May
19
2020
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Gremlin brings chaos engineering to Windows platform

Chaos engineering is about helping companies set up worst-case scenarios and testing them to see what causes the operating system to fall over, but up until now, it has mostly been for teams running Linux servers. Gremlin, the startup that offers Chaos Engineering as a Service, released a new tool to give engineers working on Microsoft Windows systems access to a similar set of experiments.

Gremlin co-founder and CEO Kolton Andrus says that the four-year-old company started with Linux support, then moved to Docker containers and Kubernetes, but there has been significant demand for Windows support, and the company decided it was time to build this into the platform too.

“The same types of failure can occur, but it happens in different ways on different operating systems. And people need to be able to respond to that. So it’s been the blind spot, and we [decided to] prioritize the types of experiments that people [running Windows] need the most,” he said.

He added, “What we’re launching here is that core set of capabilities for customers so they can go out and get started right away.”

To that end, the Gremlin Windows agent lets engineers run experiments on shutdown, CPU, disk, I/O, memory and latency attacks. It’s worth noting that a third of the world’s servers still run on Windows, and having this ability to test these systems in this way has been mostly confined to companies that could afford to build their own systems in-house.

What Gremlin is doing for Windows is what it has done for the other supported systems. It’s enabling any company to take advantage of chaos engineering tools to help prevent system failure. During the pandemic, as some systems have become flooded with traffic, having this ability to experiment with different worst-case scenarios and figuring out what brings your system to its knees is more important than ever.

The Gremlin Windows agent not only gives the company a wider range of operating system support, it also broadens its revenue base, which is also increasingly important at a time of economic uncertainty.

The company, which is based in the San Francisco area, was founded in 2016 and has raised more than $26 million, according to Crunchbase data. The company raised the bulk of that, $18 million, in 2018.

Nov
18
2019
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Gremlin brings Chaos Engineering as a Service to Kubernetes

The practice of Chaos Engineering developed at Amazon and Netflix a decade ago to help those web scale companies test their complex systems for worst-case scenarios before they happened. Gremlin was started by a former employee of both these companies to make it easier to perform this type of testing without a team of Site Reliability Engineers (SREs). Today, the company announced that it now supports Chaos Engineering-style testing on Kubernetes clusters.

The company made the announcement at the beginning of KubeCon, the Kubernetes conference taking place in San Diego this week.

Gremlin co-founder and CEO Kolton Andrus says that the idea is to be able to test and configure Kubernetes clusters so they will not fail, or at least reduce the likelihood. He says to do this it’s critical to run chaos testing (tests of mission-critical systems under extreme duress) in live environments, whether you’re testing Kubernetes clusters or anything else, but it’s also a bit dangerous to do be doing this. He says to mitigate the risk, best practices suggest that you limit the experiment to the smallest test possible that gives you the most information.

“We can come in and say I’m going to deal with just these clusters. I want to cause failure here to understand what happens in Kubernetes when these pieces fail. For instance, being able to see what happens when you pause the scheduler. The goal is being able to help people understand this concept of the blast radius, and safely guide them to running an experiment,” Andrus explained.

In addition, Gremlin is helping customers harden their Kubernetes clusters to help prevent failures with a set of best practices. “We clearly have the tooling that people need [to conduct this type of testing], but we’ve also learned through many, many customer interactions and experiments to help them really tune and configure their clusters to be fault tolerant and resilient,” he said.

The Gremlin interface is designed to facilitate this kind of targeted experimentation. You can check the areas you want to apply a test, and you can see graphically which parts of the system are being tested. If things get out of control, there is a kill switch to stop the tests.

Gremlin Kubernetes testing screen (Screenshot: Gremlin)

Gremlin launched in 2016. Its headquarters are in San Jose. It offers both a freemium and pay product. The company has raised almost $27 million, according to Crunchbase data.

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