HAS: load testing the telework environment

The Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) – or French national health authority – was set up in August 2004 to improve the quality of patient care and guarantee equity within the healthcare system.

The HAS is in charge of: assessing the medical benefits of drugs, medical devices and procedures, and deciding whether to endorse payment of them by national health insurance; promoting good practices and proper use of health services by professionals and users; improving the quality of care in healthcare organizations and general medical practice; monitoring the quality of medical information; providing information to healthcare professionals and the public, and improving the quality of medical information; expanding consultation and collaboration with all players in the healthcare sector in France and abroad.

 

Context of ip-label’s intervention

The HAS has set forth a plan for service continuity (Plan de Continuité d’Activité – PCA) pertaining to the H1N1 flu. As a public organism, the HAS is responsible for ensuring continuity of service. The PCA implemented in response to the risk of a flu pandemic should also be replicable in any future crisis situation. One of the major components of the PCA is to enable the HAS’s 500 staff members to work from home, while maintaining good operating quality of their work environment for them.

 

Description of needs and responses

HAS staff members use a Lotus e-mail system in the office. The original architecture provided for 50 external user connections. A webmail platform was developed around the installation of a reverse proxy to allow all 500 employees to access their mail externally, all at the same time and in good working conditions. The HAS wanted to ensure the resilience of its webmail platform when 500 co-workers use their webmail simultaneously.

The HAS therefore sought an external service supplier to achieve the following goals:

  • identify the point of performance deterioration and the breaking point of the HAS webmail platform,
  • identify any possible congestion points,
  • provide operational recommendations for improvement.

 

“We are satisfied with the load testing services provided by ip-label. During the testing ip-label teams demonstrated their reactivity and professionalism. They furthermore contributed extensive expertise in the field of load testing.” Patrick CLEBANT, Head of Infrastructure & User Services and Laurent MARIE, Systems and Network Engineer

 

Selecting a service supplier

The HAS’s IT management drew up specifications to select a service supplier. ip-label was chosen for the quality of its offer as well as for its references.  Furthermore the HAS, already an ip-label customer, is very satisfied with the service delivered and the expertise of ip-label engineers. In addition, ip-label has shown great reactivity in a context where deadlines are strictly enforced.

 

How the service was carried out

For this mission ip-label mobilized an expert consultant who used dedicated tools to simulate a load increase on the webmail platform with two usage scenarios:

  • a usage scenario in “degraded” mode: mail sorting and retrieval of mail without attachments,
  • a usage scenario in “normal” mode: mail retrieval including the opening of a large (several MB) attachment.

The load resiliency test was carried out step by step: ip-label injected a load to the webmail which increased every 3 minutes by a load of 25 active users. The advantage of ip-label’s approach is that its scenarios behave as virtual users present on the public network; they simulate real users. These virtual users traverse each link in the technical infrastructure just like a real user would.

 

Results of load testing

The ip-label expert consultant drew up a summary report which he presented to the HAS.  The presentation yielded highly satisfactory results insofar as they confirmed the HAS’s misgivings about possible weaknesses in the platform:

  • a limitation of its internal bandwidth greatly impacted the performance of webmail beyond a certain threshold in the number of clients,
  • the authentication phase limited performance because of the many objects that transited back and forth.

 

Following this load test, the IT department was able to draft budgets for 2010 with a view to increasing bandwidth.

“One of the advantages of resorting to an impartial and independent outside company to perform this service lies in the reach of the results. The fact that the results were obtained by ip-label allowed us to communicate more easily with users and also with our management. Lastly, thanks to ip-label, the HAS is confident that it will be able to ensure service continuity in the event of a flu pandemic.”

 

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