Benchmarking a page protected by a login with Apache Benchmark
Article Table of Contents
- Apache Benchmark
I’ve been slowly working through The Complete Guide to Rails Performance. I’m taking the ideas and concepts from Nate’s book and working on applying the lessons to the app I work on in my day job.
I had a chance to attend Nate’s workshop in Denver a few days ago, as well; while there, we fired up our apps in production-like mode, and used
wrk, a HTTP benchmarking tool, to see how many pages our app could serve in a given amount of time. (wrk docs).
wrk run might look like so:
$ wrk -t12 -c400 -d30s http://127.0.0.1:8080/index.html
wrk will run for a
[t]hread count of 12, with 400
[c]onnections, for a
[d]uration of 30 seconds, against
This is fine for testing unprotected home pages, but the app I work on requires a login before getting to anything interesting. So, I wondered
how does one use a HTTP benchmarking tool against an application with a login page?
And I found the answer.
Apache Benchmark #
Apache Benchmark describes itself as [an] Apache HTTP server benchmarking tool. Similar to
wrk, but a bit more feature-rich.
You can use it very similarly to
wrk - give it a thread count, connection count, duration, and address, and it’ll hammer that page and serve up all sorts of good results.
The “rule of thumb” for benchmarking “protected” pages is:
Whatever page you can access locally in an incognito browser is what your benchmarking tool can hit without any special authentication.
In other words, when I visit
http://localhost:3000/ locally, I get redirected to
http://localhost:3000/users/sign_in. This is fine for apache bench, if I want to test how quickly our sign-in page loads. I can run:
$ ab -t 10 http://127.0.0.1:3000/
Benchmarking 127.0.0.1 (be patient) Finished 690 requests Server Software: Server Hostname: 127.0.0.1 Server Port: 3000 Document Path: / Document Length: 101 bytes Concurrency Level: 1 Time taken for tests: 10.007 seconds Complete requests: 690 Failed requests: 0 Non-2xx responses: 690 Total transferred: 1380000 bytes HTML transferred: 69690 bytes Requests per second: 68.95 [#/sec] (mean) Time per request: 14.503 [ms] (mean) Time per request: 14.503 [ms] (mean, across all concurrent requests) Transfer rate: 134.67 [Kbytes/sec] received Connection Times (ms) min mean[+/-sd] median max Connect: 0 0 0.1 0 1 Processing: 8 14 6.3 12 49 Waiting: 8 14 6.2 12 48 Total: 8 14 6.3 13 49 Percentage of the requests served within a certain time (ms) 50% 13 66% 14 75% 17 80% 18 90% 22 95% 28 98% 33 99% 39 100% 49 (longest request)
tail -f log/development.log you can see all the traffic/requests.
This report has a giant red flag, though. It has these three lines:
Complete requests: 690 Failed requests: 0 Non-2xx responses: 690
2xx responses are “success” responses; The HTTP status code returned for each one of these 690 requests was something besides “successful”.
http://127.0.0.1:3000/ redirects to
http://127.0.0.1:3000/users/sign_in; I imagine it’s getting 3xx HTTP status codes, trying to redirect it to
So, if we re-build our AP call, we can improve things:
$ ab -t 10 http://127.0.0.1:3000/users/sign_in
The results are quite a bit better. Notice no failed requests, and no non-2xx requests?
Benchmarking 127.0.0.1 (be patient) Finished 682 requests Server Software: Server Hostname: 127.0.0.1 Server Port: 3000 Document Path: /users/sign_in Document Length: 9502 bytes Concurrency Level: 1 Time taken for tests: 10.004 seconds Complete requests: 682 Failed requests: 0 Total transferred: 7888694 bytes HTML transferred: 6480364 bytes Requests per second: 68.17 [#/sec] (mean) Time per request: 14.669 [ms] (mean) Time per request: 14.669 [ms] (mean, across all concurrent requests) Transfer rate: 770.04 [Kbytes/sec] received Connection Times (ms) min mean[+/-sd] median max Connect: 0 0 0.0 0 0 Processing: 12 15 2.7 14 39 Waiting: 12 14 2.7 13 39 Total: 12 15 2.7 14 39 Percentage of the requests served within a certain time (ms) 50% 14 66% 15 75% 16 80% 16 90% 18 95% 19 98% 21 99% 23 100% 39 (longest request)
This is meaningful improvement, but still not testing our home page, the page one sees after they punch in their username and password. (When one gets logged in, they are redirected to
So, if you can temporarily disable all authentication on a page, you might be able to access it locally in an incognito browser.
But every page of our app has a concept of
current_user, and the data we display is determined 100% by exactly who is logged in.
Apache Bench provides a few additional flags one can pass in, like:
-A auth-username:password Supply BASIC Authentication credentials to the server. The username and password are separated by a single : and sent on the wire base64 encoded. The string is sent regardless of whether the server needs it (i.e., has sent an 401 authentication needed).
This isn’t sufficient for a Rails app, though. This could work on a website that has a pop-up requiring username/password (maybe?) but not for modern web applications.
Fortunately, once someone is logged into a Rails app, the app keeps track of that login via cookies. Here’s another flag
-C cookie-name=value Add a Cookie: line to the request. The argument is typically in the form of a name=value pair. This field is repeatable.
I found an article by Steve Grossi, where he said:
But you’re (hopefully) using more sophisticated, session-based authentication, especially with a Rails app. In this case, you’ll just need to give Apache Bench an authenticated cookie to use on your behalf. I’m sure there’s an easier way to do this with cURL, but I find it simplest to use Chrome developer tools to inspect the cookie header sent after I log in.
I can work with this.
Apache Bench and cookie-based authentication #
Per Steve Grossi’s instructions, we first have to find just the relevant cookies for logging in.
Another helpful page said
- Open the site to test in the browser of your choice. Do not login yet.
- In order to see which cookies are really necessary, delete all cookies, reload the page, log into the site and reload the cookie information site. For Rails powered sites, you should see a cookie named
_your_site_sessionand – depending on your authentication solution – something like
So, with these cookies, lets build up a new-and-improved Apache Bench request:
$ ab -t 1 -C '_ts_session_id=<cookie_1>;fd827a2c56550=<cookie_2>' http://127.0.0.1:3000/account/campaigns
Validating Apache Bench’s cookie-based authentication in logs/development.log #
Hah! This works. I can validate this a few different ways; for example,
tail -f logs/development.log prints lots of user details for the user corresponding to this cookie:
Just for fun, I wanted to re-create this in Postman, to make sure the cookies are working and the page is getting loaded up.
Validating Apache Bench’s cookie-based authentication in Postman #
Fire up Postman, and head to the
Next, add the domain name for the cookie. Note that it must be just the domain; no
com, no port number.
And, if everything works, you can now make a
GET to a resource that would normally return a login page!
Lastly, here’s the output from AB with cookie auth, against
$ ab -t 10 -C '_ts_session_id=<cookie_1>;fd827a2c56550=<cookie_2>' http://127.0.0.1:3000/account/campaigns Benchmarking 127.0.0.1 (be patient) Finished 93 requests Server Software: Server Hostname: 127.0.0.1 Server Port: 3000 Document Path: /account/campaigns Document Length: 24381 bytes Concurrency Level: 1 Time taken for tests: 10.057 seconds Complete requests: 93 Failed requests: 0 Total transferred: 2446086 bytes HTML transferred: 2267433 bytes Requests per second: 9.25 [#/sec] (mean) Time per request: 108.136 [ms] (mean) Time per request: 108.136 [ms] (mean, across all concurrent requests) Transfer rate: 237.53 [Kbytes/sec] received Connection Times (ms) min mean[+/-sd] median max Connect: 0 0 0.0 0 0 Processing: 86 108 107.2 94 1112 Waiting: 86 108 107.2 94 1112 Total: 86 108 107.2 94 1113 Percentage of the requests served within a certain time (ms) 50% 94 66% 95 75% 97 80% 99 90% 106 95% 117 98% 279 99% 1113 100% 1113 (longest request)
Next up will be using
siege to visit dozens of subsequent pages on the app. And some Datadog goodies. At that point, I think we’ll be ready to start making comparative judgements across pages, speeds, and we’ll be able to start making intelligent decisions about how to speed up the app.