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Web Framework Benchmarking Framework

created: June 25, 2015

Something that I had in my backlog for a long time is a way to easily benchmark web frameworks. Of course, there is the TechEmpower benchmark, but I wanted something a little easier to set up and to play with.

Today I finally got around throwing together a very rough prototype. Here is what it looks like.

The Benchmark scenarios

One thing I wanted for the benchmarking scenarios, and the benchmarking code at large, is to be totally agnostic of the web framework used. In fact, I want to allow the application to be something else than Perl.

I also wanted the test to be able to verify the responses from the web appplication (because, hey, speed is good, but sane responses are better). And simplicity, I wanted scenarios to be dead easy to write and run.

So what I did was to establish that each scenario would be a class consuming the Webmark::Scenario role. The role would give you a Test::WWW::Mechanize object to interact with the app, and requires the implementation of a single method speedtest. That method receives a single argument that tells it to either verify the responses of the app, or just go full speed.

For example, here's a basic scenario that verifies that the web app is alive and replies with "hello world!".


package Webmark::Scenario::HelloWorld;

use 5.20.0;

use strict;
use warnings;

use Moose;

use experimental 'signatures';

with 'Webmark::Test';

sub speedtest ($self,$test=0) {
    $self->mech->get('/');

    $self->mech->content_is('hello world') if $test;
}

1;

Or, if we want something just a tad more complex, here's one that asks the web app to come up with a JSON list provided a from and to parameters:


package Webmark::Scenario::CountUp;

use 5.20.0;

use strict;
use warnings;

use Moose;

use experimental 'signatures';

use JSON qw/ from_json /;
use Test::More;

with 'Webmark::Test';

sub speedtest ($self,$test=0) {
    my $m = $test ? 'get' : 'get_ok';

    for my $from ( 1..10 ) {
        for my $to ( $from..10 ) {
            $self->mech->$m("/?from=$from;to=$to");
            if ( $test ) {
                my $result = from_json( $self->mech->content );
                is_deeply $result => [ $from..$to ];
            }
        }
    }
}

1;

The only thing that I want to point out in that code is how I use Test::Moreish tests. That's because I wanted the assertions to be a short and sweet as possible, and leverage all the goodness of Test::WWW::Mechanize and good ol' Test::More. But beyond the fact that you can use those functions, there's nothing really you need to know about how it works. It just does.

Running the scenarios

Thank to most of the work being done being the curtain by Webmark::Scenario, running a scenario is as simple as


$ ./bin/webmark.pl HelloWorld
{
   "running_time" : {
      "max" : 0.010209,
      "mean" : 0.00368558234165068,
      "min" : 0.002883,
      "nbr" : 2605,
      "std_dev" : 0.00286161032435765
   },
   "specs" : {
      "dancer_version" : "1.3139"
   }
}

Neat, isn't? And that's only the visible tip of what happens. Behind the curtain, webmark does the following:

  • It assumes that the web application is already running, either at http://localhost:3000 or at the url given via the environment variable WEBMARK_BASE.
  • It first tries to access the url /specs, which is expected to send any data the application wants to share (neatly encapsulated in JSON, por favor).
  • Then it does a first run of the speedtest in sanity-checking mode. If it fails, it'll complains and stop right there.
  • Then it runs the speedtest in non-checking mode for a certain period of time (right now, 10 seconds because I'm an impatient man) and collect statistics.
  • Then it runs a sanity check again, juuuust in case the application had a meltdown while being stress-tested.
  • And outputs its data, in lovely JSON.

For the moment the statistics and specs returned are rather bare-bone, but that's something that is easy to beef up as we go along.

It's probably fair to point out here that because I use Test::WWW::Mechanize and some other stuff, the results are not only for the raw request/response time of the web application itself, but also include a healthy dose of overhead. It's... regretable, but not a deal-breaker, as long as we remember to compare the relative performance of the different runs, and take their absolute values with a grain of salt.

Launching the web apps

Aaaah, yes. This is the slightly more tricky part. And also the one I don't have anything to show up for at the moment. Well, not totally true: I do have a proto-prototype, but it's too ugly to share (and that coming from me should be a warning of its potential mind-scarring hideousness).

But I do have a vision of leveraging Ansible to take care of that. If each application to test comes with its Ansible playlists to install its dependencies and to launch/stop the application itself, not only it would open the door to running those benchmarks on any and every framework one desires, but also to run them on vagrant virtual machines for extra-reproducibility. And the same idea can also be applied for the setting of more complex scenarios that would involve databases and other local settings.

And a few other things to consider

Once a certain pattern is set in place for Ansible playlists, the next obvious step would be to have a uber-script that takes a scenario, set up the scenario's condition on the designated VM, run webmark on a list of applications and collect their stats.

And the obvious step after that is to store those stats in a local database.

And after that, to have a web application graphing those results.

And after that, probably to write a scenario testing the performance of the application graphing the performance of the scenarios.

And after that, well, after that I expect a visit from the men in white, and probably some quality time in the padded room...

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About the author

Yanick Champoux
Perl necrohacker, ACP writer, orchid lover. Slightly bonker all around. Works at Infinity Interactive