In software engineering, performance testing is in general testing performed to determine how a system performs in terms of responsiveness and stability under a particular workload. It can also serve to investigate, measure, validate or verify other quality attributes of the system, such as scalability, reliability and resource usage.
Load testing is the simplest form of performance testing. A load test is usually conducted to understand the behaviour of the system under a specific expected load. This load can be the expected concurrent number of users on the application performing a specific number of transactions within the set duration. This test will give out the response times of all the important business critical transactions. If the database, application server, etc. are also monitored, then this simple test can itself point towards any bottlenecks in the application software.
Stress testing is normally used to understand the upper limits of capacity within the system. This kind of test is done to determine the system’s robustness in terms of extreme load and helps application administrators to determine if the system will perform sufficiently if the current load goes well above the expected maximum.
Soak testing, also known as endurance testing, is usually done to determine if the system can sustain the continuous expected load. During soak tests, memory utilization is monitored to detect potential leaks. Also important, but often overlooked is performance degradation. That is, to ensure that the throughput and/or response times after some long period of sustained activity are as good or better than at the beginning of the test. It essentially involves applying a significant load to a system for an extended, significant period of time. The goal is to discover how the system behaves under sustained use.
Spike testing is done by suddenly increasing the number of or load generated by, users by a very large amount and observing the behaviour of the system. The goal is to determine whether performance will suffer, the system will fail, or it will be able to handle dramatic changes in load.
Rather than testing for performance from the perspective of load, tests are created to determine the effects of configuration changes to the system’s components on the system’s performance and behaviour. A common example would be experimenting with different methods of load-balancing.
Isolation testing is not unique to performance testing but involves repeating a test execution that resulted in a system problem. Often used to isolate and confirm the fault domain.