If you use any of the variants of the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) to implement your IT system, it’s important to allocate time and resources to testing for performance and implementing optimization (even before your need it) so that you stay fast as time goes on. There’s no better time to do things right than at the beginning, so this article will cover why testing for performance and implementing optimization is so important and what you can do to meet these goals.
What is SDLC and where does performance testing fit in?
The System Development Life Cycle
The Systems Development Life Cycle is made up of several clearly defined and distinct work phases that IT professionals use to implement information systems. Depending on who you ask, the number of phases included in the life cycle may be as few as 4-5 or as many as 10. Regardless, the goal is to plan, design, build, test, and deliver robust systems promptly.
Over time, many SDLC methodologies have popped up, with sequential processes on one end of the spectrum to Agile on the other. Today, Agile (and its variations) reigns, with its emphasis on delivery working software frequently. One of the ways teams can ensure this happens is by merging the roles of those on the team, particularly software engineering with testing. As such, the SDLC still has a testing phase, but the people who need to do the testing may not be exclusively testers.
The essence of Agile Testing is that quality is a part of everyone’s job. Engineers can no longer write code and then hand it off for testing–code isn’t done until it works. QA engineers help keep the coding team honest, and one of their core competencies is to ensure that everyone ships working code that meets the desired standards.
This is a shift, as this process has historically neglected performance testing. QA typically focused on the functionality of the software, with performance-related tasks delegated to a lone performance engineer or an otherwise isolated team.
Why test for performance during development?
One of the best ways to ensure optimal performance in the long-run is to make sure that your application is scalable and doesn’t suffer from technical debt from the get-go. By testing for performance during development, you help keep this criterion front and center, instead of relegated to the backburners.
Without some attention to performance, it becomes easy to ship code with poorly-written algorithms or burgeoning issues related to scale and optimization. Not only do applications receive only light usage during the SDLC, they can also perform pretty well when they’re freshly-implemented in production. Not only is there less data to handle (databases, which can be a source of bottlenecks, are pretty performant when there’s not a lot of data), there are fewer end-users claiming existing resources.
However, as time goes on, this technical debt becomes more and more obvious. Under the strain of frequent use and heavier user loads, performance lags to the point where functionality starts to suffer. However, at this point, fixing the issues that led to slowness in the first place has become a much bigger job than before–not only do we have to consider the needs of a Production environment, we need to consider how to make the changes necessary while negatively impacting end-users as little as possible.
By optimizing your code from the start, you can minimize this future pain point as much as possible.
How do we start?
Now that we’ve established that performance testing during SDLC is important (and not just after everything ships and the app is in production), we’ll cover several ways you can emphasize this to your teams.
Measure early and often
As the old saying goes, “ What is measured gets done.” By tracking key metrics that provide insight into the performance of what you’re building, you can keep tabs on performance and any areas of improvement.
Performance Testing with Rigor Optimization
You can start off small and issue a report to your development, testing, and operations teams. Or, you can take this one step further and issue customized reports to each of the teams so they see only the items related to functions they can perform. Either way, it’s important to use a tool (such as Rigor Optimization) that gathers data for you so that you have it handy, no matter how you choose to slice and dice it.
Make performance a prominent part of the coding process
Put performance on the radar of your development team by including performance during unit testing and running performance code reviews.
While your developers are probably used to writing functional unit tests, you should consider including performance test cases as well. Load and stress tests don’t need to be large, all-encompassing productions that test every aspect of a given environment. They can be smaller items that help developers remember that they should write optimal code from the get-go.
At the other end of the development cycle, review code that is ready to be shipped for performance and functionality. Not only should you be looking for poorly written code, you should also keep an eye out for things that will eventually make it difficult for you to scale up or are suboptimal.
Keep real-world usage in mind
You can measure, test, and review all you want, but if you aren’t keeping your app’s real-world usage patterns in mind, you might be in for some surprises when your product moves to production. You should be handling issues based on real-world usage and how your users behave to the best of your ability. You should explore issues that pop up in production, as well as keep an eye on things that popped up at the beginning of the SDLC to ensure that it gets fixed and not shoved aside for other more urgent matters.
It’s always more painful to fix things than to do them right the first time, and performance is no exception. However, it’s all too easy to push performance testing and code optimization off to the future, despite its importance, which is why you should be keeping the old saying, “well begun is half done” in mind. Rigor Optimization can help you get started with all things performance from the get-go, as well as provide your team with the tools they need to measure and succeed in this area.
For more on how Rigor can help your team achieve its performance and optimization goals, contact Rigor today for a free customized performance report!