Mojolicious Triumphs Over Legacy Code

I got a text at 8:00am:

"Hey, can you jump on a conference call?"

Groggy and disoriented, I blearily type the conference line and enter my passcode, followed by the pound or hash sign. At the tone, I would be the 6th person to enter the conference. Tone.

"The app is down, and trading has stopped."

Well, yes, their application is down because I spent all night playing Whack-a-Mole, banning every IP address they have. Hundreds of them. Their app was destroying my service, and denying data to the users who weren't abusing it.

The previous day, I had tried putting nginx in front to try to load balance. It didn't help: The legacy Catalyst application was I/O bound on long, blocking database reads. That's not Catalyst's fault. Our web service was never developed for speed. It wasn't meant to perform well. It was meant for internal support of a few dozen spreadsheets. If the user wanted performance, they could read from the database directly through any number of APIs that we provide.

"Since this API is so slow, we put it on the compute grid. Could that have caused this?"

So instead of a few dozen spreadsheets, I had a few hundred python scripts hitting my web service. The poor thing just could not cope.

"Can't you make it faster? Can we rewrite the web service?"

No. At least, not all of it. But perhaps we can rewrite just this one URL for better performance using all our new modern async APIs.

3 hours later, I've hacked a simple Mojolicious application that behaves exactly like the old application, except the Mojolicious app, in a single process, can scale to 100 concurrent requests.

Adding hypnotoad and nginx, and my tiny Mojolicious app could now scale to 400 users before things started going awry (responses were still within 3 seconds, but sockets would be reset. Must be some OS settings to manage).

But I've still got a problem: How do I make absolutely sure that the input and the output are exactly the same?

We have an access log. And we have the old web app. Let's make a comparison!

Quickly, I used Mojo::UserAgent to request a URL from the old app, and then Test::Mojo to request the URL from the new app, and did a stringy comparison against the two. Some of the failure modes were different (the old app built an XML::LibXML object, the new app uses templates to build XML), but after adjusting the template's whitespace a bit, the new app and the old app have exactly the same output, just in case some user is doing something stupid, like parsing XML with regular expressions.

A grand total of 5 hours later, and I had a replacement for the poorest-performing web service, with more automated tests than the old version had (none). A quick reconfiguration of nginx to proxy the desired requests to the new webapp, and everything kept going exactly as it had before anyone thought of just hammering a random web service with hundreds of concurrent requests.

Maybe next time I'll start sending them bogus data instead...

2 Comments

would not it be great if you put little more details about your work here.

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user-pic I blog about Perl. I work for Bank of America.