Simply Testable Blog

Figuring out how to automate away the pain of routine front-end web testing; the story behind

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Limited Task Assignment For Better Parallel Test Performance

A problem of which I’ve been aware for a while and which was the root of significant problems for yesterday’s MVP release relates to how test tasks are assigned out to workers.

A process runs every few seconds and picks a small number of tasks from each incomplete test and marks them as being ready to be assigned out to workers.

This process was introduced to ensure that many tests can run in parallel. Prior to the introduction of this process, the tasks for a new test would be assigned out to workers at all in one go. Subsequent tests would be delayed in starting until the workers had process the tasks of all previous requests.

There remained a problem with this process until I recently fixed it.

Whilst this ensured that tests all started more or less at the same time could run happily in parallel with no test blocking the progress of any other, it didn’t help cases of new tests being started with some existing tests well underway.

Imagine no tests are running and a single test for an 8000 URL site is started. The above-described process would select a small number of tasks from the single in-progress test and mark them as being ready to assign to workers.

A few seconds later, the process would run again and once more select a small number of tasks from the single in-progres test and mark them as being ready to assign to workers.

Jump a few minutes into the future and the process, over many iterations of selecting a small number of tasks to be marked as ready to assign to workers, has resulted in all the test’s tasks being assigned out to workers.

Given our current average throughput of about 6000 HTML validation tasks per hour, we’re now looking at roughly an hour for the workers to finish processing all those tasks.

In comes a new test. A small number of its tasks are selected for assignment to workers and then assigned to workers. Sounds good until you realise that the new test’s tasks are sitting at the end of the workers’ queues and have to wait about an hour until they get underway. Not Good At All.

The solution is quite straightforward: when selecting tasks to assign out to workers, pay attention to how many of the relevant test’s tasks have already been assigned out to workers. If there are already enough assigned out, don’t assign any more until those that are assigned have finished.

And that’s the change I recently introduced. A given test is now allowed up to 2 tasks per worker to be in progress at any given time. With 4 workers, this lets a given test have up to 8 tasks underway at once.

If a test has no tasks underway, 8 will be selected and assigned out to workers. If a test has 5 tasks underway, 3 will be selected and assigned out to workers. No more than 8 in-progress tasks at once are allowed.