Load testing with Gatling

Gatling is a powerful tool for load testing. Compared to WebDriver/Selenium/TestBench, it doesn’t render the actual content, but just simulates messages clients send to the server. The server doesn’t know if the test tool actually does something with the responses, so it gives you perfectly valid numbers for your applications performance - on the server side. It scales very well, so you don' t need huge army of nodes to bombard your application under test. It can be used with Vaadin as such, but with these tips you hopefully get started easier.

Vaadin tips to make tests more stable and easier to create

Gatling works with Vaadin "out of the box", but there are some obstacles you might face if you don’t understand a bit how Vaadin communication works. E.g. plain recordings from standard Vaadin apps will not work properly.

The communication that Vaadin’s "thin client" in browser does with the server side has couple of checks that it does to improve robustness and security. One can simulate these with Gatling as well, by e.g. reading the XSRF prevention key into a variable and passing the value in each response. However, these setting can be disabled during load testing to make it easier to write and maintain your application. The effect for the scalability, when disabling or configuring these, should be negligible. Feel free to do these, but also remember to remove these "hacks" when building your production war file. Consider e.g. using separate maven profile and inject different parameters with it.

Disabling XSRF presentation key

The XSRF prevention can be disabled with following servlet parameter (or similar servlet 3 style parameter). NOTE, do not leave this for public apps in production.

<context-param>
  <param-name>disable-xsrf-protection</param-name>
  <param-value>true</param-value>
</context-param>

Disabling syncId happens with similar parameter

<context-param>
  <param-name>syncIdCheck</param-name>
  <param-value>false</param-value>
</context-param>

If you want to do the above with Java Servlet 3.0 annotations, use the following:

initParams = {
  @WebInitParam(name = "disable-xsrf-protection", value = "true"),
  @WebInitParam(name = "syncIdCheck", value = "false")}

Using debug ids in communication

If you want to minimize the effort needed for maintaining your scalability tests, you probably want to do a small hack to the Vaadin communication mechanism. Normally Vaadin uses a incrementing session wide identifier to connect components to their "client side counterparts". Thus, if you add a one single component to your login screen, the whole load test simulation might be broken.

You can set "id" for each component, but in recent Vaadin versions this id is no more used in the communication, but only assigned to client dom. This can still be enforced with a specially crafted extension to VaadinServlet. An implementation for the "competing tool" JMeter can be found at JMeter Vaadin Servlet extension. This implementation works for Gatling users as well. Note that, it is suggested to do this only for load testing, and NOT for the production.

An alternative way to handle these ids is to use a similar mechanism as in case of XSRF prevention keys. For instance, you can try to extract id of a button by finding it from some of the previous responses based on its caption or css id. And, then use hand crafter regular expression to extract it from the response. As you might have guessed this is tedious if there are a lot of components interacted. But, benefit of this approach is that you do not have to do code changes to your application just for the testing purpose.

Ignoring "obsolete" static file requests

One of the most simplest and cheapest method to improve your apps scalability is to serve static files form a separate server or from a CDN provider. Thus it might make sense to leave loading those files away from your test script. If you do the script manually, just don’t add requests for static files (js/css/images/…​). If you recorded your test case, just remove these form the script. Check out the example project that only uses the required files.

Testing with WebSockets

If you want to load test your application with the most advanced communication channel, WebSockets, you can do that with Gatling as well. Using the recorder in this case doesn’t work, but handcrafting the test case isn’t that hard once you get started. The example app has a branch with WebSocket test case. With WebSocket communication it might also be handy to disable xsrf prevention and the so called "syncid".

First two request are just normal http requests. The first gets the "host page" and also the initial state request is done with normal XHR. The difference to normal Vaadin communication is that it is to be sent to "/PUSH" address.

After the initial state request you start to use the special WebSocket API in Gatling. There are lot of things to keep in mind with this fundamentally totally different kind of communication mechanism. Check out Gatling’s generic websocket help for basic info.

When you start handcrafting the WebSocket simulation, the easiest tool is probably Chrome’s dev tools. With that you can open normal browser session and "sniff" the traffic that is sent to the server and also the messages that are received. An easy option is just to copy paste the payloads and possibly add some verification to ensure proper answers are received. The websocket example is built with special variable to work without disabling xsrf verification.

If you are using random input in your load tests, something that is highly suggested for realistic numbers, you might end up in small problems. The message format, by Atmosphere, has a weird number and "|" in front of each message. That number tells the message length and it must really match the real message length. Create a simple helper function to calculate that if your input data length varies.

import io.gatling.core.session._
import io.gatling.core.session.el._

def atmoMessage(message: Expression[String]) = message.map(m => m.length + '|' + m)

.sendText(atmoMessage("SomeMessage"))

If (and when) you probably want to close the websocket connection cleanly, you need to notify the server with an extra xhr with a identifier given by the atmosphere framework. The key is the first message that the server sends when you connect to it.

Check out this script for an example using WebSocket communication. It also saves XSRF prevention key to variable, so it don’t need it to be disabled from the server.

Configuring Gatling to the Web app build

It is a good habit to keep your tests in the same projects as your actual application. Then you can easily verify your application still scales, after you have for example written a cryptic SQL query.

Even better if you can make a Gatling script to be executed during builds to make. Gatling has a maven plugin that can do exactly this thing. The example project setup executes a test during basic "mvn install". With similar setup in a real project, your CI server most likely saves results stored under target directory. This way it is easy to check it out afterwards how the performance of your application has evolved during its development.

JMeter Vaadin Servlet extension

The implementation referred to in Using debug ids in communication

package com.example.vaadin7jmeterservlet;

import com.vaadin.server.ClientConnector;
import com.vaadin.server.DeploymentConfiguration;
import com.vaadin.server.ServiceException;
import com.vaadin.server.VaadinRequest;
import com.vaadin.server.VaadinService;
import com.vaadin.server.VaadinServlet;
import com.vaadin.server.VaadinServletService;
import com.vaadin.server.VaadinSession;
import com.vaadin.ui.Component;

/**
 * @author Marcus Hellberg (marcus@vaadin.com)
 *  Further modified by Johannes Tuikkala (johannes@vaadin.com)
 */
public class JMeterServlet extends VaadinServlet {
  private static final long serialVersionUID = 898354532369443197L;

  public JMeterServlet() {
    System.setProperty(getPackageName() + "." + "disable-xsrf-protection",
        "true");
  }

  @Override
  protected VaadinServletService createServletService(
          DeploymentConfiguration deploymentConfiguration)
          throws ServiceException {
      JMeterService service = new JMeterService(this, deploymentConfiguration);
      service.init();

      return service;
  }

  private String getPackageName() {
      String pkgName;
      final Package pkg = this.getClass().getPackage();
      if (pkg != null) {
        pkgName = pkg.getName();
      } else {
        final String className = this.getClass().getName();
        pkgName = new String(className.toCharArray(), 0,
            className.lastIndexOf('.'));
      }
      return pkgName;
  }

  public static class JMeterService extends VaadinServletService {
      private static final long serialVersionUID = -5874716650679865909L;

      public JMeterService(VaadinServlet servlet,
              DeploymentConfiguration deploymentConfiguration)
              throws ServiceException {
        super(servlet, deploymentConfiguration);
      }

      @Override
      protected VaadinSession createVaadinSession(VaadinRequest request)
              throws ServiceException {
        return new JMeterSession(this);
      }
  }

  public static class JMeterSession extends VaadinSession {
    private static final long serialVersionUID = 4596901275146146127L;

    public JMeterSession(VaadinService service) {
      super(service);
    }

    @Override
    public String createConnectorId(ClientConnector connector) {
      if (connector instanceof Component) {
        Component component = (Component) connector;
        return component.getId() == null ? super
            .createConnectorId(connector) : component.getId();
      }
      return super.createConnectorId(connector);
    }
  }
}