I believe that when you see something completely wrong and cannot correct it, you should at least share your view with other people. This is the only way to change anything in this world.
This article is about load testing, but if you read it to the end, you will see that it is about the whole IT industry, about the whole economic reality and about our life. I will use an example which I know very well to demonstrate something very common, yet not very well understood.
A short technical introduction. Imagine that you are about to release a new web site. Will it work well when accessed by multiple concurrent users? This question can be answered if you perform a load testing. Obviously, this task cannot be accomplished manually by your staff members or beta testers. There are special software tools that perform load testing by emulating real users with virtual ones behaving same way.
Note that such testing not an optional activity. It is absolutely necessary for each new web site that includes any dynamic content. Now imagine how many new web sites are released every day and you will get some estimation of the overall demand in such tools. Shortly speaking, the market is really huge. I listed below few “typical” vendors together with their products. Let’s call this “X-list”:
Probably you have heard about such companies as HP and Borland. The other two are less well-known, but we will pay some attention to them first. Guess how much do they charge for a permanent license? They have different ones, but let’s consider a version that can create 2500 concurrent virtual users. This does not look like a really big number. The answer is: about $40,000. If you don’t believe this, you can check their web sites, which are quite easy to find.
Now the question is: how is this possible? It is hard to believe that so similar things can be sold for so different prices. Maybe WAPT misses some important functionality? Well, since the product is still different, possibly you will find that some features are implemented in a different way. Some owners of NeoLoad licenses may even object that their product produces more beautiful graphs in report. However these graphs contain all the same data, so have they overpaid 10 times only for this? How about efficiency? If you compare WAPT and Neoload running on the same hardware, you will find that WAPT significantly outperforms its competitor. This means that in addition to $40k for a Neoload license, you will need to purchase expensive hardware to run it, whereas you can use WAPT even on a regular developer workstation.
However it appears that these observations do not justify spending $40k as well, because WAPT is perfectly supported by its vendor, SoftLogica Inc. By the way, the support is free, which means that you don’t have to pay monthly fee. As for the quality of support, you can easily check it yourself by sending a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can ask any questions on the provided products and services.
So, it appears that when choosing a load testing tool you can read and compare product features, try demo versions, contact vendors to discuss product applicability and even get extra service if you need help with your specific web site. So, you have everything required to make proper choice. So, why do people overpay for load testing tools (and software products in general)?
The problem is that guys from X-list have huge marketing and sales budgets, which is not quite surprising taking in account their prices. Using such resources they managed to create a wrong impression that their tools are quite different, and it is simply impossible to find an alternative solution for a reasonable price.
This is a new type of virtual monopoly: it exists just because most people believe that it exists. Once you search the web for a load testing tool, most probably you will come to one of the overpriced products, because they can easily pay several dollars for each click to their web site. You contact them, or just try to download demo of their product. After that they will call you every day persuading you that their tool is the only one and of course you cannot find anything less expensive.
Wake up! If you purchase overpriced products, you invest in their marketing, which will make these products even more expensive. These guys will perfectly load test your budget, before you can even try load testing your web site.
My main idea is that only the lack of information together with the marketing and sales tricks of the X-listed companies urges people to make wrong decisions and purchase their products while there are more affordable alternatives on the market. These companies cannot win the competition by providing better tools and services, so they are trying to apply approaches that actually work against customers.
My message to business owners: Do not trust sales persons when they say that you will pay extra money for quality. Extra money is always spent on sales and marketing. These activities of your vendor are completely useless for you. So, you can easily save your money by purchasing a different product from a company that concentrates on real work.
My message to managers: I understand that it is always a safer decision to purchase something from a company with a well-known name, provided that you do not have a severe budget limitation. However, you have a chance to cut expenses by 90% with a proper tool selection. This will be appreciated not only by your directors. All technical specialists will respect you more if they see how you make decisions basing on good technical understanding of the subject. They will also see that you are not throwing money for nothing.
My message to technical specialists: Please advise your managers. Remember that every company (even a prosperous one) is limited in expenses. If your company avoids buying overpriced products, it will have more resources for increasing your own salary, especially if you are the person who recommends the right decisions.
Please, do not think that I hate rich people and prosperous companies. I am not against anybody. I am for the progress of the mankind in general. I am sure that there are many people whose input to this progress is really huge and it is great if they are compensated for that. However I really don’t understand what progress we have from crowds of sales persons who do not produce any useful things, but invent imaginary benefits of the goods they sell in order to multiply the price and pocket the difference. I believe that wise people can cooperate without any “help” from these jugglers. I know that this sounds like an extreme and this philosophy is absolutely incompatible with today’s business practices and overall economic reality. If you like that reality, probably you will never share my ideas. In this case I am quite surprised that you have read that article to the end. But if you are not sure that what you see around you is perfect, please think about it. I really want to change this world to better, and as the first step in that direction I ask you to please stop feeding fat cats!
P.S. All trademarks are the property of their absolutely respected owners.
P.P.S. Any comments are highly appreciated, especially if you have any objections to my point of view.