Monday, August 23, 2010

What NEW in Loadrunner 9.5!!!!

It’s time again for another version update of your favorite load testing product, LoadRunner. The latest release as of this writing is 9.5, and we (Loadtester Inc.) have been waiting for this version anxiously for a couple of reasons. I wanted to go through a few of the new features in this latest version.
LoadRunner now fully supports Windows Vista (SP1) for both the Controller and Generators (version 9.1 added Generator only support for Vista). That is good news for those who have been holding out on updating their LoadRunner Controller. HP, may I make a suggestion? It might be good to make preparations for Windows 7 support now so it can be supported when it first comes out instead of taking almost two years. I have talked to a lot of people who will skip Vista and move from XP to Windows 7. They are hoping that will be possible as soon as Windows 7 arrives as a general release. There are some “gotcha’s” to running on Vista, so make sure to read the limitations section in the README.HTML file on the LoadRunner install disk for more information. LoadRunner has also caught up with Microsoft’s .NET framework and now supports up to the 3.5 version. Now that .NET 3.5 SP1 is out, I am hoping this will be supported in the next service pack for LoadRunner. In light of all this progress, you should also note, that as of this version, LoadRunner no longer supports Windows 2000.
VUGEN
One notable change with this version is the addition of an Agent for the RDP (Remote Desktop) protocol. The RDP protocol is beginning to evolve much like the Citrix protocol did in the early days of its use. The RDP Agent should allow recognition of objects instead of just x/y coordinates and offer better synchronization. This is important ,because we’re already hearing of people using RDP instead of other protocols like RMI, DCOM, and Winsock Vusers, simply because it’s easier to script against these types of applications and finish testing projects in a shorter amount of time. Terminal Server licensing is a small price to pay when it could take three months to develop a decent RMI script. You can expect a separate article/review of this feature, because I think this is going to be the new “catch all” protocol when nothing else will work – should this agent provide the capabilities it promises. Other new areas of interest include support for Citrix Presentation Server 4.5, Oracle E-Business Suite - R12, and RTMP (Real Time Messaging Protocol) support for the Flex protocol.
The new Protocol Advisor should be helpful for those who do not know how to use a network sniffer to figure out the transport protocol used by an application. You can record your application, and it will suggest protocols based on the information it gathered. It may be a good starting point, but any engineer using LoadRunner should have a good understanding of the underlying protocols that an application uses because there may be times to dig deeper to find the right one, or the right combination. You can now export the test results from a script run in Vugen to HTML. This allows you to use the report in Quality Center to open up defects. It appears that HP has begun to integrate the Service Test product directly into LoadRunner. By adding the right license you can get to all the Service Test functionality, which would allow you to do verification testing on headless (GUI-less) web services. For those of you wondering, Service Test fills that blind spot where QuickTest Pro leaves off in testing web services, especially when there is no GUI interface. As an added benefit of using Vugen as the interface to test headless web services, you can run load tests against them easily as well. Several versions ago you could not have LoadRunner and Service Test on the same machine.
CONTROLLER
One of the main reasons I personally want to upgrade to 9.5, is that WAN Emulation has been brought back to LoadRunner. Yeah!!! For those of you old timers who can remember as far back as version 7.6, this is when Shunra became integrated into the LoadRunner product. A limited version of their WAN emulation software could be used on the Generators. It required an additional licensing purchase, but it was minimal when compared to the overall price of LoadRunner. When the license model for a Controller changed in version 8.1, WAN emulation was thrown in as part of the entire Controller package. Unfortunately, after HP acquired Mercury, the Shunra software sort of got lost in the shuffle somewhere and this functionality disappeared. Because Shunra is a third party software company in their own right, they have continued to sell their VE Desktop software and their VE appliance (hardware) as stand-alone solutions or as an add-on to LoadRunner. However, the integration was limited. Last year, Loadtester became a partner with Shunra because we really believe their products offers visibility to a blind spot within application performance testing - the network. It also relieves the problem of having to install load generators on your production network remotely. With LoadRunner 9.5, the WAN emulation options with even more control are available in LoadRunner, but you will need to contact Shunra to get a license from them to use it. You will install the VE Desktop for HP Software (for LoadRunner or Performance Center, if that is how you roll) on the Controller. You then install the VE Desktop client on the Generators. With Performance Center, or optionally with LoadRunner, you’ll install a VE Desktop server to store advanced network configurations in. This is very cool because it means users with other Shunra products (say, your developers using VE Desktop Professional, hint, hint) could share the same network settings as you. Once you have VE Desktop for HP Software on the Controller, when you need to turn WAN emulation on, you do it through the options within LoadRunner, and it is seamlessly integrated. If you set up different WAN emulation “profiles” on different Generators, you will be able to filter information in the Analysis module to show the impact each one had, meaning you can filter by WAN Emulation (Emulated Location) profile. This is pretty cool if you think about it. It will tell you immediately the role your network has on application performance. Couple of things to note: first, this is a whole new WAN emulation, so don’t think it has anything to do with the WAN emulation of those older versions. Forget and move on. Secondly, you cannot set up WAN emulation on the Controller (like if you install a Generator on a Controller). But if you are trying to do that anyway, we would all make fun of you, as everyone except complete NUBES know you NEVER PUT A GENERATOR AND CONTROLLER ON THE SAME MACHINE. Sheesh… :)
Some people have been asking for a more secure way for the Controller and Generators to communicate with each other. Nothing like passing a whole lot of user names and passwords to Generators in text files (your parameter files), right? There are a couple of new items in the listing of tools called “Host Security Setup” and “Host Security Manager”. It’s fairly simple, in that you create a security key and make sure all the Generators are synced up with it. You have to turn this feature on and choose to enforce channel communications. It is off by default. This will create a secure channel between your Controller and Generator. This should help ease the minds for those with Generators sitting outside their firewalls, and other highly secure environments. I am curious to see long term how much this level of security affects the performance of the LoadRunner components themselves and any test results, if at all.
There is a new option in the Controller’s general options (under the Execution tab) called Post Collate Command, which allows you to run an executable command or batch file after results are collated.
ANALYSIS
HP continues to open up the components to an API so that there can be more control of the LoadRunner components programmatically, for those who need it. The new Analysis API will let you launch and process and Analysis session, but even more importantly, extract this information into a third party tool to report test results any way you desire. I have always felt the Analysis engine was a powerful component to LoadRunner that helped prove out its value, and this extends it even more if you are willing to put in the time to code some stuff up to take advantage of it. There are some additional reports and exporting features in this version. Another enhancement is the support for SQL Server 2005. What year is it anyway? :) Hopefully SQL Server 2008 won’t be far behind (perhaps another thing to put into SP1 for 9.5). More work has been done to improve processing time of test results and importing from external sources. I have not tested that out yet, but it is one of the first things on my list to do.
IN SUMMARY
LoadRunner 9.5 represents a major update to the application and moves it forward closer to where we need it to be today. However, it still lacks features that we would like to see; such as better hooking for the .NET record/replay protocol, and better support for Microsoft WPF and WCF applications in general. The "click-n-script" concept has good intentions, but still needs to be more mature. We find we are still having to compensate for the hooking engine not always capturing what it should. Specifically, AJAX C&S has issues with redirects and still requires some manual function creation to handle the forcing of some JavaScript execution. This makes the use of C&S rather pointless. However, it is nice to see progress being made with the RDP protocol, and Vista support for those who have been forced to migrate to it within their companies. This version appears to load a little faster, and seems a bit more stable (I haven't had a Vugen crash yet). Keeping my fingers crossed....

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