Actionable Load Testing with Instana and OctoPerf

Instana - Enterprise Observability and APM for Cloud-Native Applications

Traditionally, load test tools have done a great job of identifying problems that need to be fixed but unfortunately, have NOT provided the details required to immediately know the root cause of the underlying problems so you can fix them. By using Instana’s Application Perspectives in conjunction with your load testing tool of choice, your developers now have all the information required to immediately fix any problems identified during load testing.

In this two part blog series, we illustrate the value created by using the load testing tool of our partner OctoPerf, and Instana’s APM solution. Both of our tools focus on ease of use and high value output, so this joint project showcases how fast and easy it is to get actionable insights from your application load tests.
Using a jointly built integration, you can separate load test data from production data and perform analysis based on the traffic generated solely by the load test of OctoPerf.

After you’ve set-up your Application Perspective as described in the companion post, and configured and run your load test, you are ready to dive deeper into the root cause analysis of the observed behavior and problems on the backend.

Analyzing A Load Test Using Instana

The application perspective provides you with an overview dashboard that gives you a useful first impression of the load test scenario.

Figure 1: Application Perspective overview dashboard of load test

One can see that we performed 3 load tests labeled A, B, and C. Inspect the number of calls of the three load test scenarios and compare with the average Error Rate. Notice the large spike in errors when the load test hit the limit of our application setup (Figure 2).

Load Test Demarcation
Figure 2: Three separate load tests denoted as A, B, and C

Let’s take a step back and look at the OctoPerf data along with the incidents that were generated on the Instana side (Figure 3). In the early stage of the load test, Instana generated an incident that the system load is high – this is an early indicator of the issues we will encounter at a later stage. The ramp up phase is directly visible in the Application perspective as well, including the point were we hit the limit of the system. The generated incident directly shows us that the System Memory is Exhausted, and that may lead to killing of processes by the OS.

Instana OctoPerf System Load Memory Issues
Figure 3: Charts from OctoPerf with Instana incident information overlaid as black rectangles

The next step is to look into the incidents within Instana. In Figure 4 we clearly see the moment were the memory usage is hitting nearly 100%. That’s an interesting insight, and the explanation for why the error rate and the latency went up.

Figure 4: Instana incident view showing memory exhaustion

Further, we take a closer look at the information from the Instana infrastructure view of host metrics (Figure 5).

Instana Host Metrics Dashboard
Figure 5: Instana dashboard of host metrics showing memory utilization at 100%

On the left side we see that there are 11 Containers running on that single host, and that the machine has only 2GB of memory. In the “Memory Used” chart we can see that at the beginning of the test 80% of the RAM was already in use. During the load test we put even more pressure on the system so it hits the limits of the provisioned host.

When the memory is completely consumed, the system starts trying to deal with the situation. The CPU consumption rises (Figure 6) and the context switching (Figure 7) becomes more and more of an issue, until it completely gets out of control. At this point it is pretty clear what the root cause for the behavior of the Application is – there are not sufficient hardware resources to handle the load. This makes sense keeping in mind that our huge technology stack is running on a small machine.

Figure 6: CPU Utilization during load test

Figure 7: Context Switches during load test

Let’s utilize the application perspective to analyze the traces data so that we can get deeper insights into the code execution. In Figure 8 we click and drag the mouse over the desired time range in the chart, then click the magnifying glass icon to set our time range.

Instana Select Load Test Time
Figure 8: Zoom into the relevant time frame inside the Application Perspective

Figure 9 shows the resulting Dashboard with the summary information for the selected time range. We see that the load test created 22k inbound calls and an overall mean latency of 193 ms. In this load test analysis we are looking for slow traces or errors, and we quickly identify them using the summary view of the application perspective.

Instana Load Test Summary View
Figure 9: Summary view of the application perspective

Let’s explore “GET /api” by selecting it from the “Top Traces” list to see details about those requests. With a single click on the link, we slice through the tracing data to get only the relevant traces. We can derive from the overview (Figure 10), which service is involved and the latency for each of the erroneous calls.

Instana List Of API Traces
Figure 10: View of all “GET /api” traces in Instana

In the trace detail view we can now clearly see what happened when we compare a healthy trace with an erroneous one (Figures 11 and 12). Due to lack of memory, the system killed the database that is contacted by the rating service, leading to a timeout in the JDBC driver that tries to contact the database. By using Instana’s infrastructure and application monitoring capabilities, we get a very clear picture of what happened on our system during the load test.

Instana Trace Failed Database Query
Figure 11: Distributed trace of failed “GET /api” request

Instana Trace Successful Database Query
Figure 12: Distributed trace of successful “GET /api” request

Using OctoPerf and Instana together enables detailed analysis of load test results. Immediately identify where performance bottlenecks are, the scalability limits of a system, and what needs to be corrected to improve the experience for your customers. Sign up for your free trials of Instana and OctoPerf today.

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Instana, an IBM company, provides an Enterprise Observability Platform with automated application monitoring capabilities to businesses operating complex, modern, cloud-native applications no matter where they reside – on-premises or in public and private clouds, including mobile devices or IBM Z.

Control hybrid modern applications with Instana’s AI-powered discovery of deep contextual dependencies inside hybrid applications. Instana also gives visibility into development pipelines to help enable closed-loop DevOps automation.

This provides actionable feedback needed for clients as they to optimize application performance, enable innovation and mitigate risk, helping Dev+Ops add value and efficiency to software delivery pipelines while meeting their service and business level objectives.

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