Remote debugging can be very useful to achieve more efficiency in a distributed system. Before explaining further, let’s briefly examine remote debugging and distributed systems.
Remote debugging is the process of debugging an application from another system, different from the host of the application. Simply put, it is all about debugging an application running in an environment different from your local machine.
For example, let’s say there are machines A and B. Machine A hosts a debugger while machine B hosts a codebase we need to debug. Now, debugging the codebase hosted on machine B with the debugger on machine A requires remote debugging. Generally speaking, the system hosting the debugger is called the “local machine”, while the system hosting the debugged process is called the “remote machine”.
A distributed system is a computing system that hosts the components of an application with multiple computing devices that are interconnected on the same network and operate independently and collectively to appear as a unit to the end users.
For example, let’s assume an application has three components—codebase, database, and media. If these three components are hosted on different servers/devices and operate independently and collectively to achieve the goals of our application, then we are using a distributed system. By doing this, we split up the work and distribute it across various machines whose efforts are coordinated to do the work more efficiently than a single device.
As the users of a certain application increases, there is a need for the application to scale. That means the machine hosting the application may get to a point where it cannot handle everything alone. The application is getting too complicated for it. In such a case, distributed systems can be very useful. They can share each of the components of the application with other machines, making scaling easy to achieve.
Distributed systems have their own downside too. Since there are multiple components, it is always hard to debug a distributed system. Remote debugging is ideal for easing the complexity of debugging a distributed system.
Debugging a Distributed System with Remote Debugging for Efficiency
A distributed system has many components running on different machines. That means each of the components have to be debugged from time to time. To debug these components on different machines you have to reproduce multiple environments and all of them have to be configured separately. There might even be some cases where it is necessary to work with the core component, so reproducing the environment won’t be useful.
It’s often hard to reproduce the state in a distributed system because we have to deal with each of the nodes/components separately. We can’t attach a debugger to all of them at once, so we have to debug each of the components in isolation. Thus, it may not give us any insight as to how to solve an error that affects the whole distributed system. Similarly, it is very hard to add integration tests to components that are in isolation as integration tests require a situation similar to the distributed system.
Debugging a distributed system with a traditional debugging system demands a lot of time, effort, and costs. It also reduces the overall productivity of such an organization. The question then is this: Can remote debugging solve these problems and be more efficient? Yes, it can.
A Single Debugging Environment
Remote debugging provides a single debugging environment as the debugger machine can gain access to the other nodes for debugging. Therefore, it bypasses the needs of multiple environments and configurations, and the costs and effort of managing them.
With remote debugging, we connect a locally hosted debugger to a remote node of the distributed system. Then, we can debug the node using the same features available in the local environment. To avoid challenges, it is necessary to identify the node to connect with and avoid network timeouts while debugging nodes in distributed systems.
Easy Simulation of a Distributed System
Remote debugging makes it possible to simulate the whole distributed system needed to add integration tests because it has access to and can control all of the nodes in the distributed system. This means an error can be debugged and tested in a manner that is similar to how it is expected to work in the actual distributed system.
Monitoring the Nodes in a Distributed System
Unlike classic debugging systems, remote debugging makes it possible to monitor the whole system for real-time errors in a distributed system. This is because it has access to the nodes in the system. Some remote debuggers come with AI-powered log filtering and non-breaking points, which are very useful for monitoring the state of a distributed system. All of the highlighted abilities and features of remote debugging speed up the debugging process in a distributed system and ensure the overall reliability of the system.
Debugging a distributed system is very hard but it is a necessity. Every successful application has to scale, and scaling often requires components of the application to be distributed to different nodes. Remote debugging makes debugging a distributed system a lot easier by eliminating the cost of multiple reproductions of an environment and the effort of configuring all of them.
Remote debugging ensures that a distributed system can be simulated to test an application with distributed components. Moreover, remote debuggers can monitor the activities of a distributed system to fastrack debugging processes for more efficiency. Finally, using remote debugging makes room for more efficiency in building and improving applications by cutting down the time, cost, and effort required.