Evaluating Open Source LoadRunner Alternatives

LoadRunner is a fantastic tool, but it's not the only one that's great for load testing. Here are some open-source alternatives that are powerful in their own right.

If you are like many enterprises in the market, you have invested in using HP LoadRunner/Microfocus LoadRunner for your load testing.  Without a doubt, LoadRunner is the most popular load testing tool on the market.  Since it's initial release in 1993, the product has shaped the way companies have approached load testing their applications.

Reasons for LoadRunner Popularity

LoadRunner's success has not been simply based on it's position as the first to market.  Consistently, it has been a tool with extensive features and support for various types of load testing.  Specifically, LoadRunner has shined in the following areas:

  1. Diverse protocol support - with support for standard protocols like HTTP/S, as well as niche protocols like SAP GUI, Oracle, and Citrix ICA
  2. Robust IDE - with ability to record user flows and generate scripts easily that could then be extended with custom Scripting
  3. Integration to other HP/Microfocus tools - strong integration to other tools like HP ALM (including HP Performance Center) and HP UFT/QTP

Changes in the Market

Since LoadRunner's release in 1993, the industry has changed quite a bit, with several new trends emerging.  While LoadRunner has worked well in the legacy world it was born from, it has had to adapt to some new trends in the market to retain its industry leading position:

  1. Open source adoption: open source has impacted all aspects of development and testing, including a whopping increase in interest for JMeter in comparison to LoadRunner
  2. Cloud Presence: cloud load testing is becoming increasingly popular, with most companies now experiencing the benefits of less maintenance and greater scale
  3. Increased Agility: teams are adopting Agile at a rapid pace, and new trends like DevOps require increased collaboration and transparency

Limitations of LoadRunner in Today's World

In the past 5 years, we have started to see the industry shift away from LoadRunner and research open source alternatives for their load testing.  The main limitations we have noted that are driving companies to look at new solutions are:

  • Cost: HP LoadRunner typically costs in the mid six figures for an average size deployment.  If you are looking at a large deployment, seven figures is not out of question.
  • Perpetual Licensing: though StormRunner has adopted a more flexible licensing model that is consumption/subscription based, typical LoadRunner licenses are still perpetual and difficult to scale up and down
  • Decreased Need for Non HTTP Protocols: with the migration of many packaged applications to the cloud, companies have less need for the wealth of protocols that LoadRunner can support

Open Source Alternatives to HP LoadRunner

Given the shifting market dynamics, we are seeing companies move quickly to investigate and adopt open source load testing tools.  These 3 open source tools are emerging as the best solutions for open source load testing:

  1. JMeter: JMeter has carved out a niche as the closest comparison to Loadrunner.  It offers a UI with similar functionality to LoadRunner that is easy for LoadRunner users to adopt.  Additionally, there are several plugins that help to extend JMeter and test additional protocols outside of HTTP/S.
  2. Gatling: Gatling has taken a different approach that is more code based rather than UI centric, which developers seem to appreciate.  The tool is easily integrated into developers environments allowing for shift left load testing.  With the right implementation, it is realistic to build a culture of performance which is though about from the beginning of any new feature development
  3. Element: For users looking to replace the TruClient functionality in LoadRunner with an open source approach, Element is the ticket.  It uses Puppeteer to execute headless browsers with a Selenium-like scripting language that is implemented in Typescript.  For customers looking to test single page apps, AJAX, and complex browser side logic, testing through the browser with Element will likely be the easiest approach.

Extending Your Open Source Environment with Flood

To achieve the complete package that is offered within HP, it is likely that you will want to extend your open source tools with a platform like Flood. The transparency of these open source tools allows Flood to integrate just as if they were native products.  By adding Flood to your open source load testing tools, you will gain several benefits:

  1. Enhanced, consistent reporting: creating reports from open source tools can require a lot of manual effort and/or custom development.  Additionally, if multiple open source tools are in use, you may have trouble getting one clear picture of performance
  2. Easy integration: with industry leading integration into popular tools like AWS, Azure, New Relic, AppDynamics, and Dynatrace.  Additionally, Flood has a robust API for creating your own custom integrations into your DevOps pipeline
  3. Unlimited Scale: with Flood, you can test with millions of users without problem.  Our customer consistently test with 5 million users and 1 million requests per second
  4. Lighting Fast Support: with Flood, we have performance experts sprinkled across the globe to help you with performance challenges in minutes.  Open source tools can be tricky and without someone to support you, you might be out of luck at critical testing periods

Conclusion: Explore Open Source Alternatives if You Feel Ready

HP LoadRunner is a full featured tool that provides a lot of great benefits to the organizations using it.  However, with the rapid changes in the industry over the last few years, it has been difficult for Microfocus to keep up with the development needed to stay current.  Recently, open source tools have emerged as the leading alternative to address the shortcomings of LoadRunner.  While open source tools aren't for everyone, they are a great solution for the more forward thinking teams in the market.  

If you'd like to learn more about how open source alternatives to HP LoadRunner may benefit your organization, please reach out to us for a quick consultation.  Regardless of what tool you choose, we are always eager to support you in your load testing journey and hear what the market has to say.

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