Documentation for 3.13
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Measuring system resource usage
CPU time and memory consumption

TextTest is a very suitable tool for testing systems that place substantial demands on system resources, for example they may run for long periods and consume lots of CPU time, or they may be very demanding in terms of memory. In this case it is generally necessary to control this, so that changes to your system do not suddenly result in it being much slower or consuming much more memory. This document provides a guide to how to set up such testing using TextTest.
In general, such values should be measured by the system under test and logged to some TextTest result file. TextTest can then be configured to extract them and compare them. On UNIX, CPU time can also be measured and extracted automatically by TextTest with changes only needed in the config file.
For each type of system resource tested, a small result file is generated by TextTest containing a single line with the relevant information in it. The name of this file doubles up as a way to refer to the tested resource in the various config file entries. For example, the file might contain this:
CPU time   : 30.39 seconds on apple
Most of the performance configuration can be defined per tested resource file in this way. Any identifier at all can be provided, and if no configuration is recognised for that name default settings will be used. All of the performance config file settings that start with “performance_” (described below) are “composite dictionary entries” with the file stems as keys, it is recommended to read the file format documentation for what this means.
A note on machines and when information is collected
It is generally assumed that you may have more than one machine at your disposal in order to run tests. Further, these machines may not be identical, some may be faster than others. For any comparison involving times, it is therefore essential to say on which machines you intend for testing to be performed, or it will be impossible to get reliable results.
This is done using the config file entry “performance_test_machine”. This has the form below
The machine names should be either names of machines where you want performance testing to be enabled, or the string “any”, which indicates that performance should be tested on any machine for this system resource id. Note that it may be very useful to use the key “default” here, to save lots of repeated typing.
Running the test on any machine outside the list will still work, but no performance-related information will be generated or compared. It is also possible to disable collecting performance-related information: use the “-noperf” flag on the command line, or select “Disable any performance testing” from the static GUI's “How to Run” tab.
Measuring CPU time consumption directly with TextTest (UNIX only)
This is keyed in the config file by the identifier “cputime” but generates a file called “performance.<app>” for historical reasons (it used to be the only kind of performance measurement). Enabling it is a matter of enabling the config file entry “performance_test_machine” for the system resource id “cputime”, as described above.
It uses the shell tool “time” to time the run of the system under test, which works pretty reliably. Of course, the CPU time of the whole test isn't always what you want – in this case you will need to take over the measurement yourself via the mechanism described below.
By default, only the user time is collected. You can include the system time also by setting the config file entry “cputime_include_system_time”.
Extracting other system resource usage from logged files
Any information present in any TextTest result file can be extracted and treated as a system resource. First, you should choose a system resource id for the resource concerned. You then need to make sure that “performance_test_machine” is enabled for this key (or “default”, naturally). Additionally, you need to tell TextTest how to extract it. This is done via the config file entry “performance_logfile_extractor”, which has the following form:
The <text_identifier> here is a string to be found in the file to be searched. When TextTest finds that string, it will take the word immediately following it and try to interpret it as a number (note that you need to provide the whole string up to the word beforehand, not just a part of it as for “run_dependent_text”). It will also parse the format hh:mm:ss for times. It will then generate a file <system_resource_id>.<app> in a similar way to the performance file above.
The file to be searched is identified primarily by the config file entry “log_file”. This defaults to “output”, i.e. the standard output of the SUT. You may need to search different files for different entries, in which case the entry “performance_logfile” is of use. This has the same form as above, except that the value is the file stem of the file you wish to extract the information from.
If you choose the system_resource_id “memory”, the number will be interpreted as a memory value in megabytes. Otherwise it will be assumed to be a time in seconds. These units can be configured by setting the config file entry "performance_unit" to whatever you want reported for your particular resource.
This special system resource ID "memory" will also cause "performance_test_machine" to be set to “any” by default, as memory is assumed to be less dependent on what machine is used.
If you chose some other name for system_resource_id the number is assumed to be a time (in seconds or hh:mm:ss) and will be displayed accordingly. If it decreases the change will be reported as "faster(<system_resource_id>)". This reporting can however be configured, via the config file entries "performance_descriptor_decrease" and "performance_descriptor_increase". These should be a comma-separated 3-tuple of <name>, <brief_description>, <full_description>. (The easiest thing is probably to look in the table of config file settings and examine the default values for "cputime" and "memory").
When you have just enabled such resource usage extraction, you generally want to automatically extract the current values from your existing result files for all tests, creating the auto-generated system resource files. This avoids getting a lot of “new file” results first time around. There is a plugin script for this called “default.ExtractStandardPerformance”.
Comparing and Saving System Resource Usage Files
The files for comparison are not compared exactly. Part of the point of testing things like this is that it is never exactly the same: you need to set a tolerance. This is done via the config file entry “performance_variation_%”, which has a similar format to the ones already described. It verifies that the percentage difference between the two figures is no more than a certain figure. There is also an entry “minimum_performance_for_test”, which can be used to say, for example, that a test must run for at least 5 CPU-seconds before it is worth comparing it.
Note that TextTest's policy with percentages is to always usage the “percentage increase” (defined as <larger> – <smaller> / <smaller>) which can be surprising at first, especially if your test shows “100% faster” as below! It was found to be easier to set the tolerances this way because it leads to a symmetric situation: 7% slower and 7% faster mean the same thing. The more immediately intuitive way of defining decreases as a percentage of the current value leads to the situation where a 100% slowdown today is counterbalanced by a 50% speedup tomorrow, which can also become hard to follow.
This can now be overridden by setting the config file setting "performance_use_normalised_%" to "false". This means that percentages will use the more immediately intuitive "percentage change" (defined as abs(<newer> – <older>) / <older>) Note that this has the effect that changes are no longer symmetric and "performance_variation_%" is also interpreted in this way, which means that a test can succeed when making a change but fail when reverting it. This setting should therefore be used with care.
When saving tests where differences in performance have been reported, it is possible to save an average of the old performance figure and the new one, to prevent too much oscillation. To do this, fire up the "Save As..." dialog, and select “Average Performance” from the radio button at the bottom of the dialog.
Below is what you will see in the dynamic GUI when you run tests that fail in performance in this way.

(There is also a setting "performance_variation_serious_%", which acts in the same way as "performance_variation_%" as described above. If set to a larger value that "performance_variation_%" it indicates that performance exceeding this value should be treated as full failure of the test and not just marked as a performance failure. Currently it will only affect the colouring in the historical HTML batch report but at some point this will be applied in the GUI also)
Statistical reports on System Resource Usage
There are two plugin scripts for this. For CPU time, use the script “performance.PerformanceStatistics”. This will print the amount of CPU time used by each test to standard output. Use the option “file=<sys_resource_id>” to control which resource is reported on. You can also compare with another version, percentage-wise for each test, using the option “compv=version”. To compare memory usage of “myapp” version 1.3 with the previous version 1.2, for example, use
texttest -a myapp -v 1.3 -s “performance.PerformanceStatistics file=memory compv=1.2”

Last updated: 05 October 2012