and resources to choose the right tool for the long run.
  • Sometimes stakeholders do not recognize this testing type important because it is non-functional testing. And overlooking the performance testing can lead to mediocre quality products and unsatisfied customers.
  • You need time, patience, and a proper understanding of the project to finalize the right benchmark for testing. If the set reference is wrong, the entire testing process gets compromised.

Best Practices for Benchmark Testing

To avoid such challenges in your testing process, follow these best practices:

  • Clearly define and describe the goal of benchmark testing. The standard/reference you set before starting the tests should be meticulously thought out and put forth.
  • Make sure to use the market standards and users’ expectations as the reference before setting a benchmark for your software.
  • To get the right idea of how your application is performing, run benchmark tests several times on multiple devices. You can use automation tools, like Testsigma, for repeated test runs to check the performance and record the results.

  • Report the testing outcome with pre-requisite conditions and metrics accurately mentioned in the report to clearly highlight the performance of the application.

Conclusion

Every software must be held up to certain standards to maintain its quality. Benchmark testing does exactly that; it sets a few references for the application to satisfy. It is a subset of performance testing and checks mostly the non-functional aspect of an application. You can use automation tools to validate the load and compatibility of the software. We have discussed all this and other elements of benchmark testing in this blog.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an example of benchmark testing?

An example of benchmark testing is load testing. You can set a reference point for your application to satisfy. It can be a certain number of users simultaneously using the website/application or for how much time they use it. For instance, one benchmark can be at least 3000 users should be able to concurrently hit the website without it crashing.

Why is it called a benchmark test?

It is called a benchmark test because it validates the software/system against a set of benchmarks or references. Only when that benchmark point is met (even after repeated tests under different conditions) does the application pass this testing phase.


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