Welcome!

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

@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
"DivvyCloud as a company set out to help customers automate solutions to the most common cloud problems," noted Jeremy Snyder, VP of Business Development at DivvyCloud, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
CI/CD is conceptually straightforward, yet often technically intricate to implement since it requires time and opportunities to develop intimate understanding on not only DevOps processes and operations, but likely product integrations with multiple platforms. This session intends to bridge the gap by offering an intense learning experience while witnessing the processes and operations to build from zero to a simple, yet functional CI/CD pipeline integrated with Jenkins, Github, Docker and Azure...
"Our strategy is to focus on the hyperscale providers - AWS, Azure, and Google. Over the last year we saw that a lot of developers need to learn how to do their job in the cloud and we see this DevOps movement that we are catering to with our content," stated Alessandro Fasan, Head of Global Sales at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
IoT is rapidly becoming mainstream as more and more investments are made into the platforms and technology. As this movement continues to expand and gain momentum it creates a massive wall of noise that can be difficult to sift through. Unfortunately, this inevitably makes IoT less approachable for people to get started with and can hamper efforts to integrate this key technology into your own portfolio. There are so many connected products already in place today with many hundreds more on the h...
As organizations shift towards IT-as-a-service models, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and now cloud environments grows with it. Commvault can ensure protection, access and E-Discovery of your data – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enterprise. In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Randy De Meno, Chief Technologist - Windows Products and Microsoft Part...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...
Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, is an accomplished digital business executive with extensive global expertise as a strategist, technologist, innovator, marketer, and communicator. For over 30 years across five continents, he has built success with Fortune 500 corporations, vendors, governments, and as a leading research analyst and consultant.
JETRO showcased Japan Digital Transformation Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo® at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is a non-profit organization that provides business support services to companies expanding to Japan. With the support of JETRO's dedicated staff, clients can incorporate their business; receive visa, immigration, and HR support; find dedicated office space; identify local government subsidies; get...
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
In this presentation, you will learn first hand what works and what doesn't while architecting and deploying OpenStack. Some of the topics will include:- best practices for creating repeatable deployments of OpenStack- multi-site considerations- how to customize OpenStack to integrate with your existing systems and security best practices.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Archi...
Digital transformation has increased the pace of business creating a productivity divide between the technology haves and have nots. Managing financial information on spreadsheets and piecing together insight from numerous disconnected systems is no longer an option. Rapid market changes and aggressive competition are motivating business leaders to reevaluate legacy technology investments in search of modern technologies to achieve greater agility, reduced costs and organizational efficiencies. ...
"With Digital Experience Monitoring what used to be a simple visit to a web page has exploded into app on phones, data from social media feeds, competitive benchmarking - these are all components that are only available because of some type of digital asset," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...