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Best Practices for Identifying Bottlenecks in Modern Applications

Ofer Dekel

Product Manager, Intel Granulate

In our modern, tech-centric world, applications are key drivers of business productivity and service delivery. In this competitive landscape, every millisecond counts. Yet performance bottlenecks lurk, ready to trip up even the most robust applications, causing a cascade of inefficiencies that can cost time, customer satisfaction, and ultimately, money. 

Maximize your application’s performance with these 5 steps to identify bottlenecks through monitoring, different types of testing, tagging, and continuous profiling techniques, to ensure your applications remain at peak performance.

1. Monitor and Measure Performance Regularly

Regular performance monitoring is an integral part of maintaining and optimizing any modern application. Bottlenecks can occur at any point in the system infrastructure but are commonly found in these three areas: I/O’s (i.e. database queries), memory usage and CPU usage

Continuous Profiling

Performance monitoring involves consistently tracking and analyzing key performance metrics to identify potential issues before they become significant problems. Key metrics that should be monitored include:

  • Response Time – This metric measures how long it takes for your application to respond to user requests. If response time starts to increase, it could be a sign of a bottleneck. As a general rule of thumb, a good response time is around 100-200 milliseconds for a web application.
  • Throughput – Throughput pertains to the volume of transactions or tasks your application can handle within a given timeframe. A sudden drop in throughput means your system is processing fewer tasks over the same period, possibly indicating a bottleneck.
  • Error Rates – Error rates quantify the frequency of errors encountered relative to all transactions. This could be HTTP 500 errors, exceptions thrown, failed logins, or other application-specific issues. A sudden increase in error rates suggests that a larger percentage of your application’s transactions are failing, potentially due to a bottleneck.
  • System Resource Usage – This includes tracking CPU usage, memory usage, disk I/O, and network I/O. These resources are finite, and if your application starts using a higher proportion of these, it could mean there’s a bottleneck. It might be that your application requires more memory due to increased user load, or a software update has made it more CPU-intensive.

Regular performance monitoring helps ensure that your application remains in peak condition, providing the best possible user experience. And when bottlenecks do arise, early detection means they can be addressed promptly and effectively, minimizing their impact on application performance and user satisfaction.

2. Perform Load Testing

Oracle defines performance testing as “testing conducted to isolate and identify the system and application issues (bottlenecks) that will keep the application from scaling to meet its performance requirements.” 

Load testing is your first line of defense against bottlenecks. It’s about replicating the typical conditions your application should operate under and assessing its behavior when dealing with expected concurrent user loads.

To conduct load testing, you’ll simulate multiple users accessing your application simultaneously in a controlled environment, where you can analyze its performance and stability. The goal is to uncover any issues that aren’t apparent during individual unit testing.

3. Carry Out Stress Testing

Stress testing is a vigorous form of performance testing that puts your application under extreme conditions to evaluate its sturdiness, stability, and reliability. It’s akin to intentionally pushing your application to the edge, helping identify the tipping point – the maximum load it can bear before performance degrades or system components buckle.

While load testing uncovers bottlenecks in normal operations, stress testing shines a light on potential pitfalls during activity peaks or unexpected demand surges.

Microsoft recommends an 80% capacity threshold as a smart strategy for managing sudden traffic increases without overburdening your infrastructure. Put simply, your systems should be prepared to handle a load heavier than your typical one. So, if your load testing reveals a normal load of about 50,000 requests per second, your infrastructure should be able to take on 62,500 requests per second under stress.

Continuous Profiling

4. Conduct Scalability Testing

Scalability testing is an essential type of performance testing that evaluates your application’s ability to cope with growing amounts of work. While stress testing and scalability testing may seem similar, they serve distinct purposes and are not the same. 

The main objective is to ascertain the application’s ability to “scale up” to support a surge in user load. It helps to identify the maximum capacity of an application and at what point its performance starts deteriorating. The goal is not to break the system but to understand its growth potential and ensure it can handle future load increases. 

During scalability testing, you incrementally increase the load on your application while monitoring the key performance indicators (KPIs) mentioned earlier. The goal is to identify the point at which adding more load causes performance to degrade or the system to fail. This degradation point indicates a bottleneck that needs to be addressed to improve scalability, especially if your application is expecting or hoping for an influx of new users in the near future. 

5. Implement a Tagging and Tracking System

Tagging and tracking is a powerful strategy for gaining more detailed insights into the operation of your applications. By attaching tags—metadata that describes specific attributes or characteristics—to your workloads, you can more easily track and analyze their journey through your system.

In essence, each tag serves as an identifier for a workload, allowing you to see where it originates, where it’s going, and how it interacts with different parts of your system. This approach is particularly beneficial in microservice architectures, where a single transaction may interact with multiple services across various infrastructure layers.

Tagging could include information such as the originating user, transaction type, time of initiation, priority level, or any other data relevant to your application. Once tagged, you can track these workloads in real time, observing how they behave at each step of processing.

This granular level of visibility can provide invaluable insights into potential bottlenecks. If a certain type of transaction consistently experiences delays in a specific service, it could indicate a bottleneck within that service. Similarly, if high-priority workloads are getting blocked or slowed down, it might suggest a need for better resource allocation strategies.

Use Granulate’s Continuous Profiler

Identifying performance bottlenecks in modern application development often proves challenging with traditional methods such as collecting logs and utilizing code instrumentations. Identifying performance bottlenecks in modern application development can be time-consuming and traditional methods might not offer the in-depth insights necessary for efficient analysis. 

A modern solution to this issue is continuous profiling. This involves continuous collection of application performance data, highlighting the most resource-intensive areas of your application code.

Granulate’s open-source continuous profiler goes beyond regular profiling. It is a robust, easy-to-deploy tool for production profiling. Its versatility is showcased in its capability to function in distributed environments, including Kubernetes, big data, and stream processing workloads.

Language compatibility is a strength of Granulate’s profiler. Whether it’s native stacks, proprietary code, or popular languages like Java, Python, Go, Ruby, and more, Granulate’s profiler can handle it.

While delivering complete visibility, the tool ensures minimal performance degradation, thanks to eBPF technology, ensuring less than 1% utilization penalty. The software also adheres to stringent software security standards evident in the SOC 2 compliance.

Continuous Profiling

The Next Step

In a digital world where performance is key to user satisfaction, taking proactive steps to identify and rectify bottlenecks is paramount. However, identifying bottlenecks is just the first step. The next crucial phase is resolving these issues to ensure that your applications run smoothly, efficiently, and effectively. 

It’s here that Granulate’s suite of optimization solutions can be instrumental. Granulate provides real-time continuous runtime optimization and capacity optimization, ensuring that your applications always perform at their peak. With zero code changes or deployment modifications required, it can be up and running cluster-wide within minutes. 

Through intelligent software performance optimizations, Granulate allows you to break free from bottlenecks and infrastructure limitations, delivering remarkable improvements in workload performance and resource efficiency. By leveraging Granulate’s solutions, you can ensure that your applications are not only resilient but also cost-efficient, which is a boon in today’s increasingly competitive digital landscape.

Don’t let performance bottlenecks impede your application’s potential. Take the next step in application optimization with Granulate, and experience the difference in efficiency, performance, and cost-savings. You’ve identified your bottlenecks; now, let Granulate resolve them. 

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