Risk
8/1/2012
01:16 PM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Netflix Wants You To Adopt Chaos Monkey

Netflix has made its own automated disaster testing service, Chaos Monkey, available as a free public download. Should you turn it loose on your own systems?

Netflix is a high-profile consumer service. When things go wrong, people tend to notice. So it might seem strange that the company tries to make things go wrong with its service on a regular basis.

That's indeed the goal of "Chaos Monkey," the automated software Netflix developed to test its infrastructure's mettle. In layman's terms, Chaos Money tries to break stuff. The theory behind this is to build a stronger platform and avoid the types of major, unexpected problems that tend to make IT's phones ring at 2 a.m. (Netflix configures the tool to run only during normal business hours; that way IT staff handle any related issues during the day instead of on nights and weekends.)

Now everyone can embrace the chaos: Netflix just made the source code publicly available as a free download. You'll first need to ask yourself if you've got the guts for it. Or, as Netflix put it in a blog post: "Do you think your applications can handle a troop of mischievous monkeys loose in your infrastructure?"

[ Security researcher Dan Kaminsky wants to address security by changing the fundamental way code is written. Read more at Tired Of Security Problems? Change Rules Of Writing Code. ]

If you're picturing the band of winged monkeys from "The Wizard of Oz" running amok, you're not far off--they've just been reengineered for the cloud. Chaos Monkey deliberately shut downs virtual machines (VMs) within Amazon's Auto-Scaling Groups (ASGs). (Though the software was written with Amazon Web Services in mind, Netflix said Chaos Monkey is flexible enough to work with other cloud platforms.)

By causing intentional failures on individual instances--Netflix generated more than 65,000 failures in the last year, according to the company--you can learn from those errors and their resolutions. Basic example: Is your application hardy enough to weather a failed VM, or could that single instance bring the curtains down on the whole show?

That type of no-holds-barred testing can help unearth and resolve unknown issues before they become major outages. Better yet, it can lead to stronger applications as they're being built, rather than trying to retrofit them after the fact. "By having that constant idea that something's going to break, [Netflix has] within their dev ops and engineering departments the mindset that they have to make sure that no single point can take down the entire site," said Jim MacLeod, product manager at the networking firm WildPackets, in an interview.

In Netflix's case, it makes sense to try to rise to Chaos Monkey's challenge--their bottom line depends upon their site running smoothly. "If you look at Netflix's business model, what really differentiates them isn't just streaming media--it's the fact there's something immediate and easy for users to get to, but that means they have to be fairly reliable," MacLeod said. "Reliability and uptime are things that are difficult to put in afterwards if you don't design it in, just like security."

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Embedded SW Dev
50%
50%
Embedded SW Dev,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/2/2012 | 5:44:30 PM
re: Netflix Wants You To Adopt Chaos Monkey
Apparently someone let the Chaos Monkey loose. Today's Infoweek daily's link to this story lead to a story about the errant stock trading on Wednesday. Was that a hint that Knight Capital was testing the Chaos Monkey, or did the Chaos Monkey infect the mailing?
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Must Reads - September 25, 2014
Dark Reading's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of identity and access management. Learn about access control in the age of HTML5, how to improve authentication, why Active Directory is dead, and more.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2012-5619
Published: 2014-09-29
The Sleuth Kit (TSK) 4.0.1 does not properly handle "." (dotfile) file system entries in FAT file systems and other file systems for which . is not a reserved name, which allows local users to hide activities it more difficult to conduct forensics activities, as demonstrated by Flame.

CVE-2012-5621
Published: 2014-09-29
lib/engine/components/opal/opal-call.cpp in ekiga before 4.0.0 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via an OPAL connection with a party name that contains invalid UTF-8 strings.

CVE-2012-6107
Published: 2014-09-29
Apache Axis2/C does not verify that the server hostname matches a domain name in the subject's Common Name (CN) or subjectAltName field of the X.509 certificate, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof SSL servers via an arbitrary valid certificate.

CVE-2012-6110
Published: 2014-09-29
bcron-exec in bcron before 0.10 does not close file descriptors associated with temporary files when running a cron job, which allows local users to modify job files and send spam messages by accessing an open file descriptor.

CVE-2013-1874
Published: 2014-09-29
Untrusted search path vulnerability in csi in Chicken before 4.8.2 allows local users to execute arbitrary code via a Trojan horse .csirc in the current working directory.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In our next Dark Reading Radio broadcast, we’ll take a close look at some of the latest research and practices in application security.