Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Virtualization Authors: Pat Romanski, AppDynamics Blog, Kelly Murphy, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: Virtualization

Virtualization: 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
The recent trends like cloud computing, social, mobile and Internet of Things are forcing enterprises to modernize in order to compete in the competitive globalized markets. However, enterprises are approaching newer technologies with a more silo-ed way, gaining only sub optimal benefits. The Modern Enterprise model is presented as a newer way to think of enterprise IT, which takes a more holistic approach to embracing modern technologies.
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Every day we read jaw-dropping stats on the explosion of data. We allocate significant resources to harness and better understand it. We build businesses around it. But we’ve only just begun. For big payoffs in Big Data, CIOs are turning to cognitive computing. Cognitive computing’s ability to securely extract insights, understand natural language, and get smarter each time it’s used is the next, logical step for Big Data.
The 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 17th International Cloud Expo - to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - announces that its Call for Papers is open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
There's no doubt that the Internet of Things is driving the next wave of innovation. Google has spent billions over the past few months vacuuming up companies that specialize in smart appliances and machine learning. Already, Philips light bulbs, Audi automobiles, and Samsung washers and dryers can communicate with and be controlled from mobile devices. To take advantage of the opportunities the Internet of Things brings to your business, you'll want to start preparing now.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal an...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
Container frameworks, such as Docker, provide a variety of benefits, including density of deployment across infrastructure, convenience for application developers to push updates with low operational hand-holding, and a fairly well-defined deployment workflow that can be orchestrated. Container frameworks also enable a DevOps approach to application development by cleanly separating concerns between operations and development teams. But running multi-container, multi-server apps with containers is very hard. You have to learn five new and different technologies and best practices (libswarm, sy...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DragonGlass, an enterprise search platform, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. After eleven years of designing and building custom applications, OpenCrowd has launched DragonGlass, a cloud-based platform that enables the development of search-based applications. These are a new breed of applications that utilize a search index as their backbone for data retrieval. They can easily adapt to new data sets and provide access to both structured and unstruc...
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists will peel away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud environment, and we must architect and code accordingly. At the very least, you'll have no problem fil...
There's Big Data, then there's really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, discussed how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MetraTech, now part of Ericsson, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society- a world leader in communications infrastructure, software and services. Some 40% of the world’s mobile traffic runs through networks Ericsson has supplied, serving more than 2.5 billion subscribers.
The worldwide cellular network will be the backbone of the future IoT, and the telecom industry is clamoring to get on board as more than just a data pipe. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Evan McGee, CTO of Ring Plus, Inc., discussed what service operators can offer that would benefit IoT entrepreneurs, inventors, and consumers. Evan McGee is the CTO of RingPlus, a leading innovative U.S. MVNO and wireless enabler. His focus is on combining web technologies with traditional telecom to create a new breed of unified communication that is easily accessible to the general consumer. With over a de...
Disruptive macro trends in technology are impacting and dramatically changing the "art of the possible" relative to supply chain management practices through the innovative use of IoT, cloud, machine learning and Big Data to enable connected ecosystems of engagement. Enterprise informatics can now move beyond point solutions that merely monitor the past and implement integrated enterprise fabrics that enable end-to-end supply chain visibility to improve customer service delivery and optimize supplier management. Learn about enterprise architecture strategies for designing connected systems tha...
Cloud is not a commodity. And no matter what you call it, computing doesn’t come out of the sky. It comes from physical hardware inside brick and mortar facilities connected by hundreds of miles of networking cable. And no two clouds are built the same way. SoftLayer gives you the highest performing cloud infrastructure available. One platform that takes data centers around the world that are full of the widest range of cloud computing options, and then integrates and automates everything. Join SoftLayer on June 9 at 16th Cloud Expo to learn about IBM Cloud's SoftLayer platform, explore se...
SYS-CON Media announced today that 9 out of 10 " most read" DevOps articles are published by @DevOpsSummit Blog. Launched in October 2014, @DevOpsSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce softw...