Chaos Engineering Explained: Core Principles and Best Practices
Tech Insights

Chaos Engineering: Principles, Benefits, and Best Practices

Joana Almeida
Software Developer - - - 3 min. to read

Over time, discussions have occurred regarding the implementation of chaos engineering and whether companies need it. However, the bottom line is that we all depend on sophisticated systems that heavily rely on distributed components such as cloud services.

Without introducing controlled chaos into such a system, it’s highly likely to suffer from disruptive events and unpredicted failures that could impact your business. The entire concept of chaos engineering ensures this doesn’t happen by creating resilient systems. 

This article will explain chaos engineering, its principles, and best practices to follow.

What is Chaos Engineering?

Chaos engineering is a method where developers intentionally disrupt systems to find weaknesses. By creating controlled failures, they observe how the system reacts and make improvements to ensure it can handle unexpected problems, making it more reliable and resilient.

These disruptions can cause the system to respond unpredictably and break under pressure. A proactive approach to testing how a system responds under stress can help you identify and fix any predicted failures before they cause a major system failure.

Chaos Engineering operates on a few fundamental principles and objectives that include:

  1. Hypothesis: At the very beginning, chaos engineers ask what questions they can about the possible outcomes when changes are introduced in the system. For example, they might ask what would happen if certain services suddenly stopped operating. These queries create presumptions, which serve as the building block for a hypothesis.
  2. Testing: To test the hypothesis, controlled chaos inside the system must be created. This informs the next step of load testing combined with simulated uncertainties, which creates turmoil. Chaos engineers observe as the system reacts, examining how it handles the disruptions. 
  3. Blast Radius: Chaos engineering strongly emphasizes controlling the disruptions by comprehending their extent. Engineers measure the impact of failures by isolating and analyzing them in a process known as the ‘blast radius’. With this knowledge, they can control the degree of possible ‘damage’ resulting from the experiment.
  4. Insights: Experiments with chaos engineering offer insights that help with the software and microservices development and delivery processes. This allows chaos engineering DevOps teams to better prepare their systems for unplanned future disruptions.

Should you Use Chaos Engineering?

The primary objective of chaos engineering is to intentionally break a system to gather insights that can strengthen its resilience. Netflix and Gremlin are two companies known for their strong chaos engineering practices. 

They specifically use chaos engineering tools like Chaos Monkey and Kube-Monkey. But the question remains— is your organization ready to embrace chaos engineering to improve its infrastructure resiliency? 

Well, the decision to adopt chaos engineering should not be taken lightly. It requires you to understand your current system stability, have a strong DevOps culture, and a willingness to challenge the status quo. 

Before diving in, evaluate your organization’s readiness by:

1. Assessing the Stability of Your Existing Systems

Chaos engineering thrives in environments where the baseline is well-understood and the impact of disruptions can be accurately measured. If your systems are already plagued by frequent outages or unpredictable behavior, it may not be the most suitable approach—at least not until you’ve addressed those underlying issues.

2. Explore whether your Organization is Culturally Ready

Chaos engineering demands a mindset shift, where failure is not seen as a threat but rather as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Your teams must be willing to embrace the unknown, collaborate, and learn from the insights gained through chaos experiments.

3. Define the Reliability of your Objectives

Think about the goals that matter most to your company. These will direct the adoption process and let you monitor your advancement. If you’re unsure of which goals to monitor, consider any events in the previous year at your company. 

You can start by posing inquiries like:

  • What kind of occurrence was it? Was there a hardware issue or a mishap brought on by a teammate?
  • Which systems were impacted? Did they fall offline entirely or just become inaccessible for a short while? 

By carefully evaluating your organization’s preparedness and taking the necessary steps to cultivate a chaos-friendly culture, you can unlock the true power of chaos engineering and watch as your systems become stronger and more resilient.

Benefits of Chaos Engineering

Implementing chaos engineering offers several advantages, such as:

  • Improved System Availability and Resilience

Recent Data shows that IT security vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) have reported rising figures for the last decade, underlying the growing risk of unplanned system failures. 

Chaos engineering aims to identify possible vulnerabilities in these systems when unforeseen circumstances arise. This proactive approach helps improve current resilience measures and bolster system reliability.

  • Reduce Revenue Losses

The cost of system downtime to your bottomline goes beyond causing data losses and operational inconveniences. Unplanned system failures can disrupt production processes and result in significant income losses for your business. Chaos engineering ensures such unforeseen circumstances don’t happen by acting as a buffer and lowering maintenance costs.

Potential Risks of Chaos Engineering

Some of the critical potential risks you may face when implementing chaos engineering in your organization include:

  • Possibility of Service Outages

While performing chaos tests on live systems, there is always a chance of data loss or service interruptions. Careful preparation and execution are essential to reducing these risks.

  • Strong Monitoring Systems Are Necessary for Effective Chaos Testing

Robust monitoring systems are necessary to track system health and performance indicators. Purchasing trustworthy monitoring equipment is essential if you want your chaotic engineering projects to be as successful as possible.

6 Best Chaos Engineering Best Practices

Intentionally introducing controlled chaos into a system infrastructure can help your teams uncover hidden vulnerabilities and ensure they withstand real-world failures. However, if you plan on building fault-tolerant systems, you need to do it the right way.

Here are six best practices of Chaos Engineering that every organization should adopt:

1. Define Steady State

Clearly define your system’s average, expected behavior. This crucial baseline will help you measure the impact of chaos experiments and determine whether your system can withstand unforeseen disruptions.

2. Automate Chaos Experiments

Tools like Gremlin allow you to automate chaos experiments, making the process more scalable and consistent. You can leverage gremlin chaos engineering to inject failures, monitor system behavior, and analyze the results.

3. Start Small and Gradually Increase the Complexity

Start by implementing chaos engineering on a small scale, such as moderate experiments that target non-critical components of your systems. As the team gains experience, your chaos engineering DevOps can gradually increase the scope and complexity of the chaos tests.

4. Collaborate Across Teams

Chaos Engineering is most effective when embraced by cross-functional teams. Involve your developers, SREs, and other stakeholders to ensure a holistic understanding of system dependencies and failure modes.

5. Bake it in the CI/CD Pipeline

Consider integrating chaos engineering experiments into your continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline. This will help you point out potential issues early and ensure new changes don’t introduce vulnerabilities.

6. Minimize Blast Radius

It is responsible for limiting the blast radius of the chaos engineering experiments because you cannot stop production in the name of science. Concentrate on conducting brief experiments that will reveal the desired identification. This could be as simple as a network lag between two distinct services.

Conclusion

Predicting failures becomes challenging as web systems evolve with distributed architectures and microservices. Proactive measures such as implementing chaos engineering are essential to preempt such setbacks. 

It enables organizations to anticipate and handle potential disruptions before they occur, safeguarding against costly downtime and productivity losses. 

Take the first step towards resilience today by integrating chaos engineering into your systems. At Distant Job, we have access to a global pool of Chaos engineers who can help you implement effective chaos engineering solutions. 

Get in touch today, and let’s connect you with top-tier talent swiftly and efficiently.

Joana Almeida

Joana Almeida, with her diverse experience as a programmer and game developer, stands out for her technical writing prowess on DistantJob, a remote IT staffing agency. Her background in software development and video game programming, enhanced by her roles in consulting and freelancing, has sharpened her expertise in areas like game design,tech stacks, UI development, and software development.

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