Product review: WebLoad halts traffic troubles

Web sites that do not adequately test application traffic before rollout can suffer from miserable performance. RadView Software's WebLoad 3.0 nicely meets the testing challenge by offering simple-to-use tools that will help organisations closely measure application performance before a disaster strikes.

Among its peers, WebLoad stands out as a solution more closely focused on application runtime performance. Other solutions, such as Segue Software's Silk and Rational Software's SQA Suite, are better suited to testing during development. Still others, such as Mercury Interactive's Astra SiteTest, are more appropriate for gauging Web server performance.

WebLoad is also impressive as a solution that requires little training. Those testing Web application performance will experience only a minimal learning period before gaining value from WebLoad.

I found it easy to use WebLoad's test-script generation tool. RadView refers to the test scripts as Agendas. The Agenda Authoring Tool and a Web browser that are included are all that you need to get going.

Stepping through my test applications -- some business-to-business and others business-to-consumer -- yielded useful test scripts as the Agenda Authoring Tool recorded my actions. Once recorded, the scripts are saved as JavaScript.

Some sites can directly use the scripts as they are generated by the browser walk-through. However, I liked using JavaScript, which can allow developers to fine-tune the scripts as needed.

Aside from test-script generation, WebLoad provides Cruise Control. This facility enables the tester to set performance goals that the application should meet. A wizard simplifies the configuration of your goals.

I especially liked two aspects of Cruise Control. Testers can set up conditional goals, and they can include multiple scripts to simulate different types of application activity in a single test.

RadView's licensing model for WebLoad will require additional purchases in order to simulate large numbers of clients. However, I liked being able to increase the number of users to measure the expected production performance. I also was able to share the load across servers to mimic my production environment.

When executing the scripts, the user can employ the Monitor tool to observe the progress of the tests and stop the process whenever necessary. The Monitor tool automatically generates both reports and graphs; these are viewable both during and after the tests.

The reports and graphs will generally be suitable for most users. However, I think additional options that let the tester customise the output would be a great service. Those who do need customised output can export WebLoad results to other applications, such as a spreadsheet.

WebLoad 3.0 is a good solution for sites that want to closely check application performance before rollout. Organisations with intranet or ee-commerce projects should evaluate WebLoad.

Senior Analyst Maggie Biggs (maggie_biggs@infoworld.com) evaluates application development and database technologies at the InfoWorld Test CentreThe bottom line: VERY GOODRadView WebLoad 3.0IT managers launching Web applications will find WebLoad quite helpful as a tool that can closely measure application performance.

Pros: Useful tools for establishing test parameters; automatically generates editable JavaScript-based test scripts; can simulate large numbers of users; measures application performance vs. desired goalsCons: Lacks additional built-in report and graph customisation options; test creation through Secure Sockets Layer connections requires Microsoft's Internet ExplorerRadView Software, Lexington, Massachusetts; www.radview.comPrice: $US4000 for 100 virtual clientsPlatforms: Test Generation: Windows NT, Solaris, AIX. Clients: Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator versions 4.0 and later

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