SRE Weekly Issue #280

A message from our sponsor, StackHawk:

DataRobot is using StackHawk to automate API security testing and to scale AppSec across their dev team. Learn more about all they’re up to:
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Articles

The Robustness Principle (“be conservative in what you send, and liberal in what you accept”) has its uses, but it may not be best for the development of mature protocols, according to this IETF draft.

Martin Thomson

Docker without Kubernetes, does it make sense? These folks have a well-reasoned argument explaining why Kubernetes is not for them.

Maik Zumstrull — Ably

Can a service outage unrelated to security count as a “personal data breach” in terms of GDPR and other regulations? If you agree with this article’s logic, then maybe it can.

Neil Brown

The interactions between security and reliability incidents can be complex and hard to navigate. The example scenarios in this article really made me think.

Quentin Rousseau — Rootly

To deal with thundering herds, reddit implements caching in front of each of its microservices.

Raj Shah — reddit

Incident causes are a social construct, and it may be that your organizational structure prevents something from being counted as a cause.

Lorin Hochstein

Check it out, Dropbox publicly released their SRE career ladder.

Dropbox

There’s a moment halfway through this episode of Page It to the Limit where they talk about blamelessness. If you just tell people to “do blameless postmortems”, but you don’t tell them how, then they’ll be afraid to talk about anything people did, and that will hamper learning.

Julie Gunderson, with guestTim Nicholas — Page It to the Limit

This was a monumental task, considering the 1000+(!!) internal code patches they had to port from MySQL 5.6 to 8.0.

Herman Lee, Pradeep Nayak — Facebook

Outages

SRE Weekly Issue #279

A message from our sponsor, StackHawk:

On July 28, ZAP Creator Simon Bennetts is giving a first look at ZAP’s new automation framework. Grab your spot:
https://sthwk.com/ZAP-Automation

Articles

This is a presentation by Laura Nolan (with text transcript) all about cascading failure, what causes it, how to avoid it, and how to deal with it when it happens.

I love how succinct this is:

[…] in any system where we design to fail over, so any mechanism at all that redistributes load from a failed component to still working components, we create the potential for a cascading failure to happen.

Laura Nolan — Slack (presented at InfoQ)

It’s so easy to explain an incident by describing how management could have prevented it from investing additional resources.

Lorin goes on to explain the “trap” part: it’s easy to stop investigating an incident too soon and declare the cause “greedy executives”, preventing us from learning more.

Lorin Hochstein

They redesigned one of their caching systems in 2020, and it paid off handsomely during the GameStop saga. This article discusses the redesign and considers what would have happened without it.

Garrett Hoffman — Reddit

The lessons are:

  1. Do retrospectives for small incidents first.
  2. Do a retrospective soon after the incident.
  3. Alert on the user experience.

All great advice, and #1 is an interesting idea I hadn’t heard before.

Robert Ross — FireHydrant

We can’t engineer reliability in a vacuum. This is a great explainer on how SRE siloing happens, the problems it causes, and how to break SRE out of its shell.

JJ Tang — Rootly

This ASRS (Aviation Safety Reporting System) Callback issue has some real-world examples of resilient systems in action.

Nasa Asrs

Facing a common kubernetes node failure modes, Cloudflare uses open source tools (one published by them) to perform automatic restarts.

In the past 30 days, we’ve used the above automatic node remediation process to action 571 nodes. That has saved our humans a considerable amount of time.

Andrew DeMaria — Cloudflare

Outages

SRE Weekly Issue #278

A message from our sponsor, StackHawk:

Learn how our team at StackHawk tests external cookie authentication using Ktor, and check out some of the helper functions we wrote to make the tests easy to write, read, and maintain
https://sthwk.com/ktor

Articles

Whoa.  This is the best thing ever.  I feel like I want to make this the official theme song of SRE Weekly.

Forrest Brazeal

Their auto-scaling algorithm needed a tweak. Before: scale up by N instances. After: scale up by an amount proportional to the current number of instances.

Fran Garcia — Reddit

here’s a look at incidents and reliability challenges that have occurred in outer space, and what SREs stand to learn from them.

JJ Tang — Rootly

This one includes 3 key things to remember while load testing. My favorite: test the whole system, not just parts.

Cortex

SRE is as much about building consensus and earning buy-in as it is about actual engineering.

Cortex

The definition of NoOps in this article is more clear than others I’ve seen. It’s not about firing your operations team — their skill set is still necessary.

Kentaro Wakayama

Even though I know what observability is, I got a lot out of this article. It has some excellent examples of questions that are hard to answer with traditional dashboards, and includes my new favorite term:

The industrial term for this problem is Watermelon Metrics; A situation where individual dashboards look green, but the overall performance is broken and red inside.

Nishant Modak and Piyush Verma — Last9

Instead, we should consider the fields there where practitioners are responsible for controlling a dynamic process that’s too complex for humans to fully understand.

Lorin Hochstein

In this epic troubleshooting story, a weird curl bug coupled with Linux memory tuning parameters led to unexpected CPU consumption in an unrelated process.

Pavlos Parissis — Booking.com

Learning a lesson from a rough Black Friday in 2019, these folks used load testing to gather hard data on how they would likely fare in 2020.

Mathieu Garstecki — Back Market

Outages

SRE Weekly Issue #277

A message from our sponsor, StackHawk:

Planelty saved weeks of work by implementing StackHawk instead of building an internal ZAP service. See how:
https://sthwk.com/planetly-stackhawk

Articles

Remember all those Robinhood outages? The US financial regulatory agency is making Robinhood repay folks for the losses they sustained as a result and also fining them for other reasons.

Michelle Ong, Ray Pellecchia, Angelita Plemmer Williams, and Andrew DeSouza — FINRA

This is brilliant and I wish I’d thought of it years ago:

One of the things we’ve previously seen during database incidents is that a set of impacted tables can provide a unique fingerprint to identify a feature that’s triggering issues.

Courtney Wang — Reddit

The suggested root cause involves consolidation in cloud providers and the importance of DNS.

Alban Kwan — CircleID

Full disclosure: Fastly, my employer, is mentioned.

This paper is about recognizing normalization of deviance and techniques for dealing with it. This tidbit really made me think:

[…] they might have been taught a system deviation without realizing that it was so […]

Bus Horiz

Blameless incident analysis is often at odds with a desire to “hold people accountable”. This article explores that conflict and techniques for managing the needs involved.

Christina Tan and Emily Arnott — Blameless

What can you do if you’re out of error budget but you still want to deliver new features? Get creative.

Paul Osman — Honeycomb

I am going to go through the variation we use to up skill our on-call engineers we called “The Kobayashi Maru”, the name we borrowed from the Star Trek training exercise to test the character of Starfleet cadets.

Bruce Dominguez

Outages

SRE Weekly Issue #276

A message from our sponsor, StackHawk:

Get ready for some GraphQL! Tune in this Tuesday, June 29 at 9 AM PT for an automated GraphQL security testing learning lab. Register:
http://sthwk.com/graphql-learning-lab

Articles

HBO accidentally sent an email to a bunch of people, and they tweeted (jokingly?) blaming their intern. This is a link to a short, thoughtful response thread.

Gergely Orosz

This is the story of the Bunny CDN outage linked below. Great read, thanks folks!

Dejan Grofelnik Pelzel — Bunny

There’s never a bad time to review the fallacies of distributed computing. This article introduces them with examples and discussion of each.

Alex Diaconu — Ably

These aren’t specific tools, but rather 7 classes of tools (with examples). They are:

  • Chaos engineering
  • Monitoring and alerting
  • Observability
  • Paging tools
  • SLO management
  • Infrastructure-as-Code (and everything-as-code)
  • Automated incident response

Quentin Rousseau — Rootly

Design is interpretive. We have to find common ground before we can even start to create a design, but finding that common ground is part of the design.

For example, we think of building codes as being precise, but when applied to new situations, they are ambiguous, and the engineers must make a judgment about how to apply them.

Lorin Hochstein

This starts with a really neat moment in which the interviewer asks Yiu to talk about lessons from her jewelry-making hobby that she applies to SRE.

Kurt Andersen

When Gamestop’s stock shot through the roof earlier this year, Reddit’s traffic did too. This is the first article in a short series by Reddit’s SRE team on how they handled the influx.

This article is about the ways that user actions affected their systems in unexpected ways, and how they responded.

Courtney Wang — Reddit

Recently in our Site Reliability Engineering organization in Azure, we established a set of cultural values that we hold ourselves and each other accountable to.

Bill Johnson — Microsoft

Outages

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