Service Lets Users Stress-Test Web Sites

REDWOOD CITY, CALIFORNIA (07/28/2000) - To make sure your Web site's maiden voyage doesn't have a Titanic-like ending, conducting a dry run makes sense.

However, this can be expensive to do in-house, requiring special software and servers as well as personnel who can simulate the activity of hundreds or thousands of end users accessing your Web site.

Enter the start-up management service provider iSharp, which claims to be able to stress-test the performance of a company's Web site for as little as one-tenth the cost of doing it in-house, which can run up to $50,000 or more.

ISharp's Performance Testing Service is based on software that runs at three data centers equipped with Sun Enterprise servers, each with a minimum of 500M bit/sec channel throughput capacity. By September, there will be six facilities. The servers run custom software that can simulate whatever activity customers request - for instance, it could mimic 300 customers simultaneously filling their electronic shopping carts or 1,000 users running searches on an electronic catalog.

When a customer signs on for its services, iSharp tailors a script to measure performance metrics on a Web site - such as download speed, the number of users it handles and errors, explains Jon Gettinger, vice president of marketing.

Using a Web-based interface, the customer can fine-tune the simulation with variables such as different modem speeds or types of browsers. The performance results are then assembled in a file presented to the customer, which will list things such as response times, errors and how long it takes to download .gif images.

As an additional service, iSharp will view the event logs on a company's Web server and correlate the Simple Network Management Protocol and other types of data with recorded performance problems to interpret the causes of performance failure or degradation. A company can use iSharp's service once as a pretest for its Web site, or at set intervals when the site is up and running.

While the BMC Software Inc. subsidiary Evity Inc. and other companies offer Web site monitoring, iSharp claims it stands apart because it can do predictive problem analysis.

Paul Herman, CEO of iCanBuy. com, an online financial services firm in San Francisco that caters to teens, says his company used iSharp's service to stress test its Web site over several weeks before it went live.

He says iSharp was able to make the site crash in a simulated test - and learned it was caused by the time it took for images to download. ICanBuy.Com then redesigned the page to speed up the process of downloading images, he says.

The iSharp Performance Testing Service is available now, beginning at $5,000.


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