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Infrastructure Testing: The Critical Importance of Validation

What is infrastructure testing and why is its validation so crucial? Additionally, why is it paramount to validate it at the outset? Find out in this article.

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In software development, starting off with a strong and reliable infrastructure isn’t just a plus; it’s absolutely necessary. This piece explores why testing your infrastructure thoroughly and validating it early matters so much.

Through our experiences, we’ve seen firsthand how understanding the intricate details of your system’s infrastructure thoroughly can significantly reduce risks and enhance performance. Using tools like Datadog takes this to the next level by offering a clear view of every component in real-time, making our testing strategies not just reactive, but proactive.

Here, we’re not only talking about learning from our mistakes; we’re focusing on avoiding them by adopting a comprehensive approach to infrastructure testing and validation.

We invite you to explore our tailored solutions and case studies to see how we can help you grow your business!

Learning Through Experience

Ilustration - Learning Through Experience

I’m a firm believer in learning from one’s mistakes. When you make a mistake, and you are truly invested in what you do and strive to do it well, you naturally will want to analyze the mistake so you can learn how to avoid it in the future.

In this post, I want to share one such lesson. In more than one client project, the information we had about the infrastructure of the system was incorrect or didn’t paint the entire picture. So, when analyzing the results of our performance tests, there were things that just didn’t measure up.

There were some behaviors that we simply couldn’t explain. In these cases, after a lot of research, we came to find that there was an extra component we were unaware of. Or that the network path through which we were accessing a certain component was not as direct as we thought.

The two challenges were quite different, but the solution is one and the same: validate the testing infrastructure.

What is Infrastructure Testing?

Infrastructure testing or infrastructure validation involves a series of checks and balances designed to confirm that every component within a network or system meets specific operational standards before full deployment. Effective test infrastructure management aims to ensure that any infrastructure tests performed will yield reliable and reproducible results.

Sometimes when given something to test, some key details may be forgotten- and that’s okay. That’s why, as testers, it’s on us to validate the test infrastructure before diving in. Fortunately, there are several ways to do so.

Ways to Validate Your Testing Architecture

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Validate Components and Their Versions

Access each node by checking the IPs of the components and that they have the indicated services. Validate the operating systems, and verify their versions as well as the versions of the components. For instance, Java, Apache, etc.

This meticulous verification boosts all system components to be up-to-date and compatible, reducing the risk of security vulnerabilities and performance issues.

Validate Initial Configurations

In performance tests, testers actively compare different configurations to seek optimizations and improve results. Here, functional testing (also known as manual testing) can be invaluable, allowing testers to explore configurations that automated tools might overlook.

So, to validate the accuracy of the documented results, it is necessary to review the initial configurations, especially the most relevant ones.

This involves examining the size of each connection pool (in the database or the web server), the maximum and minimum allocated memory (such as in the JVM), the test data used during the simulation, and so on.

Validate Connections and Network Routes

To do so, from each node, make a traceroute to the nodes with which they connect, to validate the network jumps. You should also do this from the load-generating machines.

This step is crucial for identifying and resolving potential network bottlenecks, fostering optimal data flow and system responsiveness.

Validate Ports

I mention this in particular because it was what made us realize one of the problems we ran into. If you are accessing the webserver to port 80 where there is a Tomcat, you should check that the Tomcat is configured in port 80.

What happened to us is that it was in port 8080, and this was because they had placed the Tomcat behind an Apache. This is a common practice*, but we weren’t made aware because we were later told, “The Apache is lightweight and does not add overhead.” Seriously!?

That is usually true, but it doesn’t mean that it won’t generate contention if something was configured wrong, as in this case. The number of connections it accepted was not enough for the load, so it would queue the requests. We were trying to understand why JMeter gave us certain results on the one hand, while in the Tomcat access logs the times recorded in the time-taken were much smaller.

*Combining Tomcat and Apache has certain advantages. It should allow for greater concurrency management and resource optimization through compression and caching.

Integrating Datadog for Streamlined Infrastructure Testing

Datadog’s comprehensive monitoring capabilities offer invaluable insights into every layer of your technology stack during infrastructure testing. This real-time visibility helps in pinpointing performance issues and enabling all components to work seamlessly under varied conditions.

By leveraging Datadog, teams can detect anomalies, analyze system behavior, and track performance changes effectively.

Incorporating Datadog early in the testing process allows for the establishment of baseline metrics and continuous monitoring of system adjustments. This proactive approach aids in identifying optimization opportunities based on accurate data, leading to more reliable system performance.

Datadog not only simplifies the validation process but also promotes a collaborative environment for decision-making. Its detailed dashboards and reporting tools make it possible for performance insights to be easily accessible, facilitating swift and informed optimizations for robust system functionality.

Enhanced Validation Techniques for Testing Infrastructure

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1. Automated Testing and Regression Testing

Automated testing and regression testing are key to maintaining robust infrastructure. They play a pivotal role in modern testing strategies.

Automated tests enable consistent test execution with minimal human intervention, enhancing the accuracy of test results and efficiency of the testing process.

To support these efforts, leveraging infrastructure testing tools designed specifically for such environments can further enhance test efficiency and accuracy.

Watch this webinar about How to Use Automation to Increase Test Coverage!

2. Test Tools and Test Environments

Utilizing a variety of testing tools and establishing dedicated test environments helps simulate different user and system scenarios. This approach helps identify potential issues in software products before they impact the production environment.

By closely mirroring real-world conditions, this strategy boosts a thorough examination of the software, enhancing the detection of flaws or weaknesses. Consequently, it allows for the refinement and optimization of the product, safeguarding its performance and reliability in the live environment.

We invite you to discover our TOP 10 Performance Testing Tools.

3. Security and Load Testing

Regular security testing and load testing are crucial for validating the resilience and performance of infrastructure under stress. These tests assess the system’s ability to handle high traffic and detect vulnerabilities that could be exploited.

Furthermore, these testing practices enable organizations to fine-tune their systems, optimizing for both security and performance. By identifying and addressing these issues early, companies can prevent costly downtime and protect against data breaches, enabling a robust and reliable infrastructure.

Don’t miss our Continuous Performance Testing: A Comprehensive Guide!

Practical Considerations for Validating Test Infrastructure

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To streamline robust testing environments, it is essential to perform infrastructure testing regularly. Test infrastructure refers to the set-up prepared to execute test cases that simulate user traffic and data processing on various components of the infrastructure.

This includes conducting load testing, security testing, and integration testing to evaluate the performance and resilience of the system.

Key Components of a Reliable Testing Environment

Building stable testing environments requires meticulous planning and execution. Each test environment should ideally mirror the production environment to detect any potential disruptions in the real world. This includes replicating the network configuration, operating systems, and system architecture.

Integration into Development Processes

Effective infrastructure testing also involves the integration of testing processes into the software development lifecycle. This ensures that every phase of the application development is tested under simulated stress and performance conditions to catch flaws before the software goes live

The Bottom Line – Infrastructure Testing

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Testing is a crucial phase in the lifecycle of infrastructure development and maintenance. By investing time in validating testing environments, organizations can save considerable resources and avoid the high costs associated with downtime or data breaches.

In our example, it involved some extra work to understand what was happening. Had we validated the infrastructure at the outset, we would not have had those problems.

On balance, it’s best to carry out certain validations before starting to analyze a system’s behavior, in order to provide a better service and not depend on the knowledge or transparency of the infrastructure that exists.

The Take-Home Message:

Never underestimate the importance of thorough infrastructure testing. It is a critical step in verifying that the core technology of your business is robust enough to face upcoming challenges.

Don’t skip the part where you validate the testing infrastructure since at the end of the day, we’re seeking information to reduce risk.

How Can We Help You?

Need help with infrastructure testing? Embrace agility and cost-effectiveness through our tailored services and solutions! Leverage our +15 years of experience helping from startups to Fortune 500 companies.

Contact us to discuss how we can help you grow your business.

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