Welcome!

Web 2.0 Authors: Victoria Livschitz, Lori MacVittie, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Larry Dragich

Related Topics: DevOps Journal, Java, Linux, Web 2.0, Big Data Journal

DevOps Journal: 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

Martin Etmajer has several years of experience as a Software Architect as well as in monitoring and managing performance in highly available cluster environments. In his current role as a Technology Strategist at the Compuware APM Center of Excellence, he contributes to the strategic development of Compuware’s dynaTrace APM solution, where he focuses on performance monitoring in Cloud technologies and along the Continuous Delivery deployment pipeline. Reach him at @metmajer

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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
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 Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.