Breaking the Bottlenecks

The first two weeks in Feb. 2000 were not happy ones for the technical management of firms such as Yahoo, eBay, Amazon and CNN.

The cyber attacks they experienced virtually shut down their e-stores, and after three days of assault, the infiltrations continued against the likes of E*Trade and ZDNet. For those not intimate with the methodology used in crippling an Internet site, a quick explanation.

A hacker successfully breaks into one or more high bandwidth computers, installs a piece of software that stays dormant until activated from a remote location. The invader then directs the attack on a particular site or sites. This activation results in a continuous, unmanageable flood of access requests to the target, resulting in a constant busy signal and potential denial of access to customers.

These recent events reinforced my personal view that many of the new click and mortar enterprises might do well to look into a software product that is able to forecast the limits of their e-store access. I’m sure we’ve all had at least one experience of arriving at an e-commerce site, wanting to either purchase their products, or at least, browse their site, only to quickly depart due to slow response times. This is no different than walking out of a brick and mortar store when you are unable to get reasonably timely service.

I found such a product, Benchmark Factory, created and marketed by Client/Server Solutions, a St. Louis-based firm. Brian Butler, the president and founder of the organization, gave me a brief background on his company.

“Benchmark Factory’s origins date back to 1989 when the company’s founder created the first database benchmark for DBMS Magazine,” says Butler. “Since that time, the goal has been to create an enterprisewide, off-the-shelf benchmarking and load testing software package that would be a viable solution for virtually any organization.

“Benchmark Factory has grown from its roots as a database benchmarking tool to a complete enterprise and e-commerce testing solution. The tool facilitates optimizing the overall system stability,” he adds. “A number of industry standard benchmarks are included for quick estimates of capacity and performance. Using Benchmark Factory allows a tester to isolate bottlenecks and determine the system’s breaking point. Benchmark Factory is capable of simulating tens of thousands of users accessing database, Internet, messaging or file servers.”

Butler described the main features and functions of Benchmark Factory.

“Benchmark Factory differentiates itself from other load/stress testing tools in that it allows the tester to perform database, e-mail, Web and file server testing all from a common interface. Besides the predeveloped benchmarks that are included with the product, it is very straightforward to create tests tailored to the end user’s environment.”

To create an Internet test, a browser interface is used to record paths through a Web site. WebTrends logs can be reverse engineered to create test scenarios. The product also has the ability to spider a Web site, producing test cases for every page on the site. Through the course of spidering the site, Benchmark Factory reports any broken links it finds. After the test transactions are created, auto-scripting can be used to vary the input parameters of any dynamic pages. If the server being tested is running Window's NT or Windows 2000, server performance statistics can be collected along with Benchmark Factory statistics. This simplifies identifying processor, memory or network bottlenecks.

Database, e-mail, and file server tests appear just as easy to setup. A database test can be created using a SQL editor, or log files can be imported to generate transactions. E-mail and file server tests are created using wizards to configure the various options.

After viewing the graphs and charts that Benchmark Factory produced, it appears that it is very easy to sift through vast amounts of data quickly and easily. The ability to export results to Microsoft Excel simplifies the customization of reports.

If you believe in the old adage “Forewarned is forearmed,” perhaps you should look further into the benefits of utilizing this e-commerce tool.

Bob Lewis is VP of IT at the Unified Foodservice Purchasing Cooperative (Lousiville, Ky.).

Related Information:

  • Benchmark Factory (new window)
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