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Siddhant Khare
Siddhant Khare

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API Benchmarking with Artillery and Gitpod: Emulating Production for Enterprises


  1. Deep Dive into API Testing: This post explores the significance of benchmarking APIs in environments that mimic real-world production settings.

  2. Cloud as the Playground: Learn how Cloud Development Environments are transforming the way we test, develop and ship our applications.

  3. Tool Spotlight: Featuring insights on how Artillery and Gitpod can enhance and streamline the benchmarking process.

In modern software engineering, the need to accurately understand, anticipate, and improve the performance of systems is paramount for enterprises. As companies scale, the complexities of their systems grow exponentially. This article pushes beyond the surface, diving into the advanced intricacies and engineering specifics that are foundational for effective API benchmarking, with a special focus on the benefits of leveraging cloud development environments.

Environment Considerations: Local vs. Cloud Dev Environments

The choice of environment can drastically affect the realism and accuracy of benchmarking results. More enterprises are shifting towards Cloud Development Environments (like Gitpod), moving away from local setups for several compelling reasons:

  • Scalability: Unlike local setups constrained by physical hardware, cloud environments offer immense scalability. Instantly provisioning multiple resources is invaluable for high-load simulation.

  • Environment Parity: Cloud setups can closely mirror production, ensuring benchmarks mirror real-world performance, eliminating discrepancies from environment-specific quirks.

  • Network Realities: Cloud benchmarking provides insights into network latencies, especially when dealing with globally intended applications, multiple microservices, external APIs, or databases.

  • Reproducibility: Leveraging Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools ensure consistent, reproducible environments for every test run.

  • Integrated Tooling: Cloud providers, with their integrated monitoring, logging, and analysis tools, offer in-depth insights, streamlining the bottleneck identification process.

  • Cost Efficiency: The pay-as-you-go cloud model lets enterprises use resources precisely when needed for benchmarking, balancing costs with the insights gained from precise benchmarking.

Getting Started with Artillery

Artillery is a modern, powerful, and extensible performance testing toolkit. It is especially useful for testing the performance of APIs, microservices, and full-stack applications.


npm install -g artillery
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Basic Usage

A simple artillery configuration to test an API endpoint would look something like this:

  target: ""
    - duration: 60
      arrivalRate: 5
  - flow:
      - get:
          url: "/your-endpoint"
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You can then run the test with:

artillery run your-config.yml
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This would simulate five users arriving every second for a minute, making requests to the given endpoint.

Diving Deeper with artillery

Here are a few more advanced artillery features that can help simulate real-world scenarios:

  1. Payloads: You can use external CSV or JSON files to provide dynamic data to your scenarios, enabling more realistic simulations.
  2. Custom Engines: Artillery supports custom engines for protocols other than HTTP, such as WebSocket or
  3. Plugins: Artillery can be extended with plugins for added functionality, like reporting.

Harnessing artillery's Full Potential

While we briefly discussed artillery's basic usage earlier, let's dive into its advanced capabilities, crucial for companies operating at a Netflix-scale:

  1. Capture Mode: Beyond simple GET requests, you often need to simulate complex user behaviors, like logging in and accessing secured resources. Artillery's capture mode can store tokens and cookies from one request and use them in subsequent ones.
  - flow:
      - post:
          url: "/login"
            username: "test_user"
            password: "password"
            - json: "$.token"
              as: "authToken"
      - get:
          url: "/secured/resource"
            Authorization: "Bearer {{ authToken }}"
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  1. Custom Logic with JS: Sometimes, static JSON configurations aren’t enough. Artillery allows you to use JavaScript to script complex scenarios:
module.exports = {
  beforeScenario: (userContext, events, done) => {
    userContext.vars.someVar = computeSomeValue();
    return done();
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  1. Performance Insights with Plugins: Plugins like artillery-plugin-publish-metrics can push your metrics to monitoring systems, allowing for real-time performance monitoring and alerting. This is crucial for large-scale operations to detect and act on anomalies swiftly.

Artillery: Beyond Basic Load Testing

Artillery, at its core, is a performance and load testing toolkit designed for the modern age. Its robustness is manifested in several use cases:

1. User Behavior Simulation

Artillery allows scripting of complex user behaviors in your load scenarios. This is particularly useful for APIs where a linear set of actions won't suffice. For instance, testing an e-commerce API might involve simulating a user browsing items, adding them to a cart, and then checking out.

  target: ""
    - duration: 300
      arrivalRate: 5

  - flow:
      - get:
          url: "/items"
      - post:
          url: "/cart"
            itemId: "12345"
      - post:
          url: "/checkout"
            cartId: "98765"
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2. WebSocket Testing

Real-time applications using WebSockets can be benchmarked with Artillery. This is pivotal for chat applications or live data streaming services.

  target: "ws://"
    - duration: 60
      arrivalRate: 20

  - engine: "ws"
      - send: '{"type": "subscribe", "channel": "live_updates"}'
      - think: 10
      - send: '{"type": "message", "content": "Hello world!"}'
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3. Rate Limit Testing

Ensuring that your rate limits are working as expected is crucial, especially when third-party developers interact with your API. Artillery can assist in simulating rapid successive requests to test these boundaries.

Broadening the Horizon: Artillery for Comprehensive Benchmarking

While load testing is undeniably a core use case of Artillery, its capabilities go well beyond this. Let’s explore some advanced scenarios:

1. Latency and Response Time Measurement

Benchmarking isn’t just about how much traffic your API can handle but also about how fast it responds. With Artillery, you can measure the response time of your services under various conditions:

  target: ""
    - duration: 300
      arrivalRate: 10

  - flow:
      - get:
          url: "/data"
            - json: "$.responseTime"
              as: "responseTime"
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2. Percentile Metrics (p95, p99, p999)

Understanding how your system performs for the majority isn’t enough. You need to cater to the edge cases, which is where percentile metrics come in. Artillery's reports provide this out-of-the-box:

  • p95: 95% of the requests were faster than this value.
  • p99: 99% of the requests were faster than this value.
  • p999: 99.9% of the requests were faster than this value.

This helps in understanding the outliers and ensuring that even in the worst-case scenarios, user experience is acceptable.

3. Service Endpoint Variability

Not all API endpoints are created equal. Some might be lightweight data retrievals, while others might involve complex computations. With Artillery, you can script diverse scenarios targeting different service endpoints, allowing granular performance assessments:

  - flow:
      - get:
          url: "/simpleData"
      - post:
          url: "/compute-intensive-operation"
            data: "sampleInput"
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4. Error Rate and Failure Thresholds

Ensuring your API gracefully handles errors under load is critical. Artillery provides insights into error rates, which can be invaluable in identifying endpoints or operations that fail more frequently under stress.

5. Benchmarking over Time

With Artillery's capability to be run as part of CI/CD pipelines, enterprises can perform benchmarking over regular intervals, tracking the performance progression (or degradation) over time, and making informed decisions about optimization.

Artillery’s Reporting Prowess

Raw data isn't particularly useful without the means to interpret it. Artillery’s ability to generate detailed reports is one of its strengths. With a simple CLI command:

artillery run --output report.json yourscript.yml
artillery report --output report.html report.json
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You obtain comprehensive, visually rich HTML reports, shedding light on metrics like median response times, RPS (requests per second), and vital percentile calculations.

Some examples:

Plugin Metrics charts

HTTP response time

Deep Dive into Technical Benchmarking Aspects

Note: This post is a compilation of insights and best practices from various industry experiences and should be adapted to specific enterprise needs and contexts

Network Latency and Its Implications

For enterprises serving a global clientele, network latency becomes a defining factor for user experience:

  • Multi-region Testing: Utilizing cloud providers' regional capabilities to emulate users from different geographical areas reveals insights into regional performance and potential inconsistencies in CDN configurations or regional databases.
  • Simulating Network Conditions: With tools like tc (traffic control) on Linux, you can simulate various network conditions. Evaluating performance under different network speeds and packet loss rates is crucial for a holistic understanding.

Database Layer Optimizations and Challenges

A significant proportion of API interactions involve database operations. Therefore, benchmarking must consider:

  • Database Pooling: Maintaining a pool of database connections can drastically reduce overhead. However, it's essential to simulate scenarios that stress these pools to their limits.

  • Read Replicas and Write Throughput: Leveraging read replicas can enhance performance for read-heavy workloads. Benchmarking with a write-heavy load will provide insights into potential replication lag.

  • Database Caching: While caching mechanisms like Redis or Memcached can expedite recurrent queries, it's also essential to evaluate scenarios where cache invalidation is frequent.

Middleware and Microservices Intricacies

In the microservices architecture predominant in many enterprises:

  • Rate Limiting: In distributed setups, rate limits are often enforced using shared states. Testing must ensure consistent enforcement of these limits across multiple instances.

  • Service Mesh Observability: Service meshes not only offer traffic routing but also vital metrics. Integrating these into benchmarking can provide deeper insights into potential communication bottlenecks.

Handling Failure and Chaos Engineering

To ensure resilience in enterprise systems:

  • Simulating Service Failures: Randomly terminating service instances during benchmarking can highlight potential issues with service discovery and failover mechanisms.

  • Dependency Delays: Injecting artificial delays in dependencies, such as databases or third-party services, can help identify potential cascading failures and the effectiveness of implemented timeouts.

Profiling and Analysis

For the most granular of insights:

  • Profiling: Tools such as perf on Linux offer insights into CPU usage, revealing which parts of the codebase are CPU-bound under extensive workloads.
  • Flame Graphs: Visual representations of profiled software, flame graphs, make it easier to pinpoint the most significant code paths and bottlenecks. Tools like Brendan Gregg's FlameGraph can generate these from a variety of profiling inputs.

Feedback Mechanism and Continuous Refinement

As enterprise systems evolve, so do their performance characteristics:

  • Automated Alerts: By integrating performance benchmarks into CI/CD pipelines and setting up alerts for deviations from established baselines, teams can remain agile in their responses.

  • Dashboards: Visualization tools, like Grafana, allow teams to track performance trends over time, offering insights into the long-term ramifications of code and infrastructure changes.

So, let's dive even deeper into the intricacies of API benchmarking in an enterprise setting, emphasizing key technical considerations and practices:

Load Balancing and Distribution Strategies

With the rise of microservices and distributed architectures, load balancing becomes an essential component:

  • Sticky vs. Stateless Sessions: If your application maintains user sessions, you need to decide between sticky sessions (where users are locked to a specific server) and stateless sessions. The decision impacts cache efficiency, failover strategy, and resilience.

  • Layer 4 vs. Layer 7 Load Balancing: While Layer 4 (transport layer) load balancing is faster, Layer 7 (application layer) provides more granular routing decisions based on HTTP headers, cookies, or even content type.

Concurrency Models and Event-Driven Architectures

The way your application handles multiple concurrent requests can significantly impact its performance:

  • Thread-based vs. Event-driven Models: Traditional thread-per-request models, such as those in Apache HTTP Server, might suffer under high concurrency, whereas event-driven models, like Node.js or Nginx, can handle many simultaneous connections with a single-threaded event loop.

  • Backpressure Handling: In event-driven systems, backpressure (an accumulation of pending tasks) can be a concern. It's crucial to simulate scenarios where systems are overloaded and analyze how backpressure is managed.

Distributed Tracing and Profiling

In a distributed microservices architecture, tracking a request's journey through various services can be challenging:

  • Tracing Tools: Tools like Jaeger, Zipkin, or AWS X-Ray offer distributed tracing capabilities. They provide a visual representation of how requests flow through services, highlighting bottlenecks or failures.

  • Inline Profilers: Beyond external tools, embedding profilers within your application, such as pprof for Go applications, can provide real-time metrics on CPU, memory, and goroutine usage.

Circuit Breakers and Resilience Patterns

To prevent system failures from cascading:

  • Circuit Breaker Implementation: Tools like Hystrix or Resilience4J allow for the implementation of circuit breakers, which can halt requests to failing services, giving them time to recover.

  • Timeouts and Retries: Implementing adaptive timeouts and smart retries, perhaps with an exponential backoff strategy, can enhance system resilience.

Service Mesh and Sidecar Patterns

Service meshes introduce a layer that manages service-to-service communication:

  • Traffic Control: With a service mesh like Istio or Linkerd, you can enforce policies, reroute traffic, or even inject faults for testing.

  • Sidecar Deployments: By deploying sidecar containers alongside your application, such as Envoy proxy, you can offload certain responsibilities from your application, like traffic routing, logging, or security protocols.

Data Serialization and Protocol Efficiency

The choice of data serialization format and communication protocol can have profound performance implications:

  • Protobuf vs. JSON: While JSON is human-readable and widely adopted, binary formats like Protocol Buffers (Protobuf) from Google offer smaller payloads and faster serialization/deserialization times.

  • gRPC and HTTP/2: gRPC leverages HTTP/2 and Protobuf for efficient communication, introducing benefits like multiplexing multiple requests over a single connection.

Automating Benchmark Scenarios

Automation ensures consistency and repeatability in benchmarking:

  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC): Using tools like Terraform or AWS CloudFormation, you can script the creation of your testing environment to ensure it matches production closely.

  • Scenario Scripting with Artillery: Beyond simple load testing, script complex user behaviors, model different user types, and introduce variations in traffic patterns to simulate real-world scenarios.


In the dynamic world of digital infrastructures, having a comprehensive approach to benchmarking is paramount. It's not just about understanding the capacity but delving into the nuances of performance, outliers, and progressive tracking. With tools like Artillery, we have a modern-day swiss-army knife capable of detailed examinations, from latency measurements to critical percentile metrics. The conjunction of such powerful tools with Cloud Development Environments like Gitpod fortifies this approach. It ensures that benchmarking is executed in consistent, reproducible environments, thereby assuring businesses of the validity of the results. As we strive to build robust, efficient, and user-centric applications, such an evolved approach to benchmarking becomes indispensable. It's the compass that guides optimizations, infrastructure decisions, and business strategies, ensuring that enterprises don't merely compete but excel in today's demanding digital ecosystem.


Note: This article is not sponsored by or affiliated with any of the companies or organizations mentioned in it.

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