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Load Tester™ Gives Nacon Consulting a 5x Performance Boost

NACON Consulting, provider of cyber security training solutions for the defense community, was aware of the concurrent user limitations of their online learning management system. In preparation for a major version release for an important client, COO Kent Leonard told his team that he wanted to see an improvement in performance, with documented proof that the system could not only handle the client’s required user load, but exceed it. “In my eighteen years of experience in IT development, I’ve found that testing is typically not as robust as it should be. I wanted to change that and do proper testing,” he explains. “Not only will testing give us documented assurances that we can meet the client’s performance goals, but it will also save money in labor and hardware costs by tuning the solution to operate more efficiently.”

Dr. Peter R. Bono, an independent consultant tasked with making the system improvements, agrees. “We promised the client we could support five times more concurrent users than the system could currently handle. Using Load Tester, I was able to meet that goal and confirm that we could deliver on our promise.”

As he searched for load testing software, Bono had several requirements in mind. It needed to run on the local network, support AJAX, and have available and responsive support. It also needed to be reasonably easy to use and quick to learn. He found what he needed with Load Tester. “I looked at freeware and open source options, but the learning curve was going to be too slow compared to the amount of time I had,” says Bono. “I did research and found that Load Tester got good reviews. The pricing was reasonable. It’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for. Going with a company with real world experience, I had confidence that it would work.”

Support from a proven company was especially important to Bono. “I needed a company that would back me up if I ran into a problem,” he explains. “The Web Performance engineers were very responsive, very knowledgeable. I was on a fairly tight timeline, and they were able to give me priority when I needed it.”

Once a load testing tool was chosen, Bono wanted to find a performance baseline for the current production system, so he would know exactly what they were starting with. As they pushed the load higher, he found that the system maxed out at about 500 users, with user experience rapidly deteriorating at that point. The client needed the system to serve 2500 concurrent users, so there was plenty of work to do.

Using Load Tester, NACON was able to improve the performance of the online training system in five ways: hardware upgrades, disk reorganization, Apache configuration, MySQL configuration, and improved database design. Hardware improvements were made first.  NACON had already made the decision to upgrade the hardware, so it made sense to do that before delving into other tuning.

Performance was improved by rethinking how they were using disk space, and by making changes to the database design. NACON made use of Web Performance consulting services to help him track down performance bottlenecks and make improvements. The Apache tuning advice provided by Web Performance consultants was especially helpful, since NACON didn’t have experience in that area.  Load Tester also turned up some unusual network activity that NACON couldn’t explain. Web Performance engineers helped him analyze the data to determine what impact it was having.

The extensive reporting features of Load Tester saved Bono time and backed up his guarantee to the client. “I like the graphs and charts. The different ways of presenting the data makes it easier to communicate with less technical people. It was a productivity boost since I didn’t have to spend time working out how to present the data.”

Using Load Tester and consulting help from Web Performance, NACON improved the performance of their learning management system by a factor of ten. Bono and Leonard are confident that they can easily deliver more capacity than the client requires. “I’m very satisfied with Load Tester,” says Bono. “We used Web Performance’s consulting services to help us isolate problems and provide valuable insights. They were of high value and we plan to work with them again,” Leonard adds.

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