Welcome!

Related Topics: @DevOpsSummit, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, @CloudExpo, @BigDataExpo

@DevOpsSummit: Blog Post

Software Quality Metrics for Your Continuous Delivery Pipeline | Part 3

It is safe to say that insightful logging and performance are two opposite goals

Let me ask you a question: would you say that you have implemented logging correctly for your application? Correct in the sense that it will provide you with all the insights you require to keep your business going once your users are struck by errors? And in a way that does not adversely impact your application performance? Honestly, I bet you have not. Today I will explain why you should turn off logging completely in production because of its limitations:

  • Relies on Developers
  • Lacks Context
  • Impacts Performance

Intrigued? Bear with me and I will show you how you can still establish and maintain a healthy and useful logging strategy for your deployment pipeline, from development to production, guided by metrics.

What Logging Can Do for You
Developers, including myself, often write log messages because they are lazy. Why should I set a breakpoint and fire up a debugger if it is so much more convenient to dump something to my console via a simple println()? This simple yet effective mechanism also works on headless machines where no IDE is installed, such as staging or production environments:

System.out.println("Been here, done that.");

Careful coders would use a logger to prevent random debug messages from appearing in production logs and additionally use guard statements to prevent unnecessary parameter construction:

if (logger.isDebugEnabled()) {
logger.debug("Entry number: " + i + " is " + String.valueOf(entry[i]));
}

Anyways, the point about logging is that that traces of log messages allow developers to better understand what their program is doing in execution. Does my program take this branch or that branch? Which statements were executed before that exception was thrown? I have done this at least a million of times, and most likely so have you:

if (condition) {
logger.debug("7: yeah!")
} else {
logger.debug("8: DAMN!!!")
}

Test Automation Engineers, usually developers by trade, equally use logging to better understand how the code under test complies with their test scenarios:

class AgentSpec extends spock.lang.Specification {

def "Agent.compute()"() {
def agent = AgentPool.getAgent()

when:
def result = agent.compute(TestFixtures.getData())

then:
logger.debug("result: "  + result);
result == expected
}
}

Logging is, undoubtedly, a helpful tool during development and I would argue that developers should use it as freely as possible if it helps them to understand and troubleshoot their code.

In production, application logging is useful for tracking certain events, such as the occurrence of a particular exception, but it usually fails to deliver what it is so often mistakenly used for: as a mechanism for analyzing application failures in production. Why?

Because approaches to achieving this goal with logging are naturally brittle: their usefulness depends heavily on developers, messages are without context, and if not designed carefully, logging may severely slow down your application.

Secretly, what you are really hoping to get from your application logs, in the one or the other form, is something like this:

A logging strategy that delivers out-of-the-box using dynaTrace: user context, all relevant data in place, zero config

The Limits of Logging
Logging Relies on Developers
Let's face it: logging is, inherently, a developer-centric mechanism. The usefulness of your application logs stands and falls with your developers. A best practice for logging in production says: "don't log too much" (see Optimal Logging @ Google testing blog). This sounds sensible, but what does this actually mean? If we recall the basic motivation behind logging in production, we could equally rephrase this as "log just enough information you need to know about a failure that enables you to take adequate actions". So, what would it take your developers to provide such actionable insights? Developers would need to correctly anticipate where in the code errors would occur in production. They would also need to collect any relevant bits of information along an execution path that bear these insights and, last but not least, present them in a meaningful way so that others can understand, too. Developers are, no doubt, a critical factor to the practicality of your application logs.

Logging Lacks Context
Logging during development is so helpful because developers and testers usually examine smaller, co-located units of code that are executed in a single thread. It is fairly easy to maintain an overview under such simulated conditions, such as a test scenario:

13:49:59 INFO com.company.product.users.UserManager - Registered user ‘foo'.
13:49:59 INFO com.company.product.users.UserManager - User ‘foo' has logged in.
13:49:59 INFO com.company.product.users.UserManager - User ‘foo' has logged out.

But how can you reliably identify an entire failing user transaction in a real-life scenario, that is, in a heavily multi-threaded environment with multiple tiers that serve piles of distributed log files? I say, hardly at all. Sure, you can go mine for certain isolated events, but you cannot easily extract causal relationships from an incoherent, distributed set of log messages:

13:49:59 INFO com.company.product.users.UserManager - User ‘foo' has logged in.
13:49:59 INFO com.company.product.users.UserManager - User ‘bar' has logged in.
...
13:49:60 SEVERE org.hibernate.exception.JDBCConnectionException: could not execute query
at org.hibernate.exception.SQLStateConverter.convert(SQLStateConverter.java:99)
...

After all, the ability to identify such contexts is key to deciding why a particular user action failed.

Logging Impacts Performance
What is a thorough logging strategy worth if your users cannot use your application because it is terribly slow? In case you did not know, logging, especially during peak load times, may severely slow down your application. Let's have a quick look at some of the reasons:

Writing log messages from the application's memory to persistent storage, usually to the file system, demands substantial I/O (see Top Performance Mistakes when moving from Test to Production: Excessive Logging). Traditional logger implementations wrote files by issuing synchronous I/O requests, which put the calling thread into a wait state until the log message was fully written to disk.

In some cases, the logger itself may cause a decent bottle-neck: in the Log4j library (up to version 1.2), every single log activity results in a call to an internal template method Appender.doAppend() that is synchronized for thread-safety (see Multithreading issues - doAppend is synchronised?). The practical implication of this is that threads, which log to the same Appender, for example a FileAppender, must queue up with any other threads writing logs. Consequently, the application spends valuable time waiting in synchronization instead of doing whatever the app was actually designed to do. This will hurt performance, especially in heavily multi-thread environments like web application servers.

These performance effects can be vastly amplified when exception logging comes into play: exception data, such as error message, stack trace and any other piggy-backed exceptions ("initial cause exceptions") greatly increase the amount of data that needs to be logged. Additionally, once a system is in a faulty state, the same exceptions tend to appear over and over again, further hurting application performance. We had once monitored a 30% drawdown on CPU resources due to more than 180,000 exceptions being thrown in only 5 minutes on one of our application servers (see Performance Impact of Exceptions: Why Ops, Test and Dev need to care). If we had written these exceptions to the file system, they would have trashed I/O, filled up our disk space in no time and had considerably increased our response times.

Subsequently, it is safe to say that insightful logging and performance are two opposite goals: if you want the one, then you have to make a compromise on the other.

For more logging tips click here for the full article.

More Stories By Martin Etmajer

Leveraging his outstanding technical skills as a lead software engineer, Martin Etmajer has been a key contributor to a number of large-scale systems across a range of industries. He is as passionate about great software as he is about applying Lean Startup principles to the development of products that customers love.

Martin is a life-long learner who frequently speaks at international conferences and meet-ups. When not spending time with family, he enjoys swimming and Yoga. He holds a master's degree in Computer Engineering from the Vienna University of Technology, Austria, with a focus on dependable distributed real-time systems.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. He cited examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He also highlighted how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Isomorphic Software will exhibit at DevOps Summit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Isomorphic Software provides the SmartClient HTML5/AJAX platform, the most advanced technology for building rich, cutting-edge enterprise web applications for desktop and mobile. SmartClient combines the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software with the simp...
"When you think about the data center today, there's constant evolution, The evolution of the data center and the needs of the consumer of technology change, and they change constantly," stated Matt Kalmenson, VP of Sales, Service and Cloud Providers at Veeam Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
We all know the latest numbers: Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from last year, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. We're rapidly approaching a data production of 40 zettabytes a day – more than we can every physically store, and exabytes and yottabytes are just around the corner. For many that’s a good sign, as data has been proven to equal money – IF it’s ingested, integrated, and analyzed fast enough. Without real-ti...
Actian Corporation has announced the latest version of the Actian Vector in Hadoop (VectorH) database, generally available at the end of July. VectorH is based on the same query engine that powers Actian Vector, which recently doubled the TPC-H benchmark record for non-clustered systems at the 3000GB scale factor (see tpc.org/3323). The ability to easily ingest information from different data sources and rapidly develop queries to make better business decisions is becoming increasingly importan...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
Big Data, cloud, analytics, contextual information, wearable tech, sensors, mobility, and WebRTC: together, these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Erik Perotti, Senior Manager of New Ventures on Plantronics’ Innovation team, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it ...
Cloud analytics is dramatically altering business intelligence. Some businesses will capitalize on these promising new technologies and gain key insights that’ll help them gain competitive advantage. And others won’t. Whether you’re a business leader, an IT manager, or an analyst, we want to help you and the people you need to influence with a free copy of “Cloud Analytics for Dummies,” the essential guide to this explosive new space for business intelligence.
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
Qosmos has announced new milestones in the detection of encrypted traffic and in protocol signature coverage. Qosmos latest software can accurately classify traffic encrypted with SSL/TLS (e.g., Google, Facebook, WhatsApp), P2P traffic (e.g., BitTorrent, MuTorrent, Vuze), and Skype, while preserving the privacy of communication content. These new classification techniques mean that traffic optimization, policy enforcement, and user experience are largely unaffected by encryption. In respect wit...
ReadyTalk has expanded the capabilities of the FoxDen collaboration platform announced late last year to include FoxDen Connect, an in-room video collaboration experience that launches with a single touch. With FoxDen Connect, users can now not only engage in HD video conferencing between iOS and Android mobile devices or Chrome browsers, but also set up in-person meeting rooms for video interactions. A host’s mobile device automatically recognizes the presence of a meeting room via beacon tech...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, discussed how leveraging the Industrial Internet a...
On Dice.com, the number of job postings asking for skill in Amazon Web Services increased 76 percent between June 2015 and June 2016. Salesforce.com saw its own skill mentions increase 37 percent, while DevOps and Cloud rose 35 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Even as they expand their presence in the cloud, companies are also looking for tech professionals who can manage projects, crunch data, and figure out how to make systems run more autonomously. Mentions of ‘data science’ as a skill ...