Skills Required To Be A Perfect Performance Engineer
Here's what you need to know to upgrade your skill from performance tester to performance engineer.
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Performance testing and engineering is always a niche area with many challenging objectives across the globe. The challenge of performance testing with performance engineering is far more complex and requires one to be multi-skilled to find problems/issues/defects. In the last few years, I have come across several interviews, discussions with client-facing groups and customers, and what they have in common is a high demand for performance engineers, not just performance testers.
Having knowledge and experience on any performance testing tools like Microfocus LoadRunner, Apache JMeter, Neotys Neoload or IBM RPT is good, but they are not really sufficient to find the hard and hidden bottlenecks. The ability to find degradations and root cause analysis in performance testing projects is really a challenge for any performance guru. So, what makes a performance tester a performance engineer? We all know that anything is possible in the IT industry and that skills can be acquired if one has a positive attitude and the only prerequisite to learning is spending time. So, based on my experience and understanding of this area, I have tried to lay down the general guidelines which I believe will help make any performance tester become a Perfect Performance Engineer. This article can help many performance engineers understand how to start a career from performance testing to performance engineering and the essential skills that every performance engineer should have.
Learn Development Skills First
A good performance engineer must be a good developer. A performance engineer with good development skills like Java, .NET, Perl, Python, Ruby have the ability to quickly identify performance issues. Experience with hands-on Java will help any performance engineer to identify the bottlenecks very easily with JVM, GC, memory leaks, code refactoring, and more.
Know The Latest Performance Testing Tools And Trends
We have many performance testing tools in the market. Using a particular load testing tool for performance testing is purely a choice of the customer/organization and his performance team considering the budget, timelines, and objectives. We have a wide variety of tools that are available in the market but Microfocus LoadRunner, Apache JMeter, and Neotys Neoload, Microsoft VSTS, IBM RPT are the most popular. However, the results that we get may vary from one tool to another depending upon the features and capabilities that every tool has. Performance engineers need to be familiar with two or more tools if they want to get attention from employers. It is good to have experience on the developer tools on browsers like YSlow, Webpagetest, and Pagespeed for client-side performance testing and this is done as part of early performance testing.
Understanding Complex Systems wrt Architecture
There aren’t more than a handful of people who can accurately explain how every component of a modern system of hardware and software works. We all depend on subject matter experts and architects to get feasibility on our understanding. Understand systems environments like shared resources, components, and services, CPU, memory, storage, network, and soft resources and the differences between production and test environments like containers, cloud, virtualization, and configuration management.
Designing Effective Tests
- Identify your goals, requirements, desires, workload model and your stakeholders.
- Understand how to test concurrency, arrival rates, and scheduling.
- Understand the roles of scalability, capacity, and reliability as quality attributes and requirements.
- Understand how to setup/create test data and data management.
Interpreting Performance Test Results
- Use consistent measurements and metrics.
- Identify bottlenecks, and where they are occurring.
- Effectively read results and interpret graphs.
- Describe the relationship between queues and sub-systems (Little’s Law)
Understanding User Behavior
In order to understand your user and scenarios thoroughly, you need to get in touch with and learn more about the business user, product owners and even with people in marketing. They will provide you the necessary information about user behavior at peak times, the workload and other useful pieces of details. It’s impossible for a single software developer to predict user behavior during Black Friday; the only thing you can gather from developers is statistics of transactions from the production environment.
Learn Databases If Want To Tune And Fix Them
A basic requirement is for every performance tester is SQL concepts. In today's complex applications, we are seeing trillions of data records and updates. The data is huge and this can sure help a performance tester analyze the data better. Not only that, but it will also help to prepare the test data needed for performance testing. Advanced SQL skillsets will help with the detailed analysis of performance bottlenecks. Also, learning databases to some extent will help to understand the AWR reports and gives the ability to troubleshoot the database issues quickly.
Understand the WorkLoad Model
- Identify transactions and workflows, and calculate workload TPS goals and rates.
- Calculate think time and pacing.
- Understand how to log file analyses, run queries, and monitor production.
- Understand Little's Law
Application Performance Management
Monitoring the servers is important to get end-to-end visibility and understand environmental bottlenecks. There are several market available tools and in-house tools for monitoring. The ability to use and customize monitoring tools helps in identifying the server side bottlenecks in performance testing. It is recommended for a Performance Tester to use/customize these tools for multiple OS/platforms. We have CA APM, New Relic, Appdynamics, Dynatrace, and Splunk. Learning all of them is not an easy task but however, we can learn and get familiar with monitoring, installing, configuring and correlating the graphs to understand what is increased with what.
Learn Operating Systems
Learning and installing the product or applications on Windows, MacOS, Unix and Linux (RHEL, Ubuntu and CentOS) will definitely be an added advantage.
Know The Importance Of Load Balancers
Load balancing improves responsiveness and increases the availability of applications. A load balancer sits between the client and the server farm accepting incoming network and application traffic and distributing the traffic across multiple backend servers using various methods. Every performance engineer has to understand the concept of available load balancing algorithms when you conduct load testing in load balancing environments.
Know How To Learn Performance Engineering Skills
Engineers can acquire web performance skills in a number of places. Online tutorials and YouTube videos are great examples. Another way to learn new performance engineering skills is by attending industry events, webinars, and reading articles from blogs. Exploring different tools and technologies should be the passion to get more into learning performance engineering. The best thing to get hands-on work in a challenging assignment from any organization in both ends to end performance testing and engineering. This will teach you everything that you need.
Explore Performance Engineering Roles
Experts say these skills are needed in a variety of sectors, as well as in different job roles. Performance leadership can happen from almost any role, although development and QA are probably the most likely to yield such leaders. One should try to look at different types of applications from a different perspective and figure out why performance is crucial.
Basic Cloud Knowledge
When you get a chance to work in cloud performance testing environments, a minimum knowledge on AWS, Azure, GCP, and CloudFoundry is required to conduct various kinds of performance tests in cloud environments.
Soft Skills For Performance Engineer
Every performance engineer should have the ability to communicate an ideas/practices wrt to business requirements, the ability to have a balanced point-of-view on key issues, the ability to learn/understand quickly, the ability to work with global teams and the ability to convert ideas to results.
The concept of soft skills in performance testing/engineering is not limited to just plain communication skills but it also includes aspects such as explaining the performance results to stakeholders clearly, some negotiation skills and make them clearly understand what fixed what after multiple rounds of performance tests with different releases and changes.
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