Click here to close now.


Containers Expo Blog Authors: Pat Romanski, AppDynamics Blog, Peter Silva, Marc Crespi, Jayaram Krishnaswamy

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog

Containers Expo Blog: Blog Post

The Problem with SLA Monitoring in Virtualized Environments

The time-keeping problem and how it impacts application performance

Because virtual machines work by time-sharing host physical hardware, a virtual machine cannot exactly duplicate the timing behaviour of a physical machine. This leads to the timekeeping problems explained in the VMWare White Paper about Timekeeping in Virtual Machines that results in inaccurate time measurements within the virtual machine. This affects ALL performance metrics that rely on the operating system clock time to keep track of time which includes system counters like CPU or I/O Utilization. Performance Management solutions therefore run into the problem that the monitored metrics are inaccurate and can lead to incorrect enforcement of SLAs or wrong assumptions about application performance.

This blog explains the time keeping problem, how it impacts Application Performance Management in virtualized environments and what can be done to solve this problem.

Time keeping problem explained

Operating Systems that use a Tick Counting approach to keep track of time use hardware interrupts to count how many ticks have occurred since the system started. In a virtualized environment these interrupts are consumed by the virtualization infrastructure which keeps track of what we call the “Real Time”. The interrupts are then forwarded to the hosted virtual machines which itself keep track of the time that we call “Apparent Time“. In the best case scenario Real Time and Apparent Time are the same:

Timekeeping - Phase 1 - Real and Apparent Time are the same

Timekeeping - Phase 1 - Real and Apparent Time are the same

A virtual machine is not “always on” as it gets descheduled by the virtual server because of time-sharing with other virtual machines. In that time the hardware interrupts cannot be handled by the virtual machine and are therefore put into a queue for later consumption.

Timekeeping - Phase 2 - Virtual Machine is descheduled

Timekeeping - Phase 2 - Virtual Machine is descheduled

At the time the Virtual Machine gets scheduled again the operating system’s Apparent Time is still the time it was before it got descheduled as it has not yet received the timer interrupts that happened in the meantime. In that case the Apparent Time has drifted from the Real Time. Impact: Any performance metric taken at this time only shows the time that the Virtual Machine believes had passed which is not the time that really passed.

Over time the Virtual Machine catches up with the interrupts it missed while descheduled.


Timekeeping - Phase 3 - Catching up with Time
Timekeeping – Phase 3 – Catching up with Time

There are several other techniques that virtualization environments use to bring the Apparent Time back to Real Time as fast as possible. For more details have a look at the VMWare White Paper as mentioned on the top of this blog.

Impacts of the Time Keeping Problem

Any time based metrics captured from within the Virtual Machine are subject to the timekeeping problem including CPU Utilization, Memory Allocations per time interval, I/O access per time interval,… and any custom time tracking that can be used for e.g.: response time or transaction time monitoring. Operating system counters like % CPU per process also runs into another interesting problem where individual processes might get charged incorrectly with time that they never consumed. After a Virtual Machine is resumed the queued timer interrupts are processed. These interrupts come in a faster rate than normal. The currently active processes are charged with all these timing events although they have not done any work in that time because they were actually descheduled.

You can see that the timekeeping issue can really mess up your performance counters. The more load you have on a virtual server, the more virtual machines there are to schedule and de-schedule – the higher the impact on accurate timing will be. Other side effects like over-provisioning of CPU or Memory have an impact as well.

Using performance metrics from within the Virtual Machine for application performance management and enforcement of Service Level Agreements is therefore very questionable as the results are not accurate and not predictable.

Accurate Time Keeping with Pseudo Performance Counters

VMWare is aware of this problem and explains in great detail the reasons and the effects in their White Paper. As a solution for performance management solutions VMWare provides a way to query the actual Real Time at any time from within the Virtual Machine. Pseudo Performance Counters are made available via virtual processor registers that can be accessed from any application within the Virtual Machine.

dynaTrace is using these new counters for accurate time measurement when Managing Application Performance in virtualized VMWare environments. This allows accurate SLA enforcement and application performance management down to individual transactions or even methods. The following illustration shows a single captured transaction with accurate timings. dynaTrace captures the Real and the Apparent Time on method and transaction level:


Accurate Timing on Transaction and Method Level
Accurate Timing on Transaction and Method Level

Capturing the Real Time values and also showing the Apparent Time Drift enables Application Performance Management with accurate timing values. Accurate timings are the basics for accurate SLA Enforcement in Production as well as Application Performance Monitoring.

Is timekeeping a real issue in your environment?

The timekeeping problem is well known within the VMWare community and brings challenges to accurate application performance management in virtualized environments. I am interested in your experience with this problem. Have you been aware of it? Do you live with the inaccuracy or do you have other approaches for accurate measuring? Please share your thoughts on this topic.

More Stories By Andreas Grabner

Andreas Grabner has been helping companies improve their application performance for 15+ years. He is a regular contributor within Web Performance and DevOps communities and a prolific speaker at user groups and conferences around the world. Reach him at @grabnerandi

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, Chief Architect at CTS, will explore the synergy of Big Data and IoT. First he will take a closer look at the Internet of Things and Big Data individually, in terms of what, which, why, where, when, who, how and how much. Then he will explore the relationship between IoT and Big Data. Specifically, he will drill down to how the 4Vs aspects intersect with IoT: Volume, Variety, Velocity and Value. In turn, Tony will analyze how the key components of IoT influence Big Data: Device, Connectivity, Context, and Intelligence. He will dive deep to the matrix...
When it comes to IoT in the enterprise, namely the commercial building and hospitality markets, a benefit not getting the attention it deserves is energy efficiency, and IoT’s direct impact on a cleaner, greener environment when installed in smart buildings. Until now clean technology was offered piecemeal and led with point solutions that require significant systems integration to orchestrate and deploy. There didn't exist a 'top down' approach that can manage and monitor the way a Smart Building actually breathes - immediately flagging overheating in a closet or over cooling in unoccupied ho...
Scott Guthrie's keynote presentation "Journey to the intelligent cloud" is a must view video. This is from AzureCon 2015, September 29, 2015 I have reproduced some screen shots in case you are unable to view this long video for one reason or another. One of the highlights is 3 datacenters coming on line in India.
“The Internet of Things transforms the way organizations leverage machine data and gain insights from it,” noted Splunk’s CTO Snehal Antani, as Splunk announced accelerated momentum in Industrial Data and the IoT. The trend is driven by Splunk’s continued investment in its products and partner ecosystem as well as the creativity of customers and the flexibility to deploy Splunk IoT solutions as software, cloud services or in a hybrid environment. Customers are using Splunk® solutions to collect and correlate data from control systems, sensors, mobile devices and IT systems for a variety of Ind...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated and cloud solutions through hybrid hosting – a sustainable solution for the data required to manage I...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk will be on IBM Cloudant, Apa...
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
The enterprise is being consumerized, and the consumer is being enterprised. Moore's Law does not matter anymore, the future belongs to business virtualization powered by invisible service architecture, powered by hyperscale and hyperconvergence, and facilitated by vertical streaming and horizontal scaling and consolidation. Both buyers and sellers want instant results, and from paperwork to paperless to mindless is the ultimate goal for any seamless transaction. The sweetest sweet spot in innovation is automation. The most painful pain point for any business is the mismatch between supplies a...
The broad selection of hardware, the rapid evolution of operating systems and the time-to-market for mobile apps has been so rapid that new challenges for developers and engineers arise every day. Security, testing, hosting, and other metrics have to be considered through the process. In his session at Big Data Expo, Walter Maguire, Chief Field Technologist, HP Big Data Group, at Hewlett-Packard, will discuss the challenges faced by developers and a composite Big Data applications builder, focusing on how to help solve the problems that developers are continuously battling.
As enterprises capture more and more data of all types – structured, semi-structured, and unstructured – data discovery requirements for business intelligence (BI), Big Data, and predictive analytics initiatives grow more complex. A company’s ability to become data-driven and compete on analytics depends on the speed with which it can provision their analytics applications with all relevant information. The task of finding data has traditionally resided with IT, but now organizations increasingly turn towards data source discovery tools to find the right data, in context, for business users, d...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a software development company, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software development company with representative offices in Atlanta (US), Sheffield (UK) and Würzburg (Germany); and development centers in Ukraine. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 150 developers, designers, quality assurance engineers, project manage...
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless Thingies, will discuss and demonstrate how devices and humans can be integrated from a simple clust...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Raxak has been named “Media & Session Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Raxak Protect automates security compliance across private and public clouds. Using the SaaS tool or managed service, developers can deploy cloud apps quickly, cost-effectively, and without error.
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, will discuss the impact of technology on identity. Should we federate, or not? How should identity be secured? Who owns the identity? How is identity ...