With 10 billion connected devices today, the IoT market is expected to reach $520 billion in revenue in 2021. Over 86% of healthcare organizations utilize IoT technology, with similar trends noted in the electronics, travel, and aviation sectors. Due to the role IoT plays in these sectors, the performance of IoT apps is often critical. IoT performance and load testing validate the quality of the IoT application and its infrastructure by putting the entire ecosystem through a set of various dry-runs and simulations to identify issues. This article will dive into it and see how IoT Performance Testing differs from regular Performance and Load Testing. Let’s begin.
Although performance testing is never straightforward in any field, Internet of Things (IoT) testing poses additional challenges. Detecting a small error becomes much more complicated In the plethora of interconnected devices, and a single bug can affect the entire ecosystem. On top of that, these devices come with different operating systems, brands, native features, and data volumes.
Planning a series of load tests under these circumstances puts an extra burden on QA teams and IT staff while also presenting them with new challenges.
As IoT performance testing is hard to plan and execute, companies need to reassess the role of QA teams and integrate them into operational and development processes. QA teams are also forced to gain more in-depth domain knowledge to ensure the quality of IoT applications. Further in the article, we will discuss the greatest challenges and benefits of IoT performance testing.
What is IoT? Why IoT Performance Testing?
Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of interconnected devices, vehicles, and other electronic devices that collect and exchange data. A typical IoT system consists of applications, networks, databases, and sensors. This is a unique ecosystem that poses previously uninspected challenges to the testing procedures and guidelines. Just look at the list of IoT protocols – CoAP, XMPP, Zigbee, MQTT, IoTivity, etc.
The main reason why IoT load and performance testing is different is that it involves multiple components and endpoints, all unique and independent entities that have to work in tandem without compromising performance, speed, and accuracy. Hardware performance, interface performance, and network performance are just a few of the parameters in question.
IoT architecture consists of three main layers:
- The Endpoints and the Gateway – As the name suggests, endpoints are essentially thousands (or millions) of hardware devices in the field that your customers are using 24/7. How do the endpoints send signals and messages to the IoT platform? Via the IoT gateway, which records and stores data for use (using data link protocols) as soon as the endpoint goes online.
- The Platform – This is the middle layer that handles all collected data
- The Application – This is the software ecosystem where all the magic happens. This layer also includes end-user and third-party applications.
Furthermore, testing IoT ecosystems in ideal lab scenarios is not enough. IoT load and performance testing require the simulation of network parameters, virtual gateways, and fluctuating workloads. With such complex environments that are full of sensors, machines, and software, you need to be able to simulate real-life conditions to understand the robustness of your IoT product.
It’s not just customer satisfaction we are talking about here. Regarding healthcare or transportation, personal safety can be jeopardized due to the life-critical tasks the IoT products are performing on an ongoing basis.
Let’s take a closer look at the challenges.
Lack of Standardization
To provide a connection between the app and devices, vendors use protocols. Unfortunately, there is no standard for protocol usage, which means that your provider might use any protocol like HTTP, MQTT, AMQP, etc. IoT technology is still not mature, and protocols are being developed on the go. Due to the absence of standardized sets of protocols, niche testing tools might not cover your needs.
Developers use APIs to enable smoother interaction with the device. As testers utilize API and protocol for their tests, the testing tool must support them effectively. The IoT market needs to come up with consistent protocol regulations.
Performance testing to a wide range of various devices and ensuring that performance remains consistent is truly challenging. Testers need to understand the architecture of the app/s and make sure that devices and software correspond with the correct version. Especially if the application is integrated with third-party services, it is vital to keep track of their performance and possible changes.
Network Connectivity Limitations and Constraints
Emulation is extremely challenging today because thousands and millions of sensors on endpoints send data to gateways at predefined (and varying) intervals. Additional problems arise because these endpoints are connected to restricted networks, leading to packet losses and latency issues. The workflow has to be understood clearly before any IoT load or performance testing is performed.
Creating Realistic Scenarios
The diversity of devices makes it harder to create realistic test scenarios. To get anywhere close to the real-world conditions, the QA team might need to simulate millions of various devices, which is highly difficult and expensive. Furthermore, before even starting the testing, it’s also essential to understand the dynamics of the IoT architecture, from the endpoints all the way to the app layer.
The scale of the testing work for an IoT application is overwhelming. An IoT solution includes millions of interconnected devices that are hooked up to the cloud or on-premise servers. Creating tests that cover all of the parts of such complex infrastructure is always a difficult endeavor. Furthermore, the devices and servers connect via the public internet, making them slower and more vulnerable.
As IoT grows and evolves, it benefits the industry and gives more ammunition to hackers, who are always finding new ways to penetrate IoT ecosystems. Ensuring the overall safety of the app gets even more difficult.
IoT Performance Testing Benefits
The IoT market is relatively novel, and it is still growing and changing, opening up new opportunities for various industries. Agriculture gained access to IoT sensors that collect environmental statistics and help farmers make data-driven decisions about their work. The financial sector has improved by collecting user information and making their experience personalized.
Let’s talk about the benefits that IoT performance testing brings. For example, healthcare IoT enables health professionals to track patient information in real-time and give more accurate diagnoses. The same can be said about IoT home appliances, cars, and hotels. Investing in the IoT market is a good decision for businesses in 2021 but launching an app without testing is not viable.
Detecting and Identifying Flaws
Performance testing is an integral part of every software building process.
By drawing up various scenarios, you can uncover hidden bottlenecks that went unnoticed. Identified bugs serve as an opportunity to improve the application’s performance, security, stability, and reliability. Also, discovering errors in the pre-deployment phase is a significantly cheaper strategy than letting them go into production and creating release bottlenecks and cross-department friction.
Early bug detection has many business benefits like cost-effectiveness, short time to market (TTM), better application quality, and higher performance metrics. Performance and load testing are essentially baked into your IoT SDLC.
Ensure and Define Load Capacity Parameters
Load testing is an important part of performance testing as it trains the application to deal with high volumes of workload. By modeling the real-world conditions, testers can verify whether the system can handle average data load and how the application reacts to failure. This is extremely crucial in the IoT space since network speeds and traffic are truly fluctuating variables that are hard to predict.
Moreover, load testing prevents downtime, which is a heavy hit on companies’ wallets. Dun & Bradstreet’s research shows that 59% of Fortune 500 corporations lose about $46 million annually due to downtime. Running load tests helps companies validate the app’s ability to process data loads and scale up and down accordingly. This way, the system will not be overwhelmed due to changing factors.
Enhanced User Experience
Last but not least, we need to elaborate on the main focus of the entire software development industry – user experience. With IoT, the customer always comes first, and the customer is looking for the best-performing product.
Nowadays, customers have a big choice when it comes to software solutions. They do not waste their time on an application or product that is lagging behind recurring performance glitches. Poor performance is a gateway to decreased user experience and brand damage. Once you ruin the first impression and lose customers, it becomes increasingly difficult to win them back.
Testing your product’s performance allows you to monitor how customers would interact with your software. Catching an issue early on will help you release an error-free application and make the best first impression.
Automating IoT Performance and Load Testing
As evident in the aforementioned points, the modern IoT vendor needs to make sure everything is scalable and working smoothly to achieve sustainable business growth. Just assume you had a massive sales spike due to the holiday season and changing market conditions (think smart home devices). Is your infrastructure ready to handle this passive load spike in usage and traffic? What about server overload?
Related: Server Overload: The Silent Killer
It’s also important to note some key differences between IoT Load Testing and IoT Performance testing. The former focuses on detecting potential scalability issues (for example, load testing an MQTT broker and its operational flexibility). On the other hand, IoT Performance testing is the only proven and tested method (pun intended) to optimize and validate your IoT offering (for example, an HVAC solution).
Furthermore, when you get your IoT load testing right, you can accurately size your IoT platform and gateways to save resources while simulating the noise your infrastructure will face. This is the only way to gauge IoT user experience correctly.
A comprehensive cloud-based performance and load testing tool can help you achieve your ongoing goals while also future-proofing your IoT offering. Employing a healthy Shift-Left and Shift-Right performance testing strategy is paramount to creating stable and reliable IoT software and websites. In the end, your hardware will only get you so far. It’s now time to switch from a reactive to a proactive approach.