Scalability Testing Tutorial: A Comprehensive Guide With Examples And Best Practices

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  • Scalability Testing Tutorial: A Comprehensive Guide With Examples And Best Practices

OVERVIEW

When developing a software application, the developer usually sees how the application will work in an ideal scenario, not how it will work in the real world. Doesn't matter how well the software application functions; it could still fail when put under excessive load. Therefore, checking the software's functionality and whether it works flawlessly under increased or decreased workloads becomes imperative. This is where scalability testing comes in.

Scalability testing makes it easier to fix defects and ensure software applications' flawless functioning. As part of the testing process, testers usually draft test scenarios that force the system to meet new requirements. Additionally, they run regular tests and document and record the results to identify errors. After that, the obtained data and actionable insights are communicated to the relevant stakeholders.

Let us try and understand the fundamentals related to scalability testing and why organizations need to have strategies and processes around scalability testing.

What is Scalability testing?

Scalability testing is a type of non-functional testing that validates the performance of a system, network, or component by increasing or decreasing the load in particular scales. You can execute scalability tests based on hardware, software, or database requirements. Scalability testing aims to ensure that the system can cope with the projected increase in user traffic, data volume, transaction processing, etc.

It is also known as performance testing, where the focus is on evaluating the overall system behavior when it is tried and tested under extreme conditions, such as excess load or new deployments to a broader environment.

In software engineering, scalability testing helps measure the point when the application stops scaling and identifies possible reasons for it. Scalability testing should not be confused with capacity testing.

Capacity testing is all about measuring the maximum number of users that an application can handle at a given time. Scalability testing is more about scaling up and down aspects where fluctuations come and how the system handles them.

Why perform Scalability testing?

Scalability testing is a crucial factor in the deployment of software applications. It helps to achieve the following objectives, which are great from a business growth perspective.

  • Analyze how the application performs with an increase in workload and at what point the software product or application stops scaling so that we can identify the reasons behind it
  • The scalability testing helps to signify the user limit related to a software product or application.
  • It allows you to find out the software’s ability to scale up its operations with the increase in workload and data traffic.
  • Determine server-side robustness, end-user experience, and server stability.

Example of Scalability testing

When an organization tries to perform scalability testing for its website or web applications, it depends on various factors, such as the number of users accessing the application simultaneously, CPU usage, and network usage. The scalability testing of a server depends on the number of requests processed and the network bandwidth.

Consider a scenario of an e-commerce website whose performance remains top-notch on standard business days. Still, during the festive season or sales, the load or traffic increases by 3 or 4 times resulting in slowness and performance issues. This will impact not only the business revenue but the brand reputation in the long run.

Applications must be built to cope with many user requests, data volume, and other workload requirements. This means that the customers who use this application will have an incredible experience and recommend it to others.

Pros of Scalability testing

Below are the benefits of running scalability tests into the software development and testing process.

  • It helps to evaluate and gauge the end-user experience under specific load conditions so that corrective measures can be taken in advance to rectify the problems or issues, resulting in better output from a delivery perspective.
  • It helps you to determine the limitations of the web application under test based on different parameters such as response time, network usage, etc.
  • You can save a significant amount of time, money, and effort when rigorous scalability testing is performed for evaluating the overall performance related to an application.
  • It helps to discover various performance-related issues in an application during the testing phase before the changes are deployed in the production environment.
  • Scalability testing allows you to effectively manage your different tool options for monitoring and tracking purposes.

On average, fixing a bug in production can cost up to 10 times more when compared to fixing it during the testing phase. That is why you need a reliable process related to scalability testing to identify these bugs at early stages rather than in production.

Cons of Scalability testing

Let us understand some of the disadvantages of scalability testing, which you should be aware of.

  • The test environment is not always the replica of the production environment used by customers, and it could lead to differences in the expected output.
  • The specialized tools used for scalability testing and a dedicated testing team for performance testing can lead to budget issues related to the projects.
  • Time spent on running scalability tests and covering different aspects can cause a delay in meeting the project deadlines.
  • The functional errors are left unaddressed and cannot be identified in the scalability testing.
  • At times, the test window is very narrow, and it becomes much more challenging to perform the entire scalability testing defined within the testing scope.

Scalability testing vs. Stress testing

Let us try and compare the two different testing types based on various factors.


Scalability testingStress testing
It is performed to ensure that a software product or application can manage the scheduled spike in user traffic, data volume, etc.It is performed to find the robustness of the software by testing it beyond the defined limits.
The load can be varied slowly.The load is varied abruptly
Used for server-side testing robustness.Used for testing the client-side robustness.
Used for testing end-user experience under heavy load.Used for testing the experience under a sudden change in load.
It is performed to evaluate the threshold load.It is performed to evaluate the system recovery ability when a sudden failure occurs.

Creating a Scalability test plan

It is important to follow the right prerequisites before building a scalability test plan. Here are some of the attributes for creating a well-defined plan.

  • Complete understanding of the system functionality from a non-functional perspective.
  • Evaluating the associated risks and dependencies during the initial testing phase so that you can deliver the best possible output to your customers.
  • Clear communication with all the required project stakeholders.
  • Define a test strategy in terms of the type of application to be tested.
  • Involvement of all the key stakeholders so that all the required inputs are communicated easily.

Different Attributes for Scalability testing

Here are some common attributes you need to consider during scalability testing.

  • Throughput: It is the number of requests processed per unit of time. The throughput can vary from application to application so you can customize testing based on the application requirements.
  • For example, a web application throughput is tested by verifying the user requests processed per unit of time. In the case of a database, throughput is calculated by the number of queries processed at a time.


  • Response time: It is one of the most critical parameters you must take care of during scalability testing. Response time is the time between the request from the user and the response from the server.
  • It is tested at various loads by increasing the number of users or the requests per user. You can use a load balancer to ensure that the load is distributed evenly in a clustered environment. The application will perform better if the response time is lower.


  • Time taken to load a web page: Time taken to load a particular web page in an application is equally important and affects the overall performance of a website. For any webpage to load fast, the programmers rely on good user-centric controls and coding practices to make the page load seamless.
  • Network usage: Network usage is an important parameter that needs to be tested. The amount of bandwidth consumed to perform a particular task is considered. It should be kept to a minimum for an application to give the desired results. You can rely on various congestion techniques to ensure that network consumption is reduced.
  • CPU usage: CPU usage is tested to ensure that the CPU utilization in performing any task is within the defined limits. It is recommended that software developers optimize their code requirements and avoid threads or unnecessary loops that can impact CPU utilization in the long run.

Prerequisites to perform Scalability testing

Following are important prerequisites to consider before taking up scalability testing.

  • Load distribution capacity: Evaluate whether the load testing tool allows the load to be created from different machines and measured from a central point.
  • Operating system: Check the operating systems on which the load generation agents and the load test master run.
  • Processor requirements: See what type of CPU is needed for the load test master and virtual users you run scalability tests.
  • Memory: Analyze how much memory will be needed for the virtual user and load test master.

Approaches used for Scalability testing

There are two primary approaches you can follow for scalability testing.

  • Horizontal scaling
  • Vertical scaling

Horizontal scaling

It involves adding more and more physical machines and resources, resulting in a reduction of load on each machine or resource. This process is about increasing the number of nodes instead of increasing the existing capacity. The load is divided between the old and new resources that are added. It is also known as scaling out, which is done from an outward direction by gradually increasing the resources.

This type of scaling is done in big tech giants, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc., that work with large projects or applications. Data partitioning is involved where the load is divided between different nodes, and the overall performance is improved in the long run.

Vertical scaling

It increases the power of existing machines in terms of CPU, RAM, and memory requirements. Vertical scaling can add more CPUs to the same single server. For example, the work handled by 1 CPU can now be handled by 4 CPUs for better performance and output. It is generally done by mid or small-sized businesses that manage small applications where the performance can be maintained by just increasing the size and capacity of the existing resources we use.

Tools for Scalability testing

The industry standard tools can play a vital role in simplifying your scalability testing requirements. Some of the popular scalability testing tools that are used worldwide include

  • LoadUI Pro
  • Load View
  • Loader
  • Apache JMeter
  • Neo Load

These tools can help you deliver exceptional outcomes when it comes to testing and overall product quality.

You can choose the tools based on the following factors.

  • Ease of use: The tool should be easy to use so that it doesn’t cause testers problems when they are trying to implement the tool in a real-world scenario.
  • Tool efficiency: The efficiency of the tool depends on the number of users it can accommodate to perform testing on a single device.
  • Protocol support: Choose a tool that can support different app protocols such as HTTP, HTTPS, SSH, etc.
  • License cost: You should review the tool licensing before even using it.
  • Integration: The tool should support smart integrations so that it achieves extraordinary performance
  • Support: Find the level of user support that the tool offers.

How to perform Scalability testing?

As a specialized software testing team, it is essential to know how to properly execute the scalability testing to achieve the desired outcomes:

You can follow the steps below to get started.

  • Define a process for the scalability test execution: The first step begins by defining a process for scalability test execution. Once the process is finalized and approved by the project stakeholders, it can be repeated to record the testing observations throughout the application life cycle.
  • Determine criteria for scalability: Once the process is defined, it is all about determining the right criteria for defining the required scalability conditions.
  • Shortlist software tools: It is all about defining the right software tools that help you to achieve the desired scalability tests. You will shortlist the required software tools to help run or execute the load tests.
  • Configure test environment and hardware requirements for executing scalability tests: This phase is about setting up or configuring the testing environments so that you are well aware of the environments within the scope of scalability tests. You are also required to configure the necessary hardware that is needed where scalability tests are executed.

Identifying a test environment that accurately mimics the intended production environment is crucial.

Using a real device cloud lets you test in real-world scenarios and ensure that results are accurate every time. Rigorous and bug-free testing ensures that no significant issues slip into production, allowing your software application to provide the best user experience.

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  • Planning: You can plan test scenarios for your scalability tests.
  • Creation and validation of visual script and load test scenarios: You can create and validate visual scripts and load test scenarios.
  • Execute the tests: Once the visual scripts and load test scenarios are created and validated, it is all about executing the required tests.
  • Evaluate the results: You can evaluate the results and then make final decisions based on them. It is a comprehensive process followed by organizations looking to implement scalability testing in the current project setup. The results evaluated can be used to generate reports for evaluating different testing metrics.

Defining a process is crucial for the product’s success in the long run. The process should be finalized after getting approval from all the required project stakeholders. Once the process is streamlined, it becomes easier to define the required criteria and tools. You can improvise or redefine the process to get desired outcomes in the long run.

Best practices for Scalability testing

You can follow some best practices to ensure that your scalability testing delivers the desired outcomes:

  • It is recommended to come up with all the possible user scenarios. You can always modify them once the product requirements are finalized.
  • Design a test load system based on the set users and defined parameters.
  • Run the scalability tests to ensure user requests are covered.
  • Closely monitor the non-functional aspects and tweak them when required.
  • Iterate and improve existing testing to reach the desired outcome

Summing up

In this tutorial, we discussed the different features and capabilities of scalability testing offers. Your software application and test infrastructure must be capable enough to withstand the dynamic requirements of today’s market. As the time to market and software quality become so important, you need to implement scalability testing to ensure that all fluctuations are not impacting your performance metrics or degrading your software quality.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How scalability testing is done?

Testers usually generate test scenarios so that the system meets new requirements. Furthermore, they execute the test regularly, document and record the results to detect errors. The obtained data and important insights are then communicated to relevant stakeholders.

Why is scalability testing important?

Scalability testing uncovers major infrastructure errors often missed by other testing methods like load testing. You can quickly pinpoint the source of defects since this form of testing covers all levels (hardware, software, database).

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