Monitoring Canary Releases with Hawkular APM

A blog post by Juraci Paixão Kröhling

apm | openshift | opentracing | vertx

In our last release, we built a Services screen on top of a feature added a couple of releases ago, the "service name" and "build stamps". These properties can be specified as an environment variable or system property, and are automatically detected when the monitored application runs on OpenShift.

Bars comparing performance of different service versions

In this blog post, we’ll show you how to use that screen to monitor a Canary release scenario. A Canary release is a technique used to minimize downtime (and risk) between deployments by preparing the new version on a completely different production environment and, once this new version is ready to serve requests, redirect some traffic from the "old" version to the "new" version. If this new version looks good, it gradually replaces the old version, eventually taking over all traffic. This technique builds on top of the Blue-Green deployment technique.

Getting the example running

We’ll use our Vert.x OpenTracing example for this demo. First, let’s deploy the example into OpenShift, along with Hawkular APM, by running the following Ansible playbook:

$ ansible-playbook vertx-opentracing.yml

After a few minutes, it should print out the address for the Order Manager microservice, like this:

TASK [Print out the order-manager address] *************************************
ok: [localhost] => {
    "msg": "The hostname for the Order Manager service is:"

At this point, change the script, to use this host instead of the original http://localhost:8180 on the curl command. It should then read: curl -X POST -H "Content-Type: application/json" -d "$data" Note that your hostname might be different than our example. You can then run the script, which will simulate some random requests to the Order Manager. The script will execute until it’s cancelled with Ctrl+C, and should have an output similar to this:

Creating an order for account=brian item=laptop quantity=3
  "accountId" : "brian",
  "itemId" : "laptop",
  "quantity" : 3,
  "id" : "d3f09a97-6f87-45c5-98c8-b592b6beb501"

Creating an order for account=sarah item=car quantity=4
Not account found

Creating an order for account=steve item=car quantity=2
  "accountId" : "steve",
  "itemId" : "car",
  "quantity" : 2,
  "id" : "7f095b1e-94a2-4398-8480-01aaea43e021"

Hawkular APM should be located under the service name hawkular-apm, so, the URL follows the pattern: Note that you’ll need to change the YOUR-IP part.

After a few minutes with our script running, the following can be seen:

Hawkular APM Dashboard with Data

Let’s open the Services tab, select the service order-manager.account-manager and the order-manager.account-manager-1 version. These names are derived automatically from the service name and deployment number provided by OpenShift. Let’s select an Aggregation Interval of 10 seconds.

Hawkular APM Services Tab with One Service

Introducing the Blue Deployment and the Canary Release

Now, we’ll create a new build and new application for our "Blue" deployment. We first set the current deployment to have 4 replicas, so that we’ll have 80% of the traffic going to the old version, and 20% going to the new one.

cd account-manager/
oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager --replicas=4
oc new-build --binary --name=account-manager-blue -l app=account-manager-blue
oc start-build account-manager-blue --from-dir=. --follow
oc new-app \
  account-manager-blue \
  -l app=account-manager-blue \
  HAWKULAR_APM_URI='http://hawkular-apm' \

This is the expected output for the previous command:

--> Found image 3f61c6a (37 seconds old) in image stream account-manager-blue under tag "latest" for "account-manager-blue"

    * This image will be deployed in deployment config "account-manager-blue"
    * The image does not expose any ports - if you want to load balance or send traffic to this component
      you will need to create a service with 'expose dc/account-manager-blue --port=[port]' later

--> Creating resources with label app=account-manager-blue ...
    deploymentconfig "account-manager-blue" created
--> Success
    Run 'oc status' to view your app.

We should also have a new service displayed on OpenShift console. Note the new account-manager-blue deployment, with 1 pod.

OpenShift with Blue/Green deployments for Account Manager

Our Account Manager microservice is a Vert.x Verticle, and reacts on messages sent to AccountManager.getAccount. As we are using a clustered event bus, our new account-manager-blue service will join the cluster and start replying to those messages. The Vert.x clustered bus will take care of load balancing the processing of the messages for us.

Because of that, we should already have some data being captured and reported to our Hawkular APM server. On the Services screen, add the new service order-manager.account-manager-blue, version order-manager.account-manager-blue-1 to the graphic. It should then look similar to this:

Hawkular APM Services Tab with Blue and Green services

We should see the bar for our blue deployment (orange bar on the image) to be around a quarter the size of the old version (blue bar on the image). As the number of errors is in line with what we expect, we can now reduce the traffic to the old version by adding more replicas to the new version and decreasing replicas from the old one:

oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager-blue --replicas=3
oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager --replicas=2

Let’s leave it running for a minute or so, and we should see that the new version is now responsible for processing around 60% of the traffic, while the old version is now processing around 40%. If it still looks good, we’ll make it 80%/20%:

oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager-blue --replicas=4
oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager --replicas=1

Eventually, we would want to decommission the old version:

oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager-blue --replicas=5
oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager --replicas=0

Let’s now simulate a new build for our Account Manager microservice, to be deployed on the green service (account-manager):

cd account-manager/
oc start-build account-manager --from-dir=. --follow

Once it’s finished, we can direct some of the traffic to this new version:

oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager --replicas=1
oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager-blue --replicas=4

After a few seconds, we should see the new version as a valid option on our Services screen:

New Green version

Let’s add it to the graphic, and watch the errors. If this version looks sane, we can direct more traffic to it:

oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager --replicas=3
oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager-blue --replicas=2

And eventually, direct all traffic to it:

oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager --replicas=5
oc scale deploymentconfig account-manager-blue --replicas=0

On the next screenshot, we can infer the following from the graphic:

  • We started with 100% traffic on order-manager.account-manager-1 (green deployment, blue bar)

  • We directed some traffic to order-manager.account-manager-blue-1 (blue deployment, orange bar)

  • We switched off order-manager.account-manager-1 (green deployment, blue bar)

  • We deployed the new version order-manager.account-manager-2 (green deployment, green bar)

  • We directed some traffic to order-manager.account-manager-2 (green deployment, green bar)

  • We switched off order-manager.account-manager-blue-1 (blue deployment, orange bar)

Final Result

Closing notes

On a real world scenario, the manual steps we did would be automated, potentially making your Continuous Deployment scripts read data from Hawkular APM in order to decide whether to scale up or down a canary release. Thanks to Vert.x, we were able to completely abstract the load balancer, controlling the percentage of traffic by adjusting the number of replicas on the Green/Blue deployments, but it’s also possible to achieve similar effects with other stacks. The OpenShift Hello World Microservices Architecture shows another way this can be achieved.

Thanks to OpenShift, we were able to instantly see the performance of new versions, comparing it with previous versions. Outside of OpenShift, we would be able to get the same effect by properly setting the environment variables HAWKULAR_APM_SERVICE_NAME and HAWKULAR_APM_BUILDSTAMP.

Try it out and let us know about your experiments! Should you face any issues, or if you want to talk to us, join us at #hawkular on

Published by Juraci Paixão Kröhling on 13 February 2017


© 2016 | Hawkular is released under Apache License v2.0