Risk
8/1/2012
01:16 PM
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
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
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, January 2015
To find and fix exploits aimed directly at your business, stop waiting for alerts and become a proactive hunter.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7402
Published: 2014-12-17
Multiple unspecified vulnerabilities in request.c in c-icap 0.2.x allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a crafted ICAP request.

CVE-2014-5437
Published: 2014-12-17
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in ARRIS Touchstone TG862G/CT Telephony Gateway with firmware 7.6.59S.CT and earlier allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that (1) enable remote management via a request to remote_management.php,...

CVE-2014-5438
Published: 2014-12-17
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in ARRIS Touchstone TG862G/CT Telephony Gateway with firmware 7.6.59S.CT and earlier allows remote authenticated users to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the computer_name parameter to connected_devices_computers_edit.php.

CVE-2014-7170
Published: 2014-12-17
Race condition in Puppet Server 0.2.0 allows local users to obtain sensitive information by accessing it in between package installation or upgrade and the start of the service.

CVE-2014-7285
Published: 2014-12-17
The management console on the Symantec Web Gateway (SWG) appliance before 5.2.2 allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary OS commands by injecting command strings into unspecified PHP scripts.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.