Say hello to Micronaut inside Kubernetes (with Prometheus & Grafana)

In the age of Serverless & Container architectures, there is once again chatter about Java being too fat (and dying). While I can understand the “too fat” observation, I will not put my money on the “java is dying/dead” chatter. That obituary has been written multiple times and the language lives on. It is true that Java was not born in the Container/Cloud era. Yes, it was born in a different age and time, but the language and framework ecosystem has evolved. In the Microservices cloud native app world where horizontal scaling and fast startup times are expected, Java may (at times depending on the architecture) not be the fastest horse in town.

By the time you package a Spring service with some usually required needs (logging, jpa, monitoring, security, messaging, etc.) the final jar file can be quite large. Every dependency needs to be pulled in regardless of whether it is actually used in the runtime app or not.

New frameworks like Micronaut and Quarkus are trying to prepare Java for the new world of Serverless & Containers. They promise…

  • Fast startup
  • Low memory footprint
  • Fast throughput
  • and still provide the familiar annotation based programming model that JEE/Spring developers are used to

Micronaut (the focus of this blog) achieves this by eliminating the need for reflection during runtime, by pulling in required dependencies for DI at compile time (only bringing in what is required and discarding the rest).

My initial observation writing a simple service (that accesses an external service) in minimal Spring and Micronaut sample, does show that the final package size of the jar and runtime heap size are a lot smaller with Micronaut. I have not compared startup and response times as of yet. But what I see so far is very encouraging.

Micronaut uses the annotation based programming model that engineers are used to with Spring or JEE. It also has the many integrations required to build an enterprise app – database, messaging, monitoring, logging etc.

This excerpt from Micronaut summarizes a lot for me

with Micronaut your application startup time and memory consumption is not bound to the size of your codebase in the same way as a framework that uses reflection. Reflection based IoC frameworks load and cache reflection data for every single field, method, and constructor in your code. Thus as your code grows in size so do your memory requirements, whilst with Micronaut this is not the case.

In this blog we will…

  • Clone the code from https://github.com/thomasma/microhello
  • Deploy a simple Micronaut service (that calls an external service to pull in a random joke).
  • The service will be deployed on a local minikube Kubernetes (k8s) cluster
  • The service will also expose a /prometheus endpoint that Prometheus can scrape metrics from.
  • We will use Grafana to view the metrics.
  • Grafana & Prometheus are installed on local Mac and not in the minikube k8s cluster. If you prefer the latter then, that is left to you. Eventually, I plan to use AWS Managed Prometheus & Grafana; thus I kept it outside for now (that is a blog for another day).

Note: Eventually Java/JVM will provide support for lighter profiles and frameworks (such as Spring) will evolve to support the Serverless & Container requirements of low memory & fast startup times. Until then these newer frameworks will fill the gap and themselves evolve in future. Regardless I am personally excited to see more non-Spring options. It is good for the ecosystem and creates more innovation (and some healthy competition).

Setup instructions

  • Install (and start) Docker (for Mac in my case)
  • Install minikube (and start) to setup a local k8s cluster – https://minikube.sigs.k8s.io/docs/start/
  • Start minikube with minikube start
  • To retrieve minikube cluster IP (you will need this to access the app and test drive)

  • Install Grafana locally in a docker container (note I am not installing it in the k8s cluster)

Application

Clone the app from Git – TBD. Open using your IDE of choice (in my case VS Code). Review the pom.xml’s plugin section on how to configure the docker registry. We will use that to push the container image to the registry.

Build the application ./mvnw clean package

Push to docker registry ./mvnw deploy -Dpackaging=docker

In the app repo review the k8s.yaml file that has the k8s deployment specs for our application.

A few pointers to access the app service and other dashboards

 

Prometheus

The prometheus.yml file is in the Git repo, but copied below. Please update the IP addresses of your service as exposed by minikibe — in my case – 192.168.64.3:31099

Install Prometheus locally in a docker container (note I am not installing it in the k8s cluster). Point it to the prometheus.yml file above. Please change the command below to your path (only change /Users/mathew/temp/microhello/prometheus.yml )

Post this step Prometheus will attempt to scrape the /prometheus endpoint of your Micronaut application.

Grafana

Inside Grafana web console, add Prometheus as the data source and also import the pre-built Grafana dashboard https://grafana.com/grafana/dashboards/4701

Access the app service endpoint and you should see metrics being updated in Grafana and Prometheus. In the prometheus browser console search for metric web_access_total. That is the custom metric I added (as a counter) in the app service. It is incremented each time the service is invoked.

To get some sizable metrics lets run submit some load to our service using Apache Bench – https://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.4/programs/ab.html

If all your setup was good so far you should see a Grafana dashboard such as…

And a custom dashboard that retrieves an out of the box metric and the one custom metric (web_access_total). ‘http_client_requests_seconds_count’ below shows a successful count as well as a few requests that timed out.

The Application Code

The actual application code for the service is written using a familiar programming styles (familiar to anyone using Spring or JEE).

In the above you can also see the custom metric I am adding; a simple counter that increments each time the method us accessed. This metric will be available on the /prometheus endpoint