Businesses are heavily reliant on their IT infrastructure to stay competitive and meet customer demands. However, this infrastructure can be complex and prone to errors, leading to potential downtime and loss of revenue. This is where chaos engineering comes in – a practice that helps businesses identify potential issues in their systems before they can cause significant problems.
In this blog post, we’ll explore what chaos engineering is, why it’s important to businesses, and how they can get started with implementing it.
What is Chaos Engineering?
Chaos engineering is a practice that involves intentionally injecting failures into a distributed computing system to test its resilience and identify potential issues. It is based on ideas from chaos theory, which emphasizes uncertain and random behaviour.
This process can be used to simulate various types of failures, such as server crashes, network outages, or database failures, and observe how the system responds to these failures.
By simulating these failures, chaos engineering helps businesses identify weaknesses in their systems and take corrective action to improve their reliability and resilience.
History of Chaos Engineering
After a database outage in the relational table model in 2010, the streaming company chose to switch to the cloud. The engineers at Netflix discovered that no single component could provide 100% uptime after moving to the AWS cloud infrastructure.
However, it was challenging to evaluate the robustness of cloud-based large-scale distributed systems because there were numerous processes running.
The concept of chaos engineering was first introduced by Netflix in 2011. Without affecting the final user, Netflix used it to test various parameters and components.
In order to prevent the system from collapsing when one or more services fail, they developed a tool called Chaos Monkey, which randomly killed instances of their service in production to test its resilience. This led to the development of other tools, such as Chaos Kong and Chaos Gorilla, which helped to simulate larger-scale failures.
Key Principles of Chaos Engineering
These are the three key principles that are essential to the practice of chaos engineering.
- Embracing failure – Chaos engineering involves intentionally injecting failures into a system to identify weaknesses. This requires businesses to embrace the concept of failure and understand that it’s an essential part of the process.
- Focusing on resilience – The primary goal of chaos engineering is to improve the resilience of a system. This requires businesses to focus on identifying potential issues and taking corrective action to improve the system’s ability to recover from failures.
- Automating the process – Chaos engineering requires a significant amount of testing and experimentation, which can be time-consuming and labour-intensive. To streamline the process, businesses need to automate as much of the testing and experimentation as possible.
How Does Chaos Engineering Work?
Similar to stress testing, chaos engineering seeks to find and fix network or system flaws. Chaos engineering tests and makes corrections to a system as a whole, unlike stress testing.
Chaos engineering looks at issues whose potential sources appear to be limitless. Beyond the apparent problems, it tests distributed systems against sets of less probable problems or problems themselves. The objective is to learn more about the mechanism.
The process is typically divided into these four steps:
- Hypothesis: The hypothesis is the first stage, where engineers consider what might happen to the state of the application if a variable is changed. Chaos engineers can formulate many hypotheses and record their beliefs using hypotheses. Afterwards, they compare these predictions to actual occurrences.
- Testing: When evaluating changes to services, infrastructure, networks, and devices, chaos engineers use a simulated environment and load testing. The component is restructured or rebuilt by the chaos engineers if the outcomes don’t match the expectations.
- Blast radius: The blast radius refers to the size of the harm done during testing. When evaluating particular factors and elements, chaos engineers create a blast radius.
- Insights: The outcomes of the testing, blast radius, and premise used in chaos engineering are insights. Chaos engineers can restructure and rebuild components to perform better in unexpected circumstances by using insights.
Types of Experiments in Chaos Engineering
After performing required tests, chaos engineers frequently presume that the software development process will go smoothly. However, this action can sometimes backfire, particularly when there are numerous connections.
Therefore, in order to identify hidden relationships between microservices, Reddis, databases, memcached, and downstream services, Chaos Engineers must run extensive tests. They can comprehend the difficulties that could result in failure in the production and post-production phases by carrying out these tests and checks.
For chaos engineering, it’s crucial to introduce a failure or something that can make your software act differently. With the help of this exercise, engineers can identify the software’s flaws or vulnerable parts and create a backup plan to keep it functional in the event of a malfunction.
Engineers use site reliability engineering to attempt and automatically correct faults they discover while evaluating the system’s reliability. Through such automation, they can determine which automatic solutions are effective and which tasks require the development of backup components.
Benefits of Chaos Engineering to Businesses
1. Improved system reliability
The system’s resilience will be improved by conducting planned chaos trials with the aid of a Chaos Engineering tool.
You need to carefully select your metrics and formulate a steady-state hypothesis as you carry out these chaos tests. The initial Chaos Engineering tests can be conducted in pre-production stages like staging or any other location where the blast radius is small. This guarantees that users won’t be harmed in the event of a bad effect.
2. Reduced downtime
The technical team can troubleshoot, make repairs, and respond to incidents more quickly now that they have been informed of and brought up to speed on the earlier chaos experiments. Insights gained from chaos testing can therefore prevent more production mishaps in the future.
One method to decrease incident reaction time is to hold gamedays. It’s important to make space in your workflow for the team to rehearse what to do in case the production environment experiences a problem.
3. Improved customer satisfaction
You can conduct trials close to production once you and your team feel comfortable using Chaos Engineering. In the ideal implementation, all experiments are carried out immediately using the real data collected in the production setting.
By conducting your experiments in the production environment, which is treated as the actual system, you can get a clear picture of what your end users will encounter. Fewer network outages and service interruptions will occur on the system, which will enhance user experience.
4. Improved team collaboration and confidence
The knowledge of the engineering team is enhanced by the insights that chaos engineers acquire from these chaotic experiments. As a consequence, there are quicker response times, better teamwork, and greater confidence. These insights can also be used to instruct less experienced coworkers.
5. Improves application performance monitoring
One of the most comprehensive methods of performance engineering and testing methodologies is called chaos testing. Regularly carrying out chaos tests builds trust in distributed systems and ensures that apps continue to function even in the face of significant unexpected failures.
Challenges that Chaos Engineering can Address For Businesses
- The complexity of systems – Modern IT systems can be complex, with multiple interconnected components. Chaos engineering can help businesses identify potential issues in these complex systems and take corrective action to improve their resilience.
- Lack of testing – Many businesses struggle to test their systems adequately, leaving them vulnerable to potential failures. Chaos engineering can help businesses overcome this challenge by providing a systematic approach to testing and experimentation.
- Limited resources – Businesses often have limited resources to devote to testing and experimentation. Chaos engineering can help businesses make the most of their resources by automating the testing process and focusing on the most critical areas of their systems.
Chaos Engineering Tools
This is an open-source instrument created by Netflix for evaluating the resiliency of cloud-based systems. To evaluate a service’s resilience, it operates by arbitrarily terminating instances of it that are currently in use. The tool is highly configurable and can be set up to operate at various times throughout the day or week, making it a useful resource for companies seeking to increase the resilience of their system.
Gremlin is an excellent SaaS tool for conducting chaos experiments. You can reliably, securely, and purposefully introduce failure into your systems to discover flaws. You can carry out operations in Gremlin using the REST-based Gremlin API. This makes it simple to automate your trials and launch attacks from another application. Gremlin has the ability to autonomously stop experiments when a system becomes unstable.
Azure Chaos Studio
The purpose of Azure Chaos Studio, a completely managed service, is to enhance resilience testing through the intentional introduction of faults that replicate actual outages. It provides an engineering experimentation platform for accelerating the discovery of challenging issues while it is still in preview, as I write this article. Before consumers are affected, disrupt your application to find gaps and plan mitigation.
AWS Fault Injection Simulator
To aid in enhancing the performance, observability, and resilience of the application, AWS developed the Fault Injection Simulator, a completely managed service. In the chaos engineering method of stressing an application in a testing or production setting by producing disruptive events, fault injection experiments are used.
Chaos Engineering Use Cases
CASE STUDY 1 – National Australia Bank
In order to lower incident counts, National Australia Bank switched from on-premise technology to AWS in 2014. They also used chaos engineering. To fully utilize the tool, NAB added Netflix’s Chaos Monkey to operate on the nab.com.au production environment. The application periodically checks the resilience of its infrastructure built on Amazon, and it randomly kills servers inside its design to make sure it can recover from failures.
CASE STUDY 2 – LinkedIn
To better understand the potential points of failure and how these failures might impact end users, LinkedIn developed their “LinkedOut” failure injection testing framework.
The LinkedOut framework efficiently simulates failures across LinkedIn’s application stack, helping developers find possible problems down the road. Engineers use it as well to verify that their code is reliable. To demonstrate its robustness, it is then expanded to include production-related situations.
As technology continues to play an increasingly significant role in businesses of all sizes and industries, it’s more important than ever to prioritize system resilience and reliability.
Chaos engineering provides a proactive approach to identifying and addressing potential weaknesses in your systems, ensuring that your business can continue to operate smoothly and successfully, even in the face of unexpected challenges.
So if you’re a business looking to improve the resilience of your systems, consider implementing chaos engineering – it may just be the key to unlocking a more reliable, resilient future for your organization.
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