How do we test performance in a microservices world?

via GIPHY

I recently ran across this interesting question on a technology forum.

“I’m an engineering team lead at a startup in NYC. Our app is written in Ruby on Rails and hosted on Heroku. We use metrics such as the built-in metrics on Heroku, as well as New Relic for performance monitoring. This summer, we’re expecting a large influx of traffic from a new partnership and would like to have confidence that our system can handle the load.”

“I’ve tried to wrap my head around different types of performance/load testing tools like JMeter, Blazemeter, and others. Additionally, I’ve experimented with scripts which have grown more complex and I’m following rabbit holes of functionality within JMeter (such as loading a CSV file for dynamic user login, and using response data in subsequent requests, etc.). Ultimately, I feel this might be best left to consultants or experts who could be far more experienced and also provide our organization an opportunity to learn from them on key concepts and best practices.”

Join 38,000 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

Here’s my point by point response.

I’ve been doing performance tuning since the old dot-com days.

It used to be you point a loadrunner type tool at your webpage and let it run. Then watch the load, memory & disk on your webserver or database. Before long you’d find some bottlenecks. Shortage of resources (memory, cpu, disk I/O) or slow queries were often the culprit. Optimizing queries, and ripping out those pesky ORMs usually did the trick.

Related: Why generalists are better at scaling the web

Today things are quite a bit more complicated. Yes jmeter & blazemeter are great tools. You might also get newrelic installed on your web nodes. This will give you instrumentation on where your app spends time. However it may still not be easy. With microservices, you have the docker container & orchestration layer to consider. In the AWS environment you can have bottlenecks on disk I/O where provisioned IOPS can help. But instance size also impacts network interfaces in the weird world of multi-tenant. So there’s that too!

Related: 5 things toxic to scalability

What’s more a lot of frameworks are starting to steer back towards ORMs again. Sadly this is not a good trend. On the flip side if you’re using RDS, your default MySQL or postgres settings may be decent. And newer versions of MySQL are getting some damn fancy & performant indexes. So there’s lots of improvement there.

Related: Anatomy of a performance review

There is also the question of simulating real users. What is a real user? What is an ACTIVE user? These are questions that may seem obvious, although I’ve worked at firms where engineering, product, sales & biz-dev all had different answers. But lets say you’ve answered that. Does are load test simply login the user? Or do they use a popular section of the site? Or how about an unpopular section of the site? Often we are guessing what “real world” users do and how they use our app.

Get more. Grab our exclusive monthly Scalable Startups. We share tips and special content. Our latest Why I don’t work with recruiters

3 Simple Patterns for Tighter MySQL Code

Join 8000 others and follow Sean Hull on twitter @hullsean.

SQL is derided by many and for good reason. It’s key to scalability yet terribly difficult to write good code.

Here’s a few quick tips to write tighter queries in MySQL

1. Get rid of those Subqueries!

Subqueries are a standard part of SQL, unfortunately MySQL doesn’t handle them very well. Luckily there’s a sweet rewrite that can put you in the fast lane. Here’s how to speedup a MySQL subquery by rewriting as a join.

Note that another compelling reason to upgrade to MySQL 5.6 is that this tweak has been rolled into the optimizer. Hoorah!

Also: 5 Things Deadly to Scalability.

2. Repair those UNIONs

If your code uses the UNION construct in SQL, there are a few different ways to tune those queries. You can use UNION ALL or pushdown conditions can help you optimize UNION in MySQL.

Read this: MySQL DBA Hiring Guide for candidates, managers & recruiters

4. Better PAGING through datasets

Does your web application display pages of users, pages of orders or pages of items? If you’re using
LIMIT and OFFSET there are 3 good ways to optimize these in MySQL.

Check out: Scalability Happiness – A Quiet Query Log

Get some in your inbox: Exclusive monthly Scalable Startups. We share tips and special content. Here’s a sample

A CTO Must Never Do This…

A couple years back I was contacted to look at a very strange problem.

The firm ran flash sales. An email goes out at noon, the website traffic explodes for a couple of hours, then settles back down to a trickle.

Of course you might imagine where this is going. During that peak, the MySQL database was brought to its knees. I was asked to do analysis during this peak load, and identify and fix problems. Make it go faster, please!

First day on the job I’m working with a team of outsourced DBAs. I was also working with a sort of swat team chatting on SKYPE, while monitoring the systems closely.

Then up popped one comment from a gentlemen I hadn’t worked with. He insisted there was contention for a little known MySQL resource called the AUTO_INC lock. Since I wanted to know more, I asked who the guy was and to my surprise he turned out to be the CTO.

[quote]The CTO was tuning and troubleshooting the database![/quote]

Wow, that’s a first. I thought I’d seen it all. A CTO is normally overseeing technology & the team rather than crawling around in the trenches on the front line.

This all raised some important points

1. The app was having major growing pains
2. Current architecture was not scaling
3. Amazon elasticity was not helping at the database layer
4. People & process were also failing, hence the CTOs hands on approach

It was shocking to see a problem deteriorate to this point, but when you consider the context its understandable. A company like this is struggling with hypergrowth to such a degree, that each day seems like a hurricane storm. With emergency meetings, followed by hardware & application emergencies, trouble seems constant. It can be very difficult to step back and see the larger picture.

The takeaway from this experience…

o Amazon EC2 can’t do it all – consider physical servers for disk intensive apps
o MySQL still has some real scalability limitations
o use technology for its intended purpose – MySQL isn’t great for queueing
o A CTO tuning the database means problems have deteriorated too far

Read all the way to the end? Grab our newsletter – scalable startups.

Database Heavy Lifting – Consulting and Professional Services

heavy_bounce

Heavyweight Internet Group provides Professional Services and Consulting around database technologies. Our value add is aggressive pricing and personal service. Call us at +1-213-537-4465 .

Services include:

  • MySQL  database setup and administration
  • MySQL  tuning and optimization of problem areas
  • Correcting degraded MySQL  application performance
  • 24×7 remote support services
  • Stress testing web applications & speedup

20 years of professional experience, excellent client facing skills, attention to detail, and a focus on your business needs.