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What is Chaos Engineering? Definition, Examples & Much More

StarAgilecalenderJune 21, 2022book minseyes2020

The web has become very complex and we are relying completely on these services. And sometimes due to failures, there is an outage and this can cost too much for the companies. There is no option for the companies to wait for the next failure and endure that high cost. So, the only solution to this rising problem is found in chaos engineering. The cost of downtime is huge for many failures and to overcome those costs, the companies are turning to this solution. So, in this article, we are going to discuss one of the major approaches followed by various companies to make sure that their downtime is minimum and that they are able to handle those failures. Not only this, we are going to understand why companies are using this approach and what are the best practices to incorporate in the companies. If you are also interested in this field, then you can learn about DevOps and go for DevOps Certification Training. This will help you understand how these things work and have a better job perspective for yourself as well.

So now jump directly to our main topic- Chaos Engineering!

What is Chaos Engineering?

There could be various vulnerabilities when you are working with a distributed system. The principles used in chaos engineering help in discovering those issues. There could be failures and errors that are present in the production software and they can cause outages in the system. But this practice of chaos engineering can help the team to find those failures at the right time. In this, the team can also inject the bug or issue into the system and see how the system reacts to it and monitor how much stress it causes to the system.

In this, the teams will intentionally break the system to know what could be issues that can impact the components and end-user applications. They can then address those issues and overcome them before they can cause havoc over the whole system. Using this technique, the admin is able to identify the weak points in the system and see how it is going to react when there is pressure on the system. This prepares the team to face the failures and come up with strategies to reduce the downtime for the companies. They can identify the bugs that are yet to cause the issues system-wide. Using chaos engineering, the engineers in the team are able to deliver robust, resilient, and cloud-native applications that are very strong to work in any given conditions. There are various teams in the project where this chaos engineering can be used. It is dependent on the stack that is needed to be tested like networking, infrastructure, or databases.

How does chaos engineering works?

The term is first used by the engineers at Netflix. The use of online videos migrated to the cloud infrastructure, but the web became too complicated and that is when this term came to light. There are four principles of this term and they are mentioned below:

  1. Knowing the normal behavior of the system: One of the first things that is needed in this type of approach is to know what is the normal behavior of the system and how it is expected to react to certain things. The steady state is defined and this includes the measurable outputs that can define that state.
  2. Generating Hypothesis: During an experiment, we need a hypothesis for comparing to a stable control group, and the same applies here too. If there is a reasonable expectation for a particular action according to which we will change the steady-state of a system, then the first thing to do is to fix the system so that we accommodate for the action that will potentially have that effect on the system.
  3. Testing: This part is very much important as this will define how the system is reacting to the real-world problem. This includes testing by designing experiments that will have real-world events. The team can introduce terminating servers, network failures, dependency, latency, and other malfunctions to see how the system reacts to all those chaos.
  4. Taking insights: Now that the experiment is conducted, it is time to compare the results. This will include knowing how the system changes after the disturbances are introduced. This will be compared with the steady-state. There are various tools like CloudWatch, Kibana, and Splunk that can be used and they are already part of that architecture. If the team finds that there are differences, then it can be used to make the improvements and ready the system for future possibilities. If the system is just like the steady-state, then the system is in a good state and can work in chaos.

Why do you need chaos engineering at all?

We the team are testing the limits of their application; they can have a lot of insight and that insight is very useful to the companies in many ways. Those are mentioned below:

Resilience and reliability

Using this technique, the companies are able to see how their system is going to work under pressure. If the test results are coming as positive, then the system that they have developed is resilient and reliable. They can perform well under stress. This will help the organization to use its intelligence to make systems like this more often in the future. This intelligence can fuel the developers to make more innovations and they can implement design changes and go for better production quality and more durability.

Better collaboration

When the system is working fine in the chaos condition, it is not the good news for the developers only. There are many teams involved in this. The technical group of the company will be able to assist in a better way and they will be able to make their response time efficient. This will lead to better collaborations among the teams in the organization.

Speedy response

Now the team is aware of the chances of failure and when they are possible in the system, they can prepare themselves for that condition. The insights can be used to increase the speed of response time. The team can speed up troubleshooting, repairs, and also incident management.

Better customer services

When the team is ready to face the challenges and faster the response time, they will be able to reduce the downtime. The system has better resilience and reliability and this will increase the overall customer experience. The service quality will increase and the demands of the customers can be met very easily. This will lead to high efficiency and performance.

Increases business value

Now that the systems are better working and have great performance, the customers are also happy with the services, the companies can have an edge in the market. They will have a high business value for their services. They can have a competitive edge with their time saving, money, and resources in the market.

This practice will help in reducing the downtime for the system and hence there will be fewer distractions and disappointments and the companies can flourish.

What are the examples of chaos engineering?

There are plenty of Chaos engineering tests and there is no limit to that. But below we are mentioning some of the chaos engineering examples for you.

  • Simulating the failure of a micro-component. This is one of the most common approaches followed.
  • Turning a virtual machine off to see how a dependency reacts.
  • Simulating a high CPU load. This will provide how the system is going to work when there is more CPU Load.
  • Disconnecting the system from the data center.
  • Injecting latency between services.
  • Randomly causing functions to throw exceptions (also known as function-based chaos).
  • Adding instructions to a program and allowing fault injection (also known as code insertion).
  • Disrupting syncs between system clocks.
  • Emulating I/O errors.
  • Causing sudden spikes in traffic.
  • Injecting byzantine failures.

Challenges to this approach

There are many benefits mentioned above in this article, but there are some challenges as well that come with this approach. So, to make sure that you are fully aware of this, some common challenges are described below:

Unnecessary damage

The testing in the chaos engineering includes the stimulation of issues and sometimes those can be unnecessary. The main reason to use chaos engineering is to reduce the blast radius but sometimes the application vulnerabilities are not defined clearly and it can end up overrunning the designated blast radius. This will result in unnecessary damage to the system. So sometimes with chaos engineering, there could be a chance of introduction of new points of failure which can be a pint of trouble for the originations.

Lack of observability

One of the common problems faced by the engineering while incorporating chaos engineering is that they are not able to monitor the observation. The establishment of the control end to end can be tricky business and it becomes harder for the blast radius. When clear observation and visibility are not present, it becomes difficult for the team to know about the true impact of the issue on the system. They are not able to prioritize the fixes and this lack of observation can cause huge problems in the system. They are not able to find the root cause of the issue and this will not solve the problem but rather make it more complex.

Finding the steady-state

One of the major problems that the team faces while working on the chaos engineering is that they are not sure of the starting state of the system before they need to begin the test. If they are not able to know what is the steady-state, then they are not able to find the desirable outcomes from the test and hence those tests will be of no use. Not only this, this will put the whole system at greater risk, and sometimes the blast radius can be hard to control.

Is chaos engineering different than testing?

Now that we are learning more about managing chaos, the question may arise- what is the difference between chaos engineering and testing?

There are many things covered when the team is doing testing for the new application development. The common types of testing include- Unit Testing, Integration Testing, and System tests. In unit testing, the team of testers will write the unit test scenarios and they are used to test each component of the system. This is free from any dependencies and other competent in the system. In integration testing, those components are used to test the behaviors of the system. These external components are used so that extensive testing can be done. But even if the testing is done in the right way, it is not going to guarantee the working of the system in real-time without any issues.

These tests are not designed in such a way that they can check the overall health, performance, and robustness of the system. There would always be uncertainty.

But when we talk about chaos engineering, it will have a wide range of tests and experiments that are able to find those issues. These tests are distributed in the overall system and they help in knowing the capability of the system. In this, a deliberate attempt is made to introduce the issue in the issues. With that, it is understood how the system is reacting in that environment and what are the side effects. Using this type of testing; the team is aware of the potential issues that may arise in the system while working in the real world. So, with this, the system can be made full proof before they are being pushed into the world. The chaos testing will provide confidence to the system when the state is working fine and it will help the business to have better growth in the market.

Final verdict

There are various tools that are used in the market to help with this kind of testing of the system. Some of the common tools that are used by the majority of companies in the world are:

  • Chaos Monkey: Originally developed by Netflix engineers in 2010.
  • Gremlin Platform: It is used by clients to set up and control the chaos.
  • Chaos Toolkit: This open-source initiative makes tests easier with an open API and a standard JSON format.
  • Pumba: Pumba is a chaos testing and network emulation tool for Docker.
  • Litmus: A chaos engineering tool for stateful workloads on Kubernetes.

It is indeed a fact that with the use of chaos engineering, the companies are able to test their system in real-time and make sure that they are working to their full potential. They are able to save a lot of downtime costs. The software development cycle is very complex when there is a need for the development of a complex product and when it is ready, the team needs to make sure that they are perfectly fitting in the complex web provided in the market. The adoption of this approach has helped the companies to find better ways to deal with the issues and work on them before they hit them hard.

In this article, we have shared briefly about what is chaos engineering and how when used properly, this can turn tables for the companies. If you are also looking to know more about it, then going for deeper studies can be beneficial for you. With the right tools in your hands and DevOps Certification, you will be able to give the best to your career. With StarAgile, you can make sure that you have chosen the right path and can work diligently towards your goal and work with the best professionals in the world. So, choose your career now and give it the right direction.

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