Welcome!

Related Topics: @DevOpsSummit, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Agile Computing, @BigDataExpo

@DevOpsSummit: Blog Post

Application Failures in Production | @DevOpsSummit [DevOps]

The wealth of out-of-the-box insights you could obtain from a single urgent, albeit unspecific log message

How to Approach Application Failures in Production

In my recent article, "Software Quality Metrics for your Continuous Delivery Pipeline - Part III - Logging," I wrote about the good parts and the not-so-good parts of logging and concluded that logging usually fails to deliver what it is so often mistakenly used for: as a mechanism for analyzing application failures in production. In response to the heated debates on reddit.com/r/devops and reddit.com/r/programing, I want to demonstrate the wealth of out-of-the-box insights you could obtain from a single urgent, albeit unspecific log message if you only are equipped with the magic ingredient; full transaction context:

Examples of insights you could obtain from full transaction context on a single log message

Bear with me until I get to explain what this actually means and how it helps you get almost immediate answers to the most urgent questions when your users are struck by an application failure:

  • "How many users are affected and who are they?"
  • "Which tiers are affected by which errors and what is the root cause?"

Operator: I'm here because you broke something. (courtesy of ThinkGeek.com)

When All You Have Is a Lousy Log Message
Does this story sound familiar to you? It's a Friday afternoon and you just received the release artifacts from the development team belatedly, which need to be released by Monday morning. After spending the night and another day in operations to get this release out into production timely, you notice the Monday after that everything you have achieved in the end was some lousy log message:

08:55:26 SEVERE com.company.product.login.LoginLogic - LoginException occurred when processing Login transaction

While this scenario hopefully does not reflect a common case for you, it still shows an important aspect in the life of development and operations: working as an operator involves monitoring the production environment and providing assistance in troubleshooting application failures mainly with the help of log messages - things that developers have baked into their code. While certainly not all log messages need to be as poor as this one, getting down to the bottom of a production failure is often a tedious endeavor (see this comment on reddit by RecklessKelly who sometimes needs weeks to get his "Eureka moment") - if at all possible.

Why There Is No Such Thing as a 100% Error-Free Code
Production failures can become a major pain for your business with long-term effects: they will not only make your visitors buy elsewhere, but depending on the level of frustrations, your customers may choose to stay at your competition instead of giving you another chance.

As we all know, we just cannot get rid of application failures in production entirely. Agile methodologies, such as Extreme Programming or Scrum, aim to build quality into our processes; however, there is still no such thing as a 100% error-free application. "We need to write more tests!" you may argue and I would agree: disciplines such as TDD and ATDD should be an integral part of your software development process since they, if applied correctly, help you produce better code and fewer bugs. Still, it is simply impossible to test each and every corner of your application for all possible combinations of input parameters and application state. Essentially, we can run only a limited subset of all possible test scenarios. The common goal of developers and test automation engineers, hence, must be to implement a testing strategy, which allows them to deliver code of sufficient quality. Consequently, there is always a chance that something can go wrong, and, as a serious business, you will want to be prepared for the unpredictable and, additionally, have as much control over it as possible:

Why you cannot get rid of application failures in production: remaining failure probability

Without further ado, let's examine some precious out-of-the-box insights you could obtain if you are equipped with full transaction context and are able to capture all transactions.

Why this is important? Because it enables you to see the contributions of input parameters, processes, infrastructure and users at all times whenever a failure occurred, solve problems faster, and additionally use the presented information such as unexpected input parameters to further improve your testing strategy.

Initial Situation: Aggregated Log Messages
Instead of crawling a bunch of possibly distributed log files to determine the count of particular log messages, we may, first of all, want to have this done automatically for us just as they happen. This gives a good overview on the respective message frequencies and facilitates prioritization:

Aggregated log events: severity, logger name, message and count

What we see here (analysis view based on our PurePath technology) is that there have been 104 occurrences of the same log message in the application. We could also observe other captured event data, such as the severity level and the name of the logger instance (usually the name of the class that created the logger).

Question #1: How many users are affected and who are they?

Failed Business Transactions: "Logins" and "Logins by Username"

Having the full transactional context and not just the log message allows us to figure out which critical Business Transactions of our application are impacted. From the dashboard above we can observe that "Logins" and "Logins by Username" have failed: we see that 61 users attempted the 104 logins and who these users were by their username.

For questions 2 and 3, and for further insight, 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
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, will discuss how they b...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SkyScale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SkyScale is a world-class provider of cloud-based, ultra-fast multi-GPU hardware platforms for lease to customers desiring the fastest performance available as a service anywhere in the world. SkyScale builds, configures, and manages dedicated systems strategically located in maximum-security...
As you move to the cloud, your network should be efficient, secure, and easy to manage. An enterprise adopting a hybrid or public cloud needs systems and tools that provide: Agility: ability to deliver applications and services faster, even in complex hybrid environments Easier manageability: enable reliable connectivity with complete oversight as the data center network evolves Greater efficiency: eliminate wasted effort while reducing errors and optimize asset utilization Security: imple...
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, will discuss how by using...
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japanese Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ruby Development Inc. builds new services in short period of time and provides a continuous support of those services based on Ruby on Rails. For more information, please visit https://github.com/RubyDevInc.
When it comes to cloud computing, the ability to turn massive amounts of compute cores on and off on demand sounds attractive to IT staff, who need to manage peaks and valleys in user activity. With cloud bursting, the majority of the data can stay on premises while tapping into compute from public cloud providers, reducing risk and minimizing need to move large files. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Scott Jeschonek, Director of Product Management at Avere Systems, discussed the IT and busine...
As businesses evolve, they need technology that is simple to help them succeed today and flexible enough to help them build for tomorrow. Chrome is fit for the workplace of the future — providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will take a look at various options as to how ChromeOS can be leveraged to interact with people on the devices, and formats th...
Is advanced scheduling in Kubernetes achievable? Yes, however, how do you properly accommodate every real-life scenario that a Kubernetes user might encounter? How do you leverage advanced scheduling techniques to shape and describe each scenario in easy-to-use rules and configurations? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Oleg Chunikhin, CTO at Kublr, will answer these questions and demonstrate techniques for implementing advanced scheduling. For example, using spot instances ...
First generation hyperconverged solutions have taken the data center by storm, rapidly proliferating in pockets everywhere to provide further consolidation of floor space and workloads. These first generation solutions are not without challenges, however. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Wes Talbert, a Principal Architect and results-driven enterprise sales leader at NetApp, will discuss how the HCI solution of tomorrow will integrate with the public cloud to deliver a quality hybrid cloud e...
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Yuasa System will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Yuasa System is introducing a multi-purpose endurance testing system for flexible displays, OLED devices, flexible substrates, flat cables, and films in smartphones, wearables, automobiles, and healthcare.
The session is centered around the tracing of systems on cloud using technologies like ebpf. The goal is to talk about what this technology is all about and what purpose it serves. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Shashank Jain, Development Architect at SAP, will touch upon concepts of observability in the cloud and also some of the challenges we have. Generally most cloud-based monitoring tools capture details at a very granular level. To troubleshoot problems this might not be good enough.
Companies are harnessing data in ways we once associated with science fiction. Analysts have access to a plethora of visualization and reporting tools, but considering the vast amount of data businesses collect and limitations of CPUs, end users are forced to design their structures and systems with limitations. Until now. As the cloud toolkit to analyze data has evolved, GPUs have stepped in to massively parallel SQL, visualization and machine learning.