Based in Towson, MD, Spectrum K12 School Solutions Inc. is the leading provider of Response to Intervention (RTI) and special education IEP software serving 11% of the U.S. K-12 student population including 20 of the top 100 school districts in the United States. Our patented software is a dynamic student achievement management system that has enabled personalized learning for over 5 million children in 29 states in support of our mission to close the achievement gap and Move Every Child Forward™.
Working collaboratively with districts of all sizes, we deliver scalable, practical web-based solutions that lift the administrative burden from education professionals so they can focus on the most important part of their work: educating children and improving student achievement.
We have new Adobe Flex based product under development. One of the most strategic elements of our product strategy is testing. Load Testing is an important aspect of this strategy as our product will be used by hundreds of school districts with thousands of users each. Our application must be able to scale well to meet that load.
The biggest challenge was finding a tool that could adequately generate load for an Adobe Flex based application. Many of the tools we examined could generate HTTP requests, but not Flex AMF calls.
Primarily, we used a popular open source load generation framework for generating load against our application server. However, the process of creating load scripts was tedious for AMF requests, and it wasn’t easy to modify the requests to support multiple user types. We had to re-record scripts for every possible variation of test we wanted to run.
EXCEED/RTI provides one seamless, integrated tool to manage and measure the day-to-day activities, meetings, research based interventions and outcomes used to help all students achieve academic success.
EXCEED/RTI uses the Adobe Flex technology for a rich client experience that is delivered via the web browser and the server technology is a Java server based platform that communicates via AMF and XML to the Flex client. It is deployed either in a SaaS or customer premise mode.
We needed a tool that could test both our XML/HTTPS calls as well as our AMF calls. We looked at a number of open source projects, and closed source products. None of them could match the simplicity and integrated experience that we saw with NeoLoad. The cost for NeoLoad also came in below some of the _supposedly_ more feature rich products out there.
Given the use profile and environments of our customers, we knew that high scalability was going to be a critical component in our product strategy. We were focused from the beginning on defining a load testing strategy as a key part of our overall testing strategy. One key step was identifying a tool to aid us in the process, as we knew we didn’t want to try to hand create a load testing solution. After evaluating some open source alternatives and commercial products, we quickly decided that NeoLoad was the best combination of features, ease of use, and price for our needs.
The very first impression we had from working with NeoLoad was how quickly we were able to generate load testing scenarios via recording our use of the application. Second, we were able to interact with the AMF requests in a natural fashion to be able to make our scripts more robust, and flexible to allow us to more accurately simulate real-world load on our application.
We were able to quickly identify the hot spots in our application and see areas for improvement. This allowed us to focus on improving performance in the most important areas in our application. This allowed us to quickly improve overall performance, provide more efficient use of our hosting resources and our customer’s hardware, and lower our costs.
Test Results and Added Value
We can maintain a very rich set of load testing scripts which a small set of resources. This has a real impact to keeping our costs lower as we don’t have to have as many resources dedicated to the creation and maintenance of these scripts as we would have had if we had gone with a hand assembled solution.
NeoLoad’s ease of use and speed in creating load testing scripts also helps us more quickly test our product which means our development cycles can be much shorter.
We also have much earlier insight into potential product performance issues before the product is delivered to customers.
Probably the best quantification of how NeoLoad helps us is the time it takes to develop scripts.
With our previous hand assembled load testing scripts, it took approximately 4 hours to setup, record, edit, and replay a single scenario. With NeoLoad, I was able to install the product, record, and playback a scenario in less than 15 minutes!
As a product matures in functionality, one often sees a shift the tools uses to support that product. In the case of NeoLoad, however, we see many ongoing uses for the product. For us, NeoLoad is not only at tool for gauging the performance impact of new features and changes to the product, but we also see NeoLoad as a helpful tool for troubleshooting customer performance issues in the support of EXCEED/RTI.
NeoLoad is by far the best combination of ease of use, functionality and price for load testing Adobe Flex applications on the market today.