Scott Hanselman

Customer Notes: Diagnosing issues under load of Web API app migrated to ASP.NET Core on Linux

October 16, '18 Comments [12] Posted in ASP.NET | DotNetCore
Sponsored By

When the engineers on the ASP.NET/.NET Core team talk to real customers about actual production problems they have, interesting stuff comes up. I've tried to capture a real customer interaction here without giving away their name or details.

The team recently had the opportunity to help a large customer of .NET investigate performance issues they’ve been having with a newly-ported ASP.NET Core 2.1 app when under load. The customer's developers are experienced with ASP.NET on Windows but in this case they needed help getting started with performance investigations with ASP.NET Core in Linux containers.

As with many performance investigations, there were a variety of issues contributing to the slowdowns, but the largest contributors were time spent garbage collecting (due to unnecessary large object allocations) and blocking calls that could be made asynchronous.

After resolving the technical and architectural issues detailed below, the customer's Web API went from only being able to handle several hundred concurrent users during load testing to being able to easily handle 3,000 and they are now running the new ASP.NET Core version of their backend web API in production.

Problem Statement

The customer recently migrated their .NET Framework 4.x ASP.NET-based backend Web API to ASP.NET Core 2.1. The migration was broad in scope and included a variety of tech changes.

Their previous version Web API (We'll call it version 1) ran as an ASP.NET application (targeting .NET Framework 4.7.1) under IIS on Windows Server and used SQL Server databases (via Entity Framework) to persist data. The new (2.0) version of the application runs as an ASP.NET Core 2.1 app in Linux Docker containers with PostgreSQL backend databases (via Entity Framework Core). They used Nginx to load balance between multiple containers on a server and HAProxy load balancers between their two main servers. The Docker containers are managed manually or via Ansible integration for CI/CD (using Bamboo).

Although the new Web API worked well functionally, load tests began failing with only a few hundred concurrent users. Based on current user load and projected growth, they wanted the web API to support at least 2,000 concurrent users. Load testing was done using Visual Studio Team Services load tests running a combination of web tests mimicking users logging in, doing the stuff of their business, activating tasks in their application, as well as pings that the Mobile App's client makes regularly to check for backend connectivity. This customer also uses New Relic for application telemetry and, until recently, New Relic agents did not work with .NET Core 2.1. Because of this, there was unfortunately no app diagnostic information to help pinpoint sources of slowdowns.

Lessons Learned

Cross-Platform Investigations

One of the most interesting takeaways for me was not the specific performance issues encountered but, instead, the challenges this customer had working in a Linux environment. The team's developers are experienced with ASP.NET on Windows and comfortable debugging in Visual Studio. Despite this, the move to Linux containers has been challenging for them.

Because the engineers were unfamiliar with Linux, they hired a consultant to help deploy their Docker containers on Linux servers. This model worked to get the site deployed and running, but became a problem when the main backend began exhibiting performance issues. The performance problems only manifested themselves under a fairly heavy load, such that they could not be reproduced on a dev machine. Up until this investigation, the developers had never debugged on Linux or inside of a Docker container except when launching in a local container from Visual Studio with F5. They had no idea how to even begin diagnosing issues that only reproduced in their staging or production environments. Similarly, their dev-ops consultant was knowledgeable about Linux infrastructure but not familiar with application debugging or profiling tools like Visual Studio.

The ASP.NET team has some documentation on using PerfCollect and PerfView to gather cross-platform diagnostics, but the customer's devs did not manage to find these docs until they were pointed out. Once an ASP.NET Core team engineer spent a morning showing them how to use PerfCollect, LLDB, and other cross-platform debugging and performance profiling tools, they were able to make some serious headway debugging on their own. We want to make sure everyone can debug .NET Core on Linux with LLDB/SOS or remotely with Visual Studio as easily as possible.

The ASP.NET Core team now believes they need more documentation on how to diagnose issues in non-Windows environments (including Docker) and the documentation that already exists needs to be more discoverable. Important topics to make discoverable include PerfCollect, PerfView, debugging on Linux using LLDB and SOS, and possibly remote debugging with Visual Studio over SSH.

Issues in Web API Code

Once we gathered diagnostics, most of the perf issues ended up being common problems in the customer’s code. 

  1. The largest contributor to the app’s slowdown was frequent Generation 2 (Gen 2) GCs (Garbage Collections) which were happening because a commonly-used code path was downloading a lot of images (product images), converting those bytes into a base64 strings, responding to the client with those strings, and then discarding the byte[] and string. The images were fairly large (>100 KB), so every time one was downloaded, a large byte[] and string had to be allocated. Because many of the images were shared between multiple clients, we solved the issue by caching the base64 strings for a short period of time (using IMemoryCache).
  2. HttpClient Pooling with HttpClientFactory
    1. When calling out to Web APIs there was a pattern of creating new HttpClient instances rather than using IHttpClientFactory to pool the clients.
    2. Despite implementing IDisposable, it is not a best practice to dispose HttpClient instances as soon as they’re out of scope as they will leave their socket connection in a TIME_WAIT state for some time after being disposed. Instead, HttpClient instances should be re-used.
  3. Additional investigation showed that much of the application’s time was spent querying PostgresSQL for data (as is common). There were several underlying issues here.
    1. Database queries were being made in a blocking way instead of being asynchronous. We helped address the most common call-sites and pointed the customer at the AsyncUsageAnalyzer to identify other async cleanup that could help.
    2. Database connection pooling was not enabled. It is enabled by default for SQL Server, but not for PostgreSQL.
      1. We re-enabled database connection pooling. It was necessary to have different pooling settings for the common database (used by all requests) and the individual shard databases which are used less frequently. While the common database needs a large pool, the shard connection pools need to be small to avoid having too many open, idle connections.
    3. The Web API had a fairly ‘chatty’ interface with the database and made a lot of small queries. We re-worked this interface to make fewer calls (by querying more data at once or by caching for short periods of time).
  4. There was also some impact from having other background worker containers on the web API’s servers consuming large amounts of CPU. This led to a ‘noisy neighbor’ problem where the web API containers didn’t have enough CPU time for their work. We showed the customer how to address this with Docker resource constraints.

Wrap Up

As shown in the graph below, at the end of our performance tuning, their backend was easily able to handle 3,000 concurrent users and they are now using their ASP.NET Core solution in production. The performance issues they saw overlapped a lot with those we’ve seen from other customers (especially the need for caching and for async calls), but proved to be extra challenging for the developers to diagnose due to the lack of familiarity with Linux and Docker environments.

Performance and Errors Charts look good, up and to the right
Throughput and Tests Charts look good, up and to the right

Some key areas of focus uncovered by this investigation were:

  • Being mindful of memory allocations to minimize GC pause times

  • Keeping long-running calls non-blocking/asynchronous

  • Minimizing calls to external resources (such as other web services or the database) with caching and grouping of requests

Hope you find this useful! Big thanks to Mike Rousos from the ASP.NET Core team for his work and analysis!


Sponsor: Check out the latest JetBrains Rider with built-in spell checking, enhanced debugger, Docker support, full C# 7.3 support, publishing to IIS and more advanced Unity support.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

New prescriptive guidance for Open Source .NET Library Authors

October 16, '18 Comments [5] Posted in DotNetCore | Open Source
Sponsored By

Open-source library guidanceThere's a great new bunch of guidance just published representing Best Practices for creating .NET Libraries. Best of all, it was shepherded by JSON.NET's James Newton-King. Who better to help explain the best way to build and publish a .NET library than the author of the world's most popular open source .NET library?

Perhaps you've got an open source (OSS) .NET Library on your GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket. Go check out the open-source library guidance.

These are the identified aspects of high-quality open-source .NET libraries:

  • Inclusive - Good .NET libraries strive to support many platforms and applications.
  • Stable - Good .NET libraries coexist in the .NET ecosystem, running in applications built with many libraries.
  • Designed to evolve - .NET libraries should improve and evolve over time, while supporting existing users.
  • Debuggable - .NET libraries should use the latest tools to create a great debugging experience for users.
  • Trusted - .NET libraries have developers' trust by publishing to NuGet using security best practices.

The guidance is deep but also preliminary. As with all Microsoft Documentation these days it's open source in Markdown and on GitHub. If you've got suggestions or thoughts, share them! Be sure to sound off in the Feedback Section at the bottom of the guidance. James and the Team will be actively incorporating your thoughts.

Cross-platform targeting

Since the whole point of .NET Core and the .NET Standard is reuse, this section covers how and why to make reusable code but also how to access platform-specific APIs when needed with multi-targeting.

Strong naming

Strong naming seemed like a good idea but you should know WHY and WHEN to strong name. It all depends on your use case! Are you publishing internally or publically? What are your dependencies and who depends on you?

NuGet

When publishing on the NuGet public repository (or your own private/internal one) what do you need to know about SemVer 2.0.0? What about pre-release packages? Should you embed PDBs for easier debugging? Consider things like Dependencies, SourceLink, how and where to Publish and how Versioning applies to you and when (or if) you cause Breaking changes.

Also be sure to check out Immo's video on "Building Great Libraries with .NET Standard" on YouTube!


Sponsor: Check out the latest JetBrains Rider with built-in spell checking, enhanced debugger, Docker support, full C# 7.3 support, publishing to IIS and more advanced Unity support.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

C# and .NET Core scripting with the "dotnet-script" global tool

October 12, '18 Comments [11] Posted in DotNetCore | Open Source
Sponsored By

dotnet scriptYou likely know that open source .NET Core is cross platform and it's super easy to do "Hello World" and start writing some code.

You just install .NET Core, then "dotnet new console" which will generate a project file and basic app, then "dotnet run" will compile and run your app? The 'new' command will create all the supporting code, obj, and bin folders, etc. When you do "dotnet run" it actually is a combination of "dotnet build" and "dotnet exec whatever.dll."

What could be easier?

What about .NET Core as scripting?

Check out dotnet script:

C:\Users\scott\Desktop\scriptie> dotnet tool install -g dotnet-script
You can invoke the tool using the following command: dotnet-script
C:\Users\scott\Desktop\scriptie>copy con helloworld.csx
Console.WriteLine("Hello world!");
^Z
1 file(s) copied.
C:\Users\scott\Desktop\scriptie>dotnet script helloworld.csx
Hello world!

NOTE: I was a little tricky there in step two. I did a "copy con filename" to copy from the console to the destination file, then used Ctrl-Z to finish the copy. Feel free to just use notepad or vim. That's not dotnet-script-specific, that's Hanselman-specific.

Pretty cool eh? If you were doing this in Linux or OSX you'll need to include a "shebang" as the first line of the script. This is a standard thing for scripting files like bash, python, etc.

#!/usr/bin/env dotnet-script
Console.WriteLine("Hello world");

This lets the operating system know what scripting engine handles this file.

If you you want to refer to a NuGet package within a script (*.csx) file, you'll use the Roslyn #r syntax:

#r "nuget: AutoMapper, 6.1.0"
Console.WriteLine("whatever);

Even better! Once you have "dotnet-script" installed as a global tool as above:

dotnet tool install -g dotnet-script

You can use it as a REPL! Finally, the C# REPL (Read Evaluate Print Loop) I've been asking for for only a decade! ;)

C:\Users\scott\Desktop\scriptie>dotnet script
> 2+2
4
> var x = "scott hanselman";
> x.ToUpper()
"SCOTT HANSELMAN"

This is super useful for a learning tool if you're teaching C# in a lab/workshop situation. Of course you could also learn using http://try.dot.net in the browser as well.

In the past you may have used ScriptCS for C# scripting. There's a number of cool C#/F# scripting options. This is certainly not a new thing:

In this case, I was very impressed with the easy of dotnet-script as a global tool and it's simplicity. Go check out https://github.com/filipw/dotnet-script and try it out today!


Sponsor: Check out the latest JetBrains Rider with built-in spell checking, enhanced debugger, Docker support, full C# 7.3 support, publishing to IIS and more advanced Unity support.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

Using Enhanced Mode Ubuntu 18.04 for Hyper-V on Windows 10

October 10, '18 Comments [9] Posted in Linux
Sponsored By

I run Windows as my daily driver but I use WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) all day long but WSL is just the command-line and has some perf issues with heavy file system work. I use Docker for Windows which works amazingly and has it good perf but sometimes I want to test on a full Ubuntu Desktop.

ASIDE: No joke. My Linux/Ubuntu bona fides go back a while. Here's me installing Ubuntu 10.4 on Windows 7 over 8 years ago. Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu!

To be frank, historically Ubuntu has sucked on Window's Hyper-V. If you wanted to get a higher (read: usable) resolution it would take a miracle. If you wanted shared clipboards or shared disk drives, well, again, miracle or a ton of manual set up. It's possible but it's not fun.

Why can't it be easy? Well, it is. I installed the Windows 10 "Fall Creators Update" - yes the name is stupid. It's Windows 10 "1809" - that's 2018 and the 9th month. Just type "Winver" from the Start menu. You may have "1803" from March. Go update.

Windows 10 includes Hyper-V Quick Create which has this suspiciously short list under "Select an operating system." Anytime a list has 1 or 2 items and some whitespace that means it will someday have n+1 list items.

Recently Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS showed up in this list. You can quickly and easily create an Ubuntu VM from here and it's all handled, downloading, network switch, VM create, etc.

Create Virtual Machine

I dig it. So click create, start it up...get to the set up screen. Now, here, make sure you click "Require my password to login." What we want to do won't work with "Log in Automatically" and you don't want that anyway.

Setting up an Ubuntu VM

After you've created your VM and got it mostly setup, close the Hyper-V client window. Just X it out. The VM is still running of course.

Go over to Hyper-V Manager and right click on it and "Connect."

Connect to VM

You'll see a resolution dialog...pick one! Go crazy! Do be aware that there are issues on 4k display but you can adjust within Ubuntu itself.

Set Resolution

Now, BEFORE you click Connect, click "Show Options" and then "Local Resources." Under here, uncheck Smart Cards and Check "Drives."

Uncheck Smart Cards and Check Drives

Click OK and Connect...and you get this weird dialog! You're actually RDP'ing into Ubuntu! Rather than using the historical weird Hyper-V Client stuff to talk to Ubuntu and struggle with video cards and resolutions, here you are literally just Remote Desktoping into Ubuntu using integrated open source xrdp!

Login with your name and password (remember before when I said don't automatically login? This is why.)

Login to xrdp

What about Dynamic Resizing?

Here's an even better possible future. What we REALLY want (don't we, Dear Reader) is Dynamic Resolution and Resizing without Reconnection! Today you can just close and reconnect to change resolutions but I'd love to just resize the Ubuntu window like I do Windows 7/8/10 VM client windows.

The feature "Dynamic resolution update" was introduced in RDP 8.1. It enables to resize screen resolution on-the-fly.

Since we are using xrdp and that's open source over https://github.com/neutrinolabs/xrdp/ AND there's even a issue about this AND a lovely person has the code in their own branch and agreed to possibly upstream it maybe we can start using it and this great feature will just light up for folks who use Hyper-V Quick Create. Certainly we're talking weeks and months here (unless you want to help) but the lion's share of the work is done. I'm looking forward to resizing Ubuntu VMs dynamically.

What's in Enhanced Mode Today?

Back to today! You can read about how Linux VMs (Ubuntu or Arch) are set up in this GitHub repo https://github.com/Microsoft/linux-vm-tools You can set them up yourself with scripts, but the nice thing about Hyper-V Quick Create is that the work is done for us to make these "enhanced session" RDP-friendly VMs. No need to fear, you can just read the scripts yourself.

I can connect quickly and Enhanced Mode VMs give me:

  • a shared clipboard
  • the resolution of my choice on connect
  • fast painting/video/scrolling
  • automatic shared-drives
  • Smooth and automatic mouse capture

Fantastic.

Ubuntu on Windows 10

What about installing Visual Studio Code? Of course. And also .NET Core.NET Core, natch.

image

This took like 10 min and 8 of it was waiting for Hyper-V Create to download Ubuntu. Try it out!


Sponsor: Check out the latest JetBrains Rider with built-in spell checking, enhanced debugger, Docker support, full C# 7.3 support, publishing to IIS and more advanced Unity support.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

Troubleshooting Windows 10 Nearby Sharing and Bluetooth Antennas

October 5, '18 Comments [3] Posted in Bugs | Win10
Sponsored By

wifi

When building my Ultimate Developer PC I picked this motherboard, and it's lovely.

  • ASUS ROG STRIX LGA2066 X299 ATX Motherboard - Good solid board with built in BT and Wifi, an M.2 heatsink included, 3x PCIe 3.0 x16 SafeSlots (supports triple @ x16/x16/x8), 1x PCIe 3.0 x4, 2x PCIe 3.0 x1 and a Max of 128 gigs of RAM. It also has 8x USB 3.1s and a USB C which is nice.

I put it all together and I've thrilled with the machine. However, recently I was trying to use the new Windows 10 "Nearby Devices" feature.

It's this cool feature that lets you share stuff to "Nearby Devices" - that means your laptop, other desktops, whatever. Similar to AirDrop, it solves that problem of moving stuff between devices without using an intermediate server.

You can turn it on in Settings on Windows 10 and decide if you want to receive data from everyone or just contacts.

Nearby Sharing

So I started using on my new Desktop, IRONHEART, but I kept getting this "Looking for nearby devices" dialog...and it would just do nothing.

Looking for Nearby Devices

It turns out that the ASUS Motherboard also comes with a Wi-Fi Antenna. I don't use Wifi (I'm wired) so I didn't bother attaching it. It seems that this antenna is also a Bluetooth antenna and if you plug it in you'll ACTUALLY GET A LOVELY BLUETOOTH SIGNAL. Who knew? ;)

Now I can easily right click on files in Explorer or Web Pages in Edge and transfer them between systems.

Sharing a file with Nearby Sharing

A few tips on Nearby Sharing

  • Make sure you know your visibility settings. From the Start Menu type "nearby sharing" and confirm them.
  • Make sure the receiving device doesn't have "Focus Assist" on (via the Action Center in the lower right of the screen) or you might miss the notification.
  • And if you're using a desktop like me, ahem, plug in your BT antenna

Hope this helps someone because Nearby Sharing is a great feature that I'm now using all the time.


Sponsor: Telerik DevCraft is the comprehensive suite of .NET and JavaScript components and productivity tools developers use to build high-performant, modern web, mobile, desktop apps and chatbots. Try it!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by SherWeb

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.