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Posts from May 2018

OpenCensus’s journey ahead: enhanced feature set

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

This is the second half of a series of blog posts about what’s coming next for OpenCensus. The OpenCensus Roadmap is composed of two pillars: increased language, framework, and platform coverage, and the addition of more powerful features.

In this blog post we’re going to discuss the second pillar: new functionality that makes OpenCensus more powerful. This includes dramatically improved sampling capabilities and new types of telemetry that we’re looking to capture.

More Power

Intelligent Sampling

In addition to expanding the list of languages and frameworks that OpenCensus supports out of the box, we’ll also be increasing the usefulness of existing functionality.

Services instrumented with OpenCensus currently randomly (at a configurable rate) sample new requests (without context, usually received directly from clients). While this does provide an effective view into application latency, developers are mostly interested in traces of particularly slow requests or requests that also capture a useful event, such as an exception.

We’re adding support for OpenCensus to make deferred sampling decisions - that is, to sample requests after they’ve propagated through several systems, while still preserving the full critical path of the trace. Though the feature is just starting development, we’re focusing on making sampling more intelligent - for example, by triggering traces based on accumulated latency, errors, and debugging events. Expect to hear more about this soon.

New Telemetry, Including Logs and Errors

As we mentioned in our last blog post, our ambition is for OpenCensus to become a ubiquitous observability framework, meaning that collecting traces and stats alone won’t be enough. Correlating traces and tags with logs and errors represents an obvious next step, and we’re currently working through what this might look like. Longer term, this list could grow to include profiles and other signals.

The topic of what signals will come next is worth of its own blog post, and you can expect us to start talking about this more in the coming months.

Server-provided Traces and Metrics

Distributed applications can obtain observability into their own performance by instrumenting themselves with OpenCensus, however visibility into the performance of external services or APIs that they call into is still limited. For example, imagine a web service that calls into Google Cloud Platform’s Cloud Bigtable service: the application developer would have visibility into their client side traces but would not be able to tell how much time Cloud BigTable took to respond vs time taken by network. We’re working on adding server side traces and metrics - essentially a way for service providers to summarize server side traces and metrics.

Cluster wide Z pages

Today, OpenCensus provides a stand-alone application called z-pages that includes an embedded web server and displays configuration parameters and trace information in real-time, as captured from any OpenCensus libraries running on the same host. By accessing a z-page, developers can configure sampling rate for the local instance, or view traces, tags, and stats as they’re being processed in real-time.

Longer-term, we wish to extend this functionality to enable cluster wide z-pages, which could provide the same functionality as the current z-pages experience, aggregated over all of the instances of a particular service. We’re still discussing different implementation options, and if we can tie this into other aggregation-related workstreams that we’re already pursuing.

Wrapping up

Does the strategy and roadmap above resonate with what you’d want to get from OpenCensus library? We’d love to hear your ideas and what you’d like to see prioritized.

As we mentioned in our last post, none of this is possible without the support and participation from the community. Check out our repo and start contributing. No contribution or idea is too small. Join other developers and users on the OpenCensus Gitter channel. We’d love to hear from you.

By Pritam Shah and Morgan McLean, Census team

Introducing Git protocol version 2

Friday, May 18, 2018

Git Logo by Jason Long, CC BY 3.0.
Today we announce Git protocol version 2, a major update of Git's wire protocol (how clones, fetches and pushes are communicated between clients and servers). This update removes one of the most inefficient parts of the Git protocol and fixes an extensibility bottleneck, unblocking the path to more wire protocol improvements in the future.

The protocol version 2 spec can be found here. The main improvements are:
The main motivation for the new protocol was to enable server side filtering of references (branches and tags). Prior to protocol v2, servers responded to all fetch commands with an initial reference advertisement, listing all references in the repository. This complete listing is sent even when a client only cares about updating a single branch, e.g.: `git fetch origin master`. For repositories that contain 100s of thousands of references (the Chromium repository has over 500k branches and tags) the server could end up sending 10s of megabytes of data that get ignored. This typically dominates both time and bandwidth during a fetch, especially when you are updating a branch that's only a few commits behind the remote, or even when you are only checking if you are up-to-date, resulting in a no-op fetch.

We recently rolled out support for protocol version 2 at Google and have seen a performance improvement of 3x for no-op fetches of a single branch on repositories containing 500k references. Protocol v2 has also enabled a reduction of 8x of the overhead bytes (non-packfile) sent from googlesource.com servers. A majority of this improvement is due to filtering references advertised by the server to the refs the client has expressed interest in.

Getting over the hurdles

The Git project has tried on a number of occasions over the years to either limit the initial ref advertisement or move to a new protocol altogether but continued to run into two problems: (1) the initial request is rigid and does not include a field that could be used to request that new servers modify their response without breaking compatibility with existing servers and (2) error handling is not well enough defined to allow safely using a new protocol that existing servers do not understand with a quick fallback to the old protocol. To migrate to a new protocol version, we needed to find a side channel which existing servers would ignore but could be used to safely communicate with newer servers.

There are three main transports that are used to speak Git’s wire-protocol (git://, ssh://, and https://), and the side channel that we use to request v2 needs to communicate in such a way that an older server would ignore any additional data sent and not crash. The http transport was the easiest as we can simply include an additional http header in the request (“Git-Protocol: version=2”). The ssh transport is a bit more difficult as it requires sending an environment variable (“GIT_PROTOCOL=version=2”) to be set on the remote end. This is more challenging because it requires server administrators to configure sshd to accept the new environment variable on their server. The most difficult transport is the anonymous Git transport (git://).

Initial requests made to a server using the anonymous Git transport are made in the form of a single packet-line which includes the requested service (git-upload-pack for fetches and git-receive-pack for pushes), and the repository followed by a NUL byte. Later virtualization support was added and a hostname parameter could be tacked on and  terminated by a NUL byte: `0033git-upload-pack /project.git\0host=myserver.com\0`. Ideally we’d be able to add a new parameter to be used to request v2 by adding it in the same manner as the hostname was added: `003dgit-upload-pack /project.git\0host=myserver.com\0version=2\0`. Unfortunately due to a bug introduced in 2006 we aren't able to place any extra arguments (separated by NULs) other than the host because otherwise the parsing of those arguments would enter an infinite loop. When this bug was fixed in 2009, a check was put in place to disallow extra arguments so that new clients wouldn't trigger this bug in older servers.

Fortunately, that check doesn't notice if we send additional request arguments hidden behind a second NUL byte, which was pointed out back in 2009.  This allows requests structured like: `003egit-upload-pack /project.git\0host=myserver.com\0\0version=2\0`. By placing version information behind a second NUL byte we can skirt around both the infinite loop bug and the explicit disallowal of extra arguments besides hostname. Only newer servers will know to look for additional information hidden behind two NUL bytes and older servers won’t croak.

Now, in every case, a client can issue a request to use v2, using a transport-specific side channel, and v2 servers can respond using the new protocol while older servers will ignore the side channel and just respond with a ref advertisement.

Try it for yourself

To try out protocol version 2 for yourself you'll need an up to date version of Git (support for v2 was recently merged to Git's master branch and is expected to be part of Git 2.18) and a v2 enabled server (repositories on googlesource.com and Cloud Source Repositories are v2 enabled). If you enable tracing and run the `ls-remote` command querying for a single branch, you can see the server sends a much smaller set of references when using protocol version 2:
# Using the original wire protocol
GIT_TRACE_PACKET=1 git -c protocol.version=0 ls-remote https://chromium.googlesource.com/chromium/src.git master

# Using protocol version 2
GIT_TRACE_PACKET=1 git -c protocol.version=2 ls-remote https://chromium.googlesource.com/chromium/src.git master

By Brandon Williams, Git-core team

Google Summer of Code 2018 statistics part 1

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Since 2005, Google Summer of Code (GSoC) has been bringing new developers into the open source community every year. This year we accepted 1,264 students from 62 countries into the 2018 GSoC program to work with a record 206 open source organizations this summer.

Students are currently participating in the Community Bonding phase of the program where they become familiar with the open source projects they will be working with. They also spend time learning the codebase and the community’s best practices so they can start their 12 week coding projects on May 14th.

Each year we like to share program statistics about the GSoC program and the accepted students and mentors involved in the program. Here are a few stats:
  • 88.2% of the accepted students are participating in their first GSoC
  • 74.4% of the students are first time applicants

Degrees

  • 76.18% of accepted students are undergraduates, 17.5% are masters students, and 6.3% are getting their PhDs.
  • 73% are Computer Science majors, 4.2% are mathematics majors, 17% are other engineering majors (electrical, mechanical, aerospace, etc.)
  • We have students in a variety of majors including neuroscience, linguistics, typography, and music technologies.

Countries

This year there are four students that are the first to be accepted into GSoC from their home countries of Kosovo (three students) and Senegal. A complete list of accepted students and their countries is below:
Country Students Country Students Country Students
Argentina 5 Hungary 7 Russian Federation 35
Australia 10 India 605 Senegal 1
Austria 14 Indonesia 3 Serbia 1
Bangladesh 3 Ireland 1 Singapore 8
Belarus 3 Israel 2 Slovak Republic 2
Belgium 3 Italy 24 South Africa 1
Brazil 19 Japan 7 South Korea 2
Bulgaria 2 Kosovo 3 Spain 21
Cameroon 14 Latvia 1 Sri Lanka 41
Canada 31 Lithuania 5 Sweden 6
China 52 Malaysia 2 Switzerland 5
Croatia 3 Mauritius 1 Taiwan 3
Czech Republic 4 Mexico 4 Trinidad and Tobago 1
Denmark 1 Morocco 2 Turkey 8
Ecuador 4 Nepal 1 Uganda 1
Egypt 12 Netherlands 6 Ukraine 6
Finland 3 Nigeria 6 United Kingdom 28
France 22 Pakistan 5 United States 104
Germany 53 Poland 3 Venezuela 1
Greece 16 Portugal 10 Vietnam 4
Hong Kong 3 Romania 10    
There were a record number of students submitting proposals for the program this year -- 5,199 students from 101 countries.

In our next GSoC statistics post we will delve deeper into the schools, gender breakdown, mentors, and registration numbers for the 2018 program.

By Stephanie Taylor, Google Open Source

OpenCensus’s journey ahead: platforms and languages

Monday, May 7, 2018

We recently blogged about the value of OpenCensus and how Google uses Census internally. Today, we want to share more about our long-term vision for OpenCensus.

The goal of OpenCensus is to be a ubiquitous observability framework that allows developers to automatically collect, aggregate, and export traces, metrics, and other telemetry from their applications. We plan on getting there by building easy-to-use libraries and automatically integrate with as many technologies and frameworks as possible.

Our roadmap has two themes: increased language, framework, and platform coverage, and the addition of more powerful features.Today, we’ll discuss the first theme of the increased coverage.

Increasing Coverage

More Language Coverage

In January, we released OpenCensus for Java, Go, and C++ as well as tracing support for Python, PHP, and Ruby. We’re about to start development of OpenCensus for Node.js and .NET, and you’ll see activity on these repositories ramp up in the coming quarter.

Integration with more Frameworks, Platforms, and Clients

We want to provide a great out-of-the-box experience, so we need to automatically capture traces and metrics with as little developer effort as possible. To achieve this, we’ll be creating integrations for popular web frameworks, RPC frameworks, and storage clients. This will enable automatic context propagation, span creation, and trace annotations, without requiring extra work on behalf of developers.

As a basic example, OpenCensus already integrates with Go’s default gRPC and HTTP handlers to generate spans (with relevant annotations) and to pass context.

More complex integrations will provide more information to developers. Here’s an example of a trace captured with our upcoming MongoDB instrumentation, shown on Stackdriver Trace and AWS X-Ray:
A MongoDB trace shown in Stackdriver Trace

The same trace captured in X-Ray

Istio

OpenCensus will soon have out-of-the-box tracing and metrics collection in Istio. We’re currently working through our initial designs and implementation for integrations with the Envoy Sidecar and Istio Mixer service. Our goal is to provide Istio users with a great out of box tracing and metrics collection experience.

Kubernetes

We have two primary use cases in mind for Kubernetes deployments: providing cluster-wide visibility via z-pages, and better labeling of traces, stats, and metrics. Cluster-wide z-pages will allow developers to view telemetry in real time across an entire Kubernetes deployment, independently of their back-end. This is incredibly useful when debugging immediate high-impact issues like service outages.

Client Application Support

OpenCensus currently provides observability into back-end services, however this doesn’t tell the whole story about end-to-end application performance. Throughout 2018, we plan to add instrumentation for client and front-end web applications, so developers can get traces that begin from customers’ devices and reflect actual perceived latency, and metrics captured from client code.

We aim to add support for instrumenting Android, iOS, and front-end JavaScript, though this list may grow or change. Expect to hear more about this later in 2018.

Next Up

Next week we’ll discuss some of the new features that we’re looking to bring to OpenCensus, including notable enhancements to the trace sampling logic.

None of this is possible without the support and participation from the community. Please check out our repository and start contributing; we welcome contributions of any size -- however you want to take part. You can join other developers and users on the OpenCensus Gitter channel. We’d love to hear from you!

By Pritam Shah and Morgan McLean, Census team

Open sourcing Seurat: bringing high-fidelity scenes to mobile VR

Friday, May 4, 2018

Crossposted from the Google Developers Blog

Great VR experiences make you feel like you’re really somewhere else. To create deeply immersive experiences, there are a lot of factors that need to come together: amazing graphics, spatialized audio, and the ability to move around and feel like the world is responding to you.

Last year at I/O, we announced Seurat as a powerful tool to help developers and creators bring high-fidelity graphics to standalone VR headsets with full positional tracking, like the Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream. Seurat is a scene simplification technology designed to process very complex 3D scenes into a representation that renders efficiently on mobile hardware. Here’s how ILMxLAB was able to use Seurat to bring an incredibly detailed ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ scene to a standalone VR experience.

Today, we’re open sourcing Seurat to the developer community. You can now use Seurat to bring visually stunning scenes to your own VR applications and have the flexibility to customize the tool for your own workflows.

Behind the scenes: how Seurat works

Seurat works by taking advantage of the fact that VR scenes are typically viewed from within a limited viewing region, and leverages this to optimize the geometry and textures in your scene. It takes RGBD images (color and depth) as input and generates a textured mesh, targeting a configurable number of triangles, texture size, and fill rate, to simplify scenes beyond what traditional methods can achieve.


To demonstrate what Seurat can do, here’s a snippet from Blade Runner: Revelations, which launched today with the Lenovo Mirage Solo.

Blade Runner: Revolution by Alcon Interactive and Seismic Games
The Blade Runner universe is known for its stunning worlds, and in Revelations, you get to unravel a mystery around fugitive Replicants in the futuristic but gritty streets. To create the look and feel for Revelations, Seismic used Seurat to bring a scene of 46.6 million triangles down to only 307,000, improving performance by more than 100x with almost no loss in visual quality:

Original scene:

Seurat-processed scene: 

If you’re interested in learning more about Seurat or trying it out yourself, visit the Seurat GitHub page to access the documentation and source code. We’re looking forward to seeing what you build!

By Manfred Ernst, Software Engineer
.