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Communications of the ACM

Practice

Canary Analysis Service


Canary Analysis Service, illustration

Credit: Nucleartist

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In 1913, Scottish physiologist John Scott Haldane proposed the idea of bringing a caged canary into a mine to detect dangerous gases. More than 100 years later, Haldane's canary-in-the-coal-mine approach is also applied in software testing.

In this article, the term canarying refers to a partial and time-limited deployment of a change in a service, followed by an evaluation of whether the service change is safe. The production change process may then roll forward, roll back, alert a human, or do something else. Effective canarying involves many decisions—for example, how to deploy the partial service change or choose meaningful metrics—and deserves a separate discussion.


 

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