5 Principles of Production Readiness
Production readiness refers to when a certain application or a program will be ready to operate. Once the application is made, we call it a production-ready application.
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Ever wondered how to tell if an application is ready for production? What if I tell you that you can do this just by using five simple principles? Using just these five principles, you can assess your app’s readiness, and you don’t have to be technical to get them either. Well, let’s see what these principles are and how they can make your life easy.
Production readiness refers to when a certain application or a program will be ready to operate. Usually, if you are a developer, you will have to create a product life-cycle and develop a product yourself. Once the application is made, we call it a production-ready application. At this point, the application should be capable of handling production-level traffic, data and security.
Once an application is marked production-ready, it can be trusted completely to handle its real work. Following the principles of availability, the application should be available for all the intended users.
“A production-ready application or service is one that can be trusted to serve production traffic. We trust it to behave reasonably, we trust it to perform reliably, we trust it to get the job done and to do its job well with very little downtime.” Susan J. Fowler
So how to make an application production-ready? How to assess an application’s Production Readiness? Well, let’s find out.
The Five Production Readiness Principles
Here are five Production Readiness principles that everyone should know.
1. Stability and Reliability
Stability is the most vital aspect when it comes to a production-ready application. There are many instances in which an application is released too early in a relatively volatile form. Such applications do not do well in the market. The most recent example for an unstable release would be the game ‘Cyberpunk 2077.’
With evolving technologies, numerous big applications are created as multiple microservices. Verifying these multiple services is a time-consuming job. Several new testing and automation methods emerged as a result that leaves the developers with more vital things to worry about.
Continuous integration with a central code repository is one such method. Conduct meticulous code reviews to check whether the build is reproducible and whether all the requirements are met.
You can ensure stability by following a steady development life-cycle throughout the creation of the application.
Stable Development Lifecycle:
The development life cycle refers to the process in which the application is developed, starting from the very beginning. It includes everything from creating the basic APIs to integrating them to create a working platform. Stability in the development life cycle can ensure the overall stability in the development process.
Unit testing can help you achieve a stable development life-cycle. Unit testing is a process in which each unit is tested thoroughly to ensure it met the requirements.
Reliability is another important aspect of an application. Everyone wants to use only a reliable application. If an app doesn’t retain the data it is supposed to, then that may make the application seem unreliable. There are three things that can ensure that an application is reliable: Dependency management, Onboarding + Deprecation Procedures, and Routing + Discovery.
Ensure that your software is deployed in a simple and repeatable method. Canary deployments can help you achieve stability. In this type of deployment, you will roll out the features to only a specific set of users. Testing with dark canary instances can also help your application a lot.
Finally, prepare a good staging environment for your software. The staging environment should be exactly the same as the production environment. This ensures the level of readiness of your application.
is just what it sounds like. You maintain detailed records of what your project needs, including the time and the resources. By doing this, we can ensure that our application will be completed successfully before a deadline.
Most often than not, it is the changes in inbound traffic or the changes in behavior from downstream traffic that creates unreliability in microservices. The engineers should understand how all the production processes work and their impact on the application.
Onboarding and Deprecation
The term onboarding refers to integrating any recruits into the teams. It may also refer to telling a client or a customer about the application briefly for the first time. In either case, it must go well to ensure the application’s reliability.
Onboarding should include documented processes to use the APIs. Good documentation can make the onboarding process much easier. Managing access control is also a key to ensuring data safety.
The best practices have to be discussed with the new recruits to avoid any discrepancies later on, which may slow the production.
The deprecation process should include setting up firewalls and managing them effectively. Code cleanup is also a vital part of deprecation.
Routing and Discovery
Routing is the process of deciding on where an app should go or where a particular link should redirect. Discovery is an identification process to figure out all the apps and services running on the network and various details associated with them.
In the routing process, ensure if there is a standard way to discover how to get to your service. Check whether your application has reliable health-checks.
2. Scalability and Performance
Scalability is a vital aspect of the growth of an application. For instance, if your application uses a centralized system to store and retrieve information in compressed form to increase data transfer speeds, it may not be ideal for releasing the application blindly without a scalable plan. Since cloud services cost a ton of money, a centralized system may not be able to handle all the data. Integrating a neural net or a decentralized system to store data in this application ensures scalability.
It is of significant importance to be aware of all the resources that are available to you. By not being aware of the resources you have in your possession can lead to severe underuse of the existing resources, or in worst cases, a quick burnout.
You should be aware of your resource usage, your bottlenecks, and horizontal vs vertical scaling.
Understanding growth scales is another factor that will ensure the scalability of your application. Growth scales will help us identify the key features that may be affected when we scale the application. They may also provide some vital information about resources management.
Growth scales indicate how your service scales with the business goals/ metrics, how your application scales as it gets more traffic (how do you make it serve more traffic), and what resource 'bounds' the application throughput.
Along with your core application's scaling capabilities, you also have to ensure its dependencies’ scaling capacity. Ask yourself some questions like- If you're using third-party software in your applications, what would the scaling cost you? Are there any better tools for scaling to a suitable extent? It will help you quite a bit in this process.
Performance is the main issue a customer or a user is concerned with. The scary thing about performance is that there is no standard method to evaluate complex applications’ outcome except for user reviews.
It is best to review performance every time a change is made to the service. Constantly measure and report performance traffic management.
However, the two most considered principles for performance are traffic management and capacity planning.
Traffic management is the process in which a system administrator may control the traffic and vary it as per the requirement. Understanding traffic management can reduce the presence of unused resources and make the application more efficient.
Traffic management can help you scale for bursts or failovers. Quality of service is indeed dependent on traffic management.
Capacity planning refers to the process in which we determine the production capacity needed to deploy the application. An application must have a good capacity. However, this doesn’t mean that the app will always run at the maximum capacity. Capacity planning ties everything together. You need to have the right numbers to know how many resources you’ll need in the future.
Evaluating the maximum capacity of your application will also come in handy. For instance, the number of users visiting a blogging application may change in the holiday season. Planning resources accordingly will also improve the efficiency of your application, saving you both time and money.
You must conduct regular performance evaluations to check whether you're improving over time. If the application starts lagging as more and more users register, then it won't be of much use to anyone.
3. Fault Tolerance and Disaster Recovery
Fault tolerance became one of the crucial parts of an application in the past decade. The best way to ensure fault tolerance is not to have a Single Point of Failure. Ensure that you have backup systems if anything goes sideways with your current ones.
Increasing ransomware threats are also the ones to look out for. With more and more attacks surfacing every day with nothing but the financial motivation, every working application must have a backup server ready with all the information at a secure place in case the first one is hacked or jammed by a Distributed Denial of Service attack.
Even though hardware failures and rack failures are not common in 2021, always be prepared for them.
Resiliency engineering is also quite important for any application. It is also known as chaos engineering. One of the finer principles in resiliency engineering is the defense in depth principle. Always maintain more than one defense mechanism to thwart any attempts of the attack on your application or its users.
To check your application’s resiliency, break your service to find weak points and come up with methods to make things fail more gracefully. Be prepared for every outcome you can imagine.
Disaster Recovery and Incident Management
Disaster recovery and incident management are also vital for the survival of any modern app. You must understand your application’s various failure scenarios, the ways in which your service can break, and have plans ready on what to do when the application fails. Of course, not all disasters are predictable, and hence we have incident management. In case there's a natural disaster at a data center, ensure that you can run the application without causing any interruptions to the users.
Having a proper disaster recovery plan will help you a great deal in situations like these. An incident management team studies multiple incidents and maintains coordination with all the departments on what to do.
For instance, if one of your servers is hit by a Denial of Service attack, then the incident management team will step in. An incident management team will analyze the information and prepare a plan of action to follow within no time.
Have an outlined process to manage and respond to the outages. Game days are a great way to test this.
Disaster Recovery Plan
A disaster recovery plan must include the following aspects to ensure that nothing goes wrong and that your customers can enjoy your services uninterrupted.
- Inventory of all the assets.
- Backup Servers Ready to go.
- Data Recovery systems.
- A working communication plan.
- Personnel Contact sheets.
Maintaining both disaster recovery and incident management teams will help you keep your app available and safer to everyone.
Monitoring your app is just as important as creating it. You must have various monitoring software and tools to say that an application is production-ready. Maintaining proper Dashboards integrated with alerting will make monitoring much easier. Dashboards are to measure high-level system health. All the alerts should have pre-planned responses ready. If you don’t have pre-planned responses, you may face alert fatigue.
Since you may have to monitor millions of events like user log in, registration, and such, it often behooves you to automate some of the manual tasks in the monitoring area.
Maintaining good documentation to follow in case of alerts is critical for development. For instance, say you faced a situation where users were unable to access their encrypted data. In this case, having a recovery plan helps as things may take quick turns in a matter of seconds.
Another underrated method to monitor an application is through logging. By logging the application information, you can find a ton of really useful information that you didn't even know existed.
Documentation is the final principle to be sure that an application is Production-ready. Many technology firms and organizations encourage documenting the entire application. Since different people may maintain and interact with the application in different ways, it is important to document the app with as many details as possible.
It often helps to have a single landing page for documentation (either on the wiki or the website). This will keep things clear for the new developers that just started their work on the project. Ensure that the documentation is reviewed regularly. If you're afraid that you may forget, you can use automated tools to alert you to update the documentation when a new code is pushed into the servers.
Documentation should be peer-reviewed by engineers and partners. It should be written by everyone and not just a single person. Ensure that you and all the parties involved in the documentation process also review the changes and the documentation every 3-6 months. Since there may be huge functionality changes to an application, it is super critical to notify them of this first so that they can be prepared in their own way.
Good documentation often includes:
- Key info.
- Description of the application.
- Diagram or rough architecture.
- API description that tells the readers how to use the APIs or what they do.
- Emergency information and codes.
- Information on how to proceed for recruits.
Maintaining well-drafted guidelines is the key to Production Readiness.
Prepare manual checklists to monitor the progress of your application. If you're concerned about whether your application is truly production-ready, there are various automated tools that you can use to verify this. This, combined with standardizing your services and quality assurance, is sure to put your application on the Production-ready list.
Breaking down the automated scores by teams or departments can help you identify the areas where further work is needed.
An application must be marked production-ready before a working beta can be released. Establishing a constant development cycle will ensure that the release isn't too early. By maintaining proper principles, you can ensure that your application will be production-ready within the deadline.
Creating measurable guidelines is always the key to building fantastic production-ready applications.
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