As part of our strategy to reinforce GitLab SaaS as an enterprise grade platform ready for business critical workloads, GitLab.com has specific Availability and Performance targets.
These targets give our users indication of the platform reliability.
Additionally, GitLab.com Service Level Availability is also a part of our contractual agreement with platform customers. The contract might define a specific target number, and not honouring that agreement may result in financial and reputational burdens.
The Google SRE book is generally a recommended read and under the "Motivation for Error Budgets" section, it states:
The error budget provides a clear, objective metric that determines how unreliable the service is allowed to be within a single quarter. This metric removes the politics from negotiations between the SREs and the product developers when deciding how much risk to allow.
This is the goal we are striving for too, while also acknowledging that in order to arrive at the same level of sophistication, we need to take into account our specific situation, maturity and additional requirements. Our initial approach will directly tie Error Budget SLO with our existing approach to availability.
Future iterations of our error budgets will seek to further develop the importance of the Product Manager in balancing risk tolerance with feature velocity. The above-mentioned clarity between developers and SRE is achieved by establishing the appropriate measures and targets for each service or area of product. Ultimately this balances the importance of new feature work with the ongoing service expectations of users.
Error Budgets first depend on establishing an SLO (Service Level Objective). SLOs are made up of an objective, a SLI (Service Level Indicator), and a timeframe.
Here is an example of these elements:
Taken all together, the above example SLO would be: 99.95% of the 95th percentile latency of api requests over 5 mins is < 100ms over the previous 28 days
The Error Budget is then 1 - Objective of the SLO, in this case (1 - .9995 = .0005). Using our 28 day timeframe, the "budget" for errors is 20.16 minutes (.0005 * (28 * 24 * 60))
While the above example shows the SLI as a latency measurement, it is important to note that other measurements (such as % errors) are also good elements to use for SLIs.
GitLab's current implementation of Error Budgets is only using some of the above sophistication of SLOs and Error Budgets, but we expect to increase the sophistication in the future. It is expected that the practices of SLOs and Error Budgets evolve to have both the objective and the SLI vary (appropriately) based on the criticality of the service as well as the resiliency of other services and components which depend on it.
Web requests that result in a
500 status code error are counted. In Sidekiq, jobs that fail due to an unhandled exception are counted.
If a group has custom SLIs, or there's an SLI with a fixed feature category configured in our metrics catalog, then those errors will also be counted.
Engineers can use
Gitlab::ErrorTracking.track_exception, or other logging, freely without affecting the error budget.
GitLab is a complex system that needs to be delivered as a highly available SaaS platform. Over the years, several processes have been introduced to address some of the challenges of maintaining feature delivery velocity while ensuring that the SaaS reliability continues to increase.
The Infradev Process was created to prioritize resolving an issue after an incident or degradation has happened. While the process has proven to be successful, it is event-focused and event-driven.
The Engineering Allocation Process was created to address long term team efficiency, performance and security items.
The initial iteration of error budgets at GitLab aims to introduce objective data and establish a system that will create greater insight into how individual features are performing over an extended period of time. This can be used by the organization to correctly allocate focus, ensure that the risk is well balanced and that the system as a whole remains healthier for extended periods of time.
Assigning error budgets down to the feature category sets a baseline for specific features, which in turn should ensure alignment on prioritizing what's important for GitLab SaaS.
Each group has a
Budget spend attribution section in their
Budget detail dashboard that allows them to discover where their budget is being spent.
Budget failures panel and each link in the
Failure log links panel are ordered by the number of errors. Prioritising fixing the top offenders in these tables will have the biggest impact on the budget spent.
Let's take look at a simplified violation scenario with different traffic patterns:
|Endpoint||Total requests||Slow requests||Apdex ratio||Traffic share|
|Endpoint A||1 000||500||50%||1%|
|Endpoint B||99 000||9 000||90%||99%|
Endpoint A has a lower apdex ratio, fixing more violations from
Endpoint B will have a greater impact on the error budget overall, as they
account for the majority of violations impacting the error budget.
Now let's take a look at a more complex violation scenario:
|Endpoint||Total requests||Slow requests||Apdex ratio||Traffic share|
|Endpoint A||100 000||30||99.97%||80%|
|Endpoint B||25 000||30||99.88%||20%|
The 30 errors from
Endpoint A and
Endpoint B both have an identical impact
on the error budget. However, it would be better to work on
because it has a higher ratio of slow requests / overall requests. Because
Endpoint A is already meeting the target of 99.95%, no additional work is required here.
99.97% is a good score and any deliberate improvements here could be considered a premature optimization.
The number of violations for
Endpoint B puts it below the apdex
threshold, so if these two endpoints are the top violators we see, we
should look into improving
The error budgets process has a few distinct items:
The stakeholders in the Error Budget process are:
Error budget is calculated based on the availability targets.
With the current target of
99.95% availability, allowed unavailability window is
20 minutes per 28 day period.
We elected to use the 28 day period to match Product reporting methods.
The budget is set on the SaaS platform and is shared between stage and infrastructure teams. Service Level Availability calculation methodology is covered in details at the GitLab.com SLA page.
This includes all Rails Controllers, API Endpoints, Sidekiq workers, and other SLIs defined in the service catalog. This is attributed to groups by defining a feature category. Documentation about feature categorization is available in the developer guide.
The number or complexity of features owned by a team, existing product priorities, or the team size does not influence the budget.
On the 4th of each month, the Error Budget Report is delivered for the Budget Spend by Stage Group.
The announcements appear in
There can be months where many stage groups are over budget because of an underlying infrastructure issue. When the report is generated, if there are more than 5 groups over budget (where the group's traffic share is >0.1%), the Scalability Group will investigate the increased spend before issuing the report. We will announce in the Slack channels that we are investigating before issuing the report. The intention is to prevent duplicate investigations by multiple teams.
Stage groups are expected to review the monthly Error Budget Report and comment on any overspend in their feature categories.
Stage groups are not expected to report weekly on their Error Budget spend. Feature categories with monthly spend above the allocated budget for three consecutive months will be added to the agenda for discussion.
The current budget spend can be found on the general SLA dashboard.
Spent budget is the time (in minutes) during which user facing services have experienced a percentage of errors below the specified threshold and latency is above the specified objectives for the service. The details on how SLA is calculated can be found at the GitLab.com SLA page.
The budget spend is currently aggregated at the primary service level.
Details on what contributed to the budget spend can be further found by examining the raised incidents, and exploring the specific service dashboard (and its resources).
There is an example available with a more detailed look at how this is built.
The current 28 day budget spend can be found on each stage group dashboard. Feature categories for that stage group are rolled up to a single value.
Stage groups can use their dashboards to explore the cause of their budget spend. The process to investigate the budget spend is described in the developer documentation
The formula for calculating availability:
the number of operations with a satisfactory apdex + the number of operations without errors / the total number of apdex measurements + the total number of operations
This gives us the percentage of operations that completed successfully and is converted to minutes:
(1 - stage group availability) * (28 * 24 * 60)
Apdex and Error Rates are explained in more detail on the handbook page.
Error Budget Spend information is available on the Error Budgets Overview Dashboard in Sisense.
System-wide incidents affecting shared services (such as the database or Redis) may have an impact on a team's Error Budget spend. Since we look at spend over a 28-day period, the impact of these short lived events should be mostly negligible.
If the impact is significant, we can discuss on the Monthly Report if this incident should warrant a manual adjustment to spend.
At this time we are not looking further into automatically discounting system-wide events from group-level error budgets. The team is focused on building a strong foundation for error budgets, with sufficient tuning capability to be relevant for each group.
Error budget events are attributed to stage groups via feature categorization. To change the feature category for an endpoint, update the endpoint as described in the feature categorization development documentation.
Updates to feature categories only change how future events are mapped to stage groups. Previously reported events will not be retroactively updated.
The Scalability:Projections team owns keeping the mappings up to date when feature categories are changed in the website repository. When the categories are changed in
stages.yml, a scheduled pipeline creates an issue (example issue) on the build board. The issue contains the pipeline link and instructions to follow in the description. The categories need to be synced to two places:
When a group gets created, the group is added to the
stages.yml. In that merge request, the new group will get assigned new or existing feature categories.
When this MR is merged, Scalability receives an automated issue to update the metrics catalog in our recording infrastructure. This occurs within one week of the new group being added to
When that metrics catalog is updated, the metrics for the relevant feature categories will get attributed to the new stage group. Similar to when the attribution is changed, the change is not retroactive. This means if an existing feature category moves from
source code to
code review on the 15th, that feature category will contribute to the error budget of
source code for the metrics emitted from the 1st to the 15th. The metrics from the 15th onward will be counted towards the error budget for
The same applies when a group is renamed or a stage moves: if a group rename was merged in the metrics catalog on the 15th, the 28 day report will include 15 days of data for the group's old name, while the most recent days will be attributed to the group with the new name.
Stage groups who have a traffic share of >0.01% in a given month should abide by this contract to balance feature development with reliability development. The traffic share for a stage group is visible on the monthly Error Budget Report.
Error Budgets should be reviewed monthly as part of the Product Development Timeline.
The balance between feature development and reliability development for a feature category should be as follows:
|Monthly Spend (28 days)||Action|
|<= 20 minutes||Understand your spend - no further action required.|
|> 20 minutes||Commitment to reliability/availability improvements, feature development is secondary.|
Feature categories with monthly spend above the allocated budget for three consecutive months may have additional feature development restrictions put in place.
Our current contract is 99.95% availability and a 20 minute monthly error budget. However, the following groups have a temporarily adjusted budget based on business needs:
|Stage Group||Monthly Spend (28 days)||Business Reason||Review Date|
|Enablement:Global Search||99.85%||Budget is being consumed primarily by basic search for MR's and projects, which utilize Postgres. These are well-known problematic searches across the platform. Solving them will likely require using Elasticsearch, which requires a business decision (internal only).||2023-06-22|
|Enablement:Tenant Scale||99.85%||To allow the group to focus on long-term scalability work as well as coordinate changes requiring introduction in the next API version. Described in this MR||2023-12-31 (or if total traffic share exceeds 5%)|
Temporary exceptions are granted as a means to allow different stakeholders to fulfill higher priority business needs, if it is estimated that the granted exception is not creating additional risk to GitLab.com reliability. Note that exceptions are different from Custom Targets, which set properties on endpoints defining acceptable performance.
Valid reasons for an exception are:
Instructions for Requesting an Exception
To request an exception, open an MR and add the stage group to the table above. In the description, supply the following details:
Provide answers to the following questions:
Follow the guidance and instructions above to expedite the approval process.
Assign the MR for approval to:
Work relating to error budget improvements should be detailed in an issue.
Please label these issues with
Improvement and the
group:: label so they can be tracked in reports.
|Role||K/PI||Target||Current Tracking Status|
|Product Management||Maintaining the Spend of the Error Budget||20 minutes over 28 days (equivalent to 99.95% availability)||Complete - In Sisense|
|Infrastructure||Setting the Error Budget Minutes and Availability Target||99.95% (20 minutes over 28 days Error Budget)||Complete - In Grafana|
The changes below aim to increase the maturity of the Error Budgets.
not_ownedwill be attributed to the correct feature category. This will be addressed by
Product Development Activities
Product Development teams are encouraged to: