Synthetics: June/July 2021 Update
New App Agents
We released a new set of agents that will enable tests at the application layer. These are what we’re calling “App Agents” and they are capable of running a full headless Chrome browser instance. These agents will enable us to offer our customers tests like Page Load tests and Transaction tests. When used in conjunction with our rich network layer functionality, these new agents and test types will allow network engineering and network operations teams to quickly determine if the issue is at the network layer or at the application layer.
Full Browser Page Load Test
We activated the Page Load Test type that performs a full browser page load using the new App agents.
- The new test type can be set up by clicking “Page Load” under “Web Tests”
- Agent selection uses the new App agents but this is seamless to the end user.
- Once in the test setup, clicking the “edit agents” button will only display the App agents in the list (that is currently a subset of all locations but growing to include all currently supported locations).
- The test set up is similar to the HTTP or API test except:
- It performs a full browser page load (while the HTTP test stops after the page contents are retrieved using a GET)
- Only includes GET option (since it is a page load). Does not include ping and trace alongside the page load (we have plans to support that in the future).
- The results are presented in a similar fashion to the HTTP or API test, with the following differences:
- Table columns include new “DOM Processing Time” and “Navigation & App Cache” that are specifically relevant to the time taken for the browser to load and display the contents of the page respectively
BGP Route Viewer
BGP Route viewer is the first of a series of capabilities planned to help proactively monitor BGP-related conditions that can impact performance. In response to customer requests and feedback, we have developed a comprehensive roadmap for BGP monitoring, and we believe our solution will have significant performance advantages over alternative solutions.
The first part of Kentik’s solution is BGP Route Viewer. BGP Router Viewer appears as a tab along with the existing SaaS and Cloud Performance tabs. For customers who have entered prefixes in their Network Classification settings, we will automatically load BGP update data for those prefixes in this tab. For customers who have not entered any prefixes in their Network Classification settings, we will show an interface that allows you to do so and give you the option to save the entered prefixes to the Network Classifications page.
HTTP Stage Timing and Charts
With the new Page Load tests, results can be plotted in a time series along with HTTP stages and the timing for each stage. This new view helps network teams isolate network layer issues from HTTP layer issues.
Major Path UX Overhaul
The (traceroute driven) path experience has been one of the most valued features of Synthetics and while it works well, we felt like we could go back and revisit the design holistically after having added a bunch of small and big features iteratively since it first launched (back in November). The updates we made can be summarized in two main buckets:
- Improve the overall usability of the product/feature by:
- Reducing the number of clicks to do things (like setting the thresholds and other config knobs)
- Reducing the quantity of information presented on default load (intelligently collapsing things to reduce information overload)
- Reducing the amount of whitespace used so it is more compact and requires less or no scrolling
- Preventing the path from exceeding the bounds of the page
- Avoiding the side pane (which required knowing that one should click and would cover a third of the path when open)
- Remove the ping-driven health timeline, as this data does not necessarily correlate with latency seen on the path and can lead to confusion.
- Support collapse/group by sites. This has been requested by a few customers, particularly ones that run tests within their own network and find the ASN option of less use (everything collapsed into their ASN). Having the ability to group by sites lets these customers know if a path change caused traffic to go through a different site instead of the expected/desired one.
Here is a list of the main changes:
- Health timeline is removed from path tab. It was ping-results driven and could confuse users when it showed issues, but no issues were present in the path. (The path is trace-probe driven, which may not show the same issues for short-lived spikes.)
- All group/collapse functions (ASN, left/right) have been rolled into one main “Group by” selector and the option to group by “Sites” has been added.
- Copy for geodistance-based latency comparison has been improved and helper text/icon added.
- Option to “Reset” everything back to default quickly has been added.
- The ASN legend has been moved below the path UI and is displayed in a line, moving the path higher up in the page and reducing the amount of whitespace.
- The main path trace visualization has received the most significant overhaul and results in a much less overwhelming and much more fluid experience than before. Highlights include:
- Extra effort has been put into avoiding overlapping traces that cross other traces and make the overall UI very busy and confusing.
- You can hover over any node (without needing to click) and it will show you all the information available.
- Similar to the node hover, hovering over an agent (source) or target will show you all the information cleanly organized in sections, and will give you a link to view the raw traceroute output. There is also an option to quickly collapse nodes for this or other agents with just one click, right there.
- Previously we would only show latency for (red) links that exceeded the threshold and packet loss for (red) nodes that exceeded that threshold. Now this information is shown for all nodes and links. In cases where the metrics exceed the threshold, a red font is used to highlight. Further, previously high packet loss nodes were identified with a full red circle, which was confusing if there was an ASN with a similar color. Now this is made clearer with a red border.
Density Grid Groups Dashboard
In response to customer feedback, we have added a new type of visualization option under Synthetics in the dashboards (library) portion of the product. One of the key use cases is customers who set up DNS servers by zones and want to see a global view of the performance of their whole DNS infrastructure.
- Select “Add” a “Synthetics Test View” dashboard element and then pick the new “Density Grid Group” allows you to multi-select any tests configured in the system that are of type “DNS Grid” or “Network Grid.”
- Select a few tests and save the widget to display agents in the first column and then test results aggregated by target in the columns to the right of that.
- For each cell in the results, each square represents that specific agent hitting one DNS server to resolve the specific target.
- A holistic view lets the user quickly pinpoint any issues from a large number of DNS servers distributed across the world.
9 New LATAM Global Agents
We deployed nine new global agents throughout LATAM, improving our coverage in the region and increasing count from four agents to thirteen.