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Your organization is getting ready to launch a new Dynamics CRM deployment. Prior to that its performance has to be tested to make sure that the level of responsiveness and scalability expected by stakeholders will be delivered. Sounds like a good plan.
The first step is to make sure that your testing solution works. Using a load testing tool at hand, you record a simple scenario where a user logs in and then creates a record. Then the tool replays captured traffic and checks for errors. Now get ready for the bad news: unexpectedly, the test fails and no record is created by the test.
This situation will most likely occur whether you test online or on-premise deployment. It will happen whether your application is Dynamics CRM 2011, Dynamics 365 or any product version released in between them. It will occur with virtually any test scenario, authentication method and regardless of what load testing tool you use.
The core problem causing test failure is broken correlation. What is correlation, you may ask? This post will answer this question and help you learn how to overcome Dynamics CRM load testing hurdles. This is the first in a series of posts sharing tips on load testing Dynamics CRM using Visual Studio, JMeter, and LoadRunner.
Load testing a web application starts from recording user actions with a tool that captures Web traffic and creates script. By load testing here we mean a method of recording and playing back test scenarios on a protocol level that is used in top performance testing tools like Visual Studio, LoadRunner or JMeter.
The tool then emulates how multiple physical users are accessing the application by instantiating virtual users replaying the script. At the same time, the tool monitors application performance to determine how user load impacts application responsiveness.
Notably, along with application data, the recorded traffic includes dynamic tokens and IDs created by the server to maintain user session security and application integrity. These dynamic parameters are the root cause of the problem.
Correlation in performance testing is a mechanism of extracting dynamic values from server responses and using them to substitute recorded values in the subsequent request during test execution. Learn more about correlation in load testing here.
Many top load testing tools automatically correlate recorded scripts and replay them without errors. This, however, is not going to happen with Dynamics 365 scenarios. What makes this Microsoft ERP platform such a tough cookie when comes to load-testing? This question goes to the heart of its architecture.
As an example of secure architecture, let's review a mechanism of a Web remote procedure call (WRPC tokens). These tokens are used to validate the identity of user sessions, connections, organizations, and to guarantee content integrity. To assure successful correlation strategy, load testing tools or test script developers need to know the rules of sending and receiving such tokens. Unfortunately, these rules are not systematically documented. Instead, they are experimentally discovered by some investigative performance engineers and developers, and scattered in several blogs and forum posts. Here's what we learned after analyzing dozens of Dynamic CRM test scenarios.
During a load test, every time you see an INVALID_WRPC_TOKEN error, be aware that your load-testing engine simply failed to extract a token value from a certain part of a response, provide appropriate encoding if necessary, and then include it in certain parts of subsequent requests.
There are a number of blogs that discuss the challenge with the INVALID_WRPC_TOKEN error during performance testing. One workaround was to disable WRPC tokens. That was possible in older versions of Dynamics CRM. However, according to some reports confirmed by our testing, in the latest Dynamics CRM versions, a registry hack to disable WRPC tokens does not always work.
Is there a way to overcome the Dynamics CRM correlation challenge to construct reliable test scripts that can be used for error-free performance testing?
Fortunately, yes. The rest of this blog is dedicated to sharing some rules that can help you to correlate your test script regardless of what load testing tool you use.
The bad news is that correlation rules for Dynamics CRM are not publicized. They are also complex. And there are many of them. The good news is that they can be revealed, documented and learned. Also, they are not tool-specific. This means that if you know the necessary rules for your scenario (learn some of them in this blog) you will likely be able to script them in the load-testing tool you currently have.
To prove this assumption, we conducted the following study:
First, we documented correlation rules for a simple test scenario as explained below. Then we asked experts in Visual Studio, JMeter, and LoadRunner, to record and configure the same scenario. The script at first did not work in any of these tools. But after the documented rules were applied, all of them were able to successfully complete the test.
Side note: In a series of subsequent blogs, we will provide a detailed account of the steps necessary to complete test script configuration in each of these tools. Also, stay tuned for the final blog where we will compare the usability and effectiveness of reviewed tools for performance testing Dynamics CRM.
With this said, not all load tools are created equal. For example, a tool that can fully auto-correlate your test script will save you a lot of time. But even when the tool available to you has insufficient auto-correlation and switching to a more appropriate tool is not possible, you can still make it work with some manual effort.
In our journey to discover the Dynamics CRM correlation rules, we used StresStimulus, our load testing tool designed to automatically correlate Dynamics CRM products. A benefit of StresStimulus is that it clearly exposes all correlation rules it finds and helps you to visualize them and implement in other tools.
For the purpose of this paper, we used an on-premise instance of Dynamics CRM to create such schema. If you use an online instance, then your correlation schema can be slightly different.
We used a simple test scenario of creating a lead consisting of the following steps (Fig. 1)
Fig. 1 Dynamics 365 Scenario: Create a New lead
After recording the scenario, the test case script is displayed on a test case object tree (Fig 2) that includes transactions, requests, as well as extractors and parameters created by auto-correlation.
Fig. 2 Test Case Object Tree
When replaying the script, an identical second lead is created. This suggests that auto-correlation is correct and complete. Recording a lead scenario in Dynamics CRM online is shown in this video.
For the purpose of studying auto-correlation, one of the most helpful views is the Extractor-Parameter object tree shown below. It helps to visualize relationships between server responses with extractors and client requests with parameters.
Objects are presented on the tree within 3 hierarchical levels (Fig. 3):
Fig. 3 Extractor-Parameter Object Tree
Let's take a closer look at the portion of the extractor-parameter tree in the orange rectangle. It is presented in the correlation topology schema (Fig. 4).
Fig. 4 Correlation Topology Schema
Here is how to read this graph:
Now let's recite some of the auto-correlation rules that you would need to use for manual correlation in your performance testing tool (unless you use StresStimulus).
Extractor editor for WRPC token timestamp is shown on Fig. 5. It uses regular expression:
The extracted value is an 18-digit timestamp.
Fig. 5 WRPC Token Extractor Editor
To extract a value of the WRPC token, the following regular expression is used:
Both, WRPC token value and timestamp, are sent in the request custom headers CRMWRPCToken and CRMWRPCTokenTimeStamp respectively.
Parameter editor for request 276 is shown on the Fig. 6.
Fig. 6 WRPC Token Parameter Editor
"Name": "Penny Shep"
Extractor editor for Entity ID is shown on Fig. 7. It uses a regular expression:
Fig. 7 Entity ID Extractor Editor
Entity ID is sent as a part of an XML message in the request body in the attribute.
Parameter editor for request 278 is shown on the Fig. 8. The recorded value is shown crossed out. It is replaced by preceding highlighted extractor.
Fig. 8 Entity ID Parameter Editor
While performance testing of Dynamic CRM/365 is not trivial, it is achievable with the performance tool you already have, even if it failed in the past. To complete your test script, use the correlation rules described in this article. If your scenarios require additional rules, expose them by recording it in StresStimulus, downloadable here. Then use these rules as a blueprint to manually create extractors and parameters in your tool and take advantage of performance testing that finally works.
Visual Studio, JMeter, and LoadRunner users: stay tuned for coming posts with step-by-step script configuration guides.
I have been looking for info around performance testing CRM and this article explains the issues I have been facing wonderfully! Great work.
Eagerly looking forward to the article on Visual Studio :)
Thanks for the comment!
Great job! Thanks for this very useful and detailed article!
Thanks for the comment
Good job. This kind of information is very rare and useful.
Henry, thanks for the kind comment. Many Dynamics CRM teams are discouraged by the complexity of developing test scripts and skip performance testing altogether. Our goal of launching this blog is to share knowledge and techniques that will help to spend less time on configuring tests and more time actually running them to optimize performance and end-user experience.
An exceptional piece of work. This is by far one of the most comprehensive and articulately presented material on the subject of Dynamics CRM performance testing. I would highly advise that it be shared with testing teams, IT teams and support teams as it also provides some clarity on what is going on behind the "screens".
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