Before we understand the complex topics of chaos engineering and chaos testing, let’s take a look at this story. When Netflix moved from an on-premises data center to the cloud, things didn't go as planned. Although the cloud helped in minimizing points of failure, it did not deliver the level of uptime that Netflix was expecting. That's when the streaming service began the practice of intentionally harming their systems to discover hidden bugs and improve their ability to withstand turbulent conditions.
As software systems get increasingly complex and distributed, adopting Agile practices that increase the flexibility and speed of development is the need of the hour. Developers need to have extreme confidence in the systems they build. They must ensure the interactions these systems have with other services in a distributed environment do not cause unpredictable or unfavorable outcomes. They also need to ensure that disruptive real-world events affecting production environments do not make these distributed systems inherently chaotic.
This is where chaos engineering comes in place, enabling development teams to ensure the high quality of the software they are developing while it is already in production. This new approach is slowly revolutionizing how teams test software resilience.
What Is Chaos Engineering?
Chaos engineering is a practice that enables testers to improve the quality of the application under development. Instead of fixing errors and issues after they impact the functionality or performance of software, chaos engineering helps identify gaps and weaknesses before they manifest across the system and lead to abnormal behaviors.
Right from unavailable services to improperly tuned timeouts, outages, crashes, and more – by proactively addressing weaknesses, chaos engineering helps manage the "chaos" inherent in modern systems. Such management helps increase the speed and flexibility with which software is developed and delivered. Furthermore, it increases the teams’ confidence in their production deployments - despite the complexity they represent.
Moreover, chaos engineering ensures testing teams continue to test the software under development – even after it has reached the production stage. This paves the way for continuous testing. Since teams get the opportunity to push the application as far as possible without causing any major performance issues, it helps make the software extremely robust and resilient.
How Does Chaos Engineering Help Organizations?
In distributed computing environments, several systems are linked over a network and share resources. Since the underlying components of these systems often have complex and unpredictable dependencies, it is difficult to troubleshoot issues. Further, it's challenging to predict when an error will occur or how much damage it will cause.
The sheer size and complexity of such environments can cause unexpected and random events to occur. And the bigger the system, the more unpredictable and chaotic it can behave under unexpected conditions.
Since there are many ways in which software can break and many reasons for it, teams need to carry out experiments that intentionally generate turbulent conditions in a distributed system and unearth weaknesses. As a systems-based approach to software testing and quality assurance, chaos engineering helps development teams address the chaos in distributed systems at scale.
By checking if the network is reliable, latency is minimum, and bandwidth is high, chaos engineering builds confidence in the ability of software systems to withstand realistic conditions and ensure their behavior isn't altered. At the same time, teams can also use chaos engineering to test how the distributed system behaves when an outage occurs or when there is a shortage of resources. As a result, teams can accordingly implement design changes and repeat the tests to confirm results.
To that end, using chaos engineering, organizations can:
- Ensure proper and frequent coordination between different teams, so everyone is aware of the different chaos experiments taking place.
- Introduce random and unpredictable behavior in software systems and identify vulnerabilities.
- Thoroughly test distributed computing systems using real-world conditions and ensure they can endure unexpected disruptions.
- Inject likely failures and bugs into the software and simulate as many realistic conditions as possible.
- Uncover blind spots, hidden bugs, and performance bottlenecks impacting system performance and/or user experience.
- Make necessary changes to enhance software resilience, thus increasing confidence in the system’s abilities.
- Have redundancy in place to ensure services remain available if chaos experiments cause issues.
How Can Organizations Improve the Quality of Software with Chaos Testing?
If you want to thoroughly test how certain challenges like network delays or power outages can wreak havoc on your software in production, you need to enable chaos testing. Using chaos testing, you can introduce different issues into your software and gauge how they tend to:
- Cause performance issues
- User experience challenges, or
- Entire data center segments to go offline.
Chaos testing also enables you to carry out health checks on your application. As such, you can identify security vulnerabilities and optimize or even get rid of unused system resources.
If you are looking to improve the quality of software via chaos testing, here are some things to consider:
- Understand and state how the system needs to operate under normal conditions while specifying the constituents of a normal working state.
- Make a list of potential weaknesses that can impact the software’s availability, performance, security, or scalability.
- Formulate necessary test cases and what-if hypotheses to evaluate the performance and integrity of the system under development.
- Conduct the required experiments under a controlled environment to gauge the consequences of unfavorable circumstances.
- Measure and evaluate the impact of issues and take steps to fix them in time.
As companies move to the cloud, software systems are getting increasingly distributed – and thus more complicated. As the chaos within and outside these systems grows, organizations have to find ways to adapt to it.
To that end, chaos engineering allows teams to test how software systems perform under adverse conditions. By introducing unexpected or unfavorable circumstances into software in production, teams can enhance not just quality but also resiliency.
Enable chaos testing today to avoid things going wrong in the production environment and minimize the chances of your application going down, defects impacting user experience, or performance getting degraded. Reach out to us to know more.