Software systems grow more and more complex by the day, increasing the possibility of system-wide failures. This is compounded by an increasing load on software systems that, if not handled or tested carefully, could result in costly outages that reduce user satisfaction and hurt company profitability as a whole.
To combat the risk of outages, there needs to be a system of testing that helps teams predict, plan, and cope with issues that cause the product to stop functioning. Enter chaos engineering, where deficiencies are deliberately introduced to the product to measure resilience and to see if it can continue to operate under less than ideal circumstances.
As a product manager, it’s your responsibility to harness the benefits associated with this valuable discipline to ensure strong uptime and provide your team with a solid and reliable base to build new features and functions on top of existing capabilities.
In this article, you will learn what chaos engineering is, the benefits associated with it, and how to implement it within your product team.
Table of contents
- What is chaos engineering
- Chaos engineering benefits
- How to implement chaos engineering
What is chaos engineering
Chaos engineering is an approach to product testing where hypothetical failures are intentionally introduced to your product to see how it responds to issues that may arise in daily operations. You can use chaos engineering to test:
- Whether the product starts to respond or behave unexpectedly due to the introduced hypothesis or scenario
- Whether a breakdown or outage occurs as a result of the introduced hypothesis or scenario
The hypothesis or scenarios that may cause failures to the product are usually discussed beforehand by the team and can encompass a range of situations that the product has a reasonable chance of facing.
Once the testing is completed, the findings are shared with the wider company and used by multiple teams to not only make the product more resilient, but to also start exploring other scenarios that may cause failures or induce outages in the future.
Chaos engineering benefits
Chaos engineering helps your product team by:
- Increasing assurance and confidence in your product
- Granting the ability to fix issues before they affect customers
- Providing a controlled environment to test and improve uptime
Increasing assurance and confidence in your product
As previously mentioned, findings from chaos engineering tests are used by teams to implement fixes and improvements to ensure that outages don’t occur.
This helps increase positive sentiment in the company that the product remains resilient and capable of servicing customers even if hit with a massive issue that risks problems or outages.
Granting the ability to fix issues before they affect customers
The scenarios that chaos engineering introduces are based on reasonable expectations of what could happen. If problems occur because of these scenarios, it’s reasonable to assume that they would impact users.
Because of this, chaos engineering allows you to identify scenarios that will impact your product and fix them before they ever occur to real customers.
Providing a controlled environment to test and improve uptime
The steps to implement chaos engineering effectively are far from chaotic. In fact, you can think of it akin to a well-structured science experiment — where the situation that may cause a product outage or shutdown needs to be compared against a control group.
The situation can then either be disproved or approved via further testing or through considering other variables. Chaos engineering is not a messy, disorganized or convoluted process, but rather a well implemented and structured way to identify issues that may cripple the product in the future.
How to implement chaos engineering
In order to implement chaos engineering within your product team, follow these four steps:
- Define the “steady state” between the control and experimental group, which is the system output that indicates the product is operating as normal
- When setting up the experiments, ensure that the standard variables that maintain the “steady state” are also found in the experiments
- Discuss situations that may cause outages in the product and what experiments can be created in order to test them. For example, this could include poor connectivity scenarios, servers crashing, an earthquake happening at a data center, etc.
- At the end of testing, decide whether to approve, disprove, or continue testing in the face of inconclusive results
Chaos engineering provides you with a valuable way to test your product against issues that may arise in the near future. By testing before a problem occurs, you can prevent downtime and provide a more consistent product experience for your users.
Follow the steps above to implement chaos engineering within your organization in no time. Until next time!
Featured image source: IconScout
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