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June 4, 2002—In this issue:
1. DEVELOPER .NET PERSPECTIVES
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4. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Learn More About Visual Basic .NET
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1. DEVELOPER .NET PERSPECTIVES
(contributed by Bill Sheldon, email@example.com)
So far in Developer .NET Perspectives, I've talked about some of Microsoft .NET Framework's features, such as ASP.NET. This week, I want to discuss a tool that supports ASP.NET: the Application Center Test (ACT) tool, which ships with Visual Studio .NET Enterprise Developer (VSED) and Visual Studio .NET Enterprise Architect (VSEA).
ASP.NET is the logical starting point for .NET applications because it doesn't require the .NET Framework on the client. Developers who start working with the .NET Framework typically use ASP.NET to create Web-based applications. These applications require scalability and, just like any other application, can hog system resources. Fortunately, you can use ACT to create an automation script that will put a test load on a Web server. The tool then records information, such as the response times associated with serving different pages.
Microsoft is actively supporting and promoting ACT, which is a change from the way Microsoft handled ACT's predecessor, the Microsoft Web Application Stress (WAS) tool ( http://webtool.rte.microsoft.com ). WAS and ACT have many of the same features. Both tools let you customize details of your test, such as the amount of time to run, the number of separate threads, and the number of test users to simulate. Both tools also support adding system performance counters that can show resources across an entire network, from the test client to the database server. However, ACT differs from WAS in several important respects.
ACT integrates with VSED and VSEA to the extent that you can add an ACT project to your solution. To do so, you select New, Other Projects, Application Center Test Project. However, this UI isn't very intuitive compared with the way you typically work with ACT, which is to open the application in standalone mode similar to the way in which you open the WAS UI.
When you open ACT in standalone mode, it defaults to a set of sample tests in a sample project. After you create a new project for your custom tests, you can record a new test. Compared with ACT, WAS has a couple of limitations in this respect. WAS doesn't support recording Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) requests. So, when you record a new test, WAS appends the test to the list of all tests. WAS saves the test results on a per-test basis, with all tests and results residing in the same database.
Although both tools support testing Active Server Pages (ASP), ASP.NET, Web services, and other HTTP:GET and HTTP:POST interfaces, ACT is a bit more flexible than WAS. This flexibility is partially due to the difference in how these tools store their data. ACT creates a project file under your account's My Documents directory. In this directory, ACT places the test scripts and the XML files that describe the project and results. WAS uses a Microsoft Access database (was.mdb), which resides in the directory in which the tool was installed.
WAS stores all the tests and results in the Access database, whereas ACT stores the test scripts as .vbs or .js files. ACT's script format gives ACT an advantage over WAS: Editing the test scripts is almost intuitive. If you're familiar with Windows Script Host (WSH), you can use ACT to create custom requests (including HTTP:SOAP requests) that are difficult to simulate using WAS. However, ACT's tests scripts aren't portable to WAS.
Compared with WAS, ACT has advantages in its result presentations. ACT supports a variety of graphs and other visually oriented results. You can even present the results of multiple tests side by side, which lets you directly compare two sets of test results after you've made a change to the site you're testing.
If ACT represents the next generation of WAS capabilities, why am I presenting both tools? Despite all of ACT's other great features, ACT doesn't support remote test clients the way that WAS does. WAS lets your system manager install the test client across several machines, then starts and stops tests that run simultaneously across these clients. Rather than just having a single machine running 20 threads to stress your Web site, WAS lets you have 20 different machines each running 20 threads to stress your Web site.
Supposedly, ACT will have an enterprise version that provides the same remoting capability that WAS provides. But, for now, both tools have their value. Using these tools, you can see the real difference between using the Cache object or going to the database for each request. Or you can determine whether the page that's concatenating 450KB of dynamic data is going to have a performance problem under load.
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Joe has been recently laid off and wants to know whether learning Visual Basic .NET or DB2 would increase his marketability the most as a DBA. To join the discussion, go to the following URL:
4. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Carolyn Mader, firstname.lastname@example.org)
O'Reilly announced the second edition of "VB.NET Language in a Nutshell" by Steven Roman, Ron Petrusha, and Paul Lomax. When you make the move to the Microsoft .NET platform, this reference book will make it easy for you to access in-depth information about Visual Basic .NET. The book covers variables, data types, an introduction to object-oriented programming, .NET general concepts, the .NET Framework class library, delegates, events, and error handling. The majority of the book consists of an alphabetical reference to the functions, statements, directives, objects, and object members that make up Visual Basic .NET. The book includes a CD-ROM and costs $44.95. Contact O'Reilly at 617-354-5800 or 800-775-7731.
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