Grafana Cloud k6: What's new and what's next?
To ensure the best possible end-user experience, engineering teams must be able to seamlessly transition from performance testing to problem resolution, breaking down any silos that exist between the two.
That’s why, earlier this year, Grafana Labs launched Grafana Cloud k6, a unified platform that natively integrates the Grafana k6 performance testing experience directly into Grafana Cloud.
In a recent episode of “k6 Office Hours” — a weekly livestream, held every Friday, that discusses best practices for using performance testing to improve the reliability and observability of your applications — the Grafana k6 team dives into the details of Grafana Cloud k6, including its feature set and overall value to users.
“Sometimes I think there is a false dichotomy struck between observability and testing,” says Nicole van der Hoeven, developer advocate at Grafana k6. “People think, ‘Why do I need to run a performance test? I can just instrument everything and watch production. I don’t need to run any test.’” Now with Grafana Cloud k6, she points out, “you don’t have to choose.”
Check out the excerpts below from the “Office Hours” episode — which also features Mark Meier, senior product manager at Grafana k6, and Simon Legander, frontend lead at Grafana k6 — to learn more about Grafana Cloud k6 and what’s next for the platform. (Note: Customers who used the k6 Cloud app prior to the acquisition will be migrated to Grafana Cloud k6 at a later date.)
You can also watch a full demo of Grafana Cloud k6 from the “Office Hours” session here:
Note: The excerpts below have been edited for length and clarity.
Nicole: What’s the difference between the legacy k6 Cloud app and Grafana Cloud k6?
Simon: Some things that exist in Grafana cancel out the feature that is in k6 Cloud [which is also called app.k6.io]. So, for example, in k6 Cloud, in the test results, you can jump into a tab, which is called the analysis tab. This is a canvas for the user to plot out and visualize metrics that were generated in your test. This is essentially like a Grafana dashboard. So obviously we haven’t implemented an embedded dashboard in Grafana. What we do instead in Grafana Cloud k6 is that we allow a user to query test metrics from Grafana Explore. And also, if you open up Grafana Cloud k6, you’re going to see that there is this ellipsis kebab menu on each chart that you see, which, when clicked, you see that it says Explore. So you can quickly jump into Explore, see the test, the metrics here that were generated from this test run, and also bring in other metrics which you might be interested in — maybe custom metrics that you’re defining in your test script. You could split the view here and correlate the testing data with observability data, which is really powerful. And then you could save this if you want to and render it in a dashboard as well.
Nicole: Can you talk about what is included with the free plan for Grafana Cloud?
Mark: In the free forever tier of Grafana Cloud, we’re providing 500 virtual user hours (VUH), and you can use them every single month. You can use them for whatever you want. If you have a small project — or maybe you’re just getting started with k6 and you’re the only person on your team and you want to set up a test quickly — this could be a perfect way to get started. You get all the major features of Grafana Cloud k6, and it should be enough to get some use out of it.
Nicole: What, exactly, is a virtual user hour?
Mark: On the k6 Cloud app we used to sell based off of test runs, and it was really hard for a lot of customers to work with that and say, “I need to predict my usage for the entire year that we’re going to run 3,000 tests up to a certain number of virtual users for a certain duration.” What we found was that what customers thought on January 1st maybe would be different, all of a sudden, on April 1st or July 1st, or whatever it may be. Then they’re coming back to talk to us, saying they need to make changes. That helped drive us to change this [pricing model] because we want to be more flexible for customers. And that’s how we landed at virtual user hours.
For our contracted customers, they’ve been purchasing k6 with virtual user hours for over a year now, and for the most part, they enjoy it. It’s flexible, and takes a lot of that extra thinking out of it. And now with Grafana Cloud k6, we’re kind of bringing that same structure to self-service. The simple way to look at a virtual user hour is that it’s a virtual user that runs for any part of one hour.
Nicole: What’s going to happen to the legacy k6 Cloud app?
Mark: We’re going to maintain it, and customers already on it will be able to use it. We don’t have a timeline in place to migrate users [to Grafana Cloud k6]. We’re going to make sure we handle that carefully because we don’t want to break people’s workflows and how they’re used to working, because that’s painful. I’ve already heard from people that they’re interested in moving to Grafana Cloud, which is awesome. So we’ll probably work with a few of them to see what a migration would look like. And then once we have details on how people can migrate, we’ll get all that taken care of.
Nicole: Any specific features that you’re looking to add to Grafana Cloud k6?
Simon: We’re going to bring in ways to schedule tests to run them at an interval that you’ve defined yourself. We’re going to be working on unlocking [the ability to query] other types of test data as well from Grafana Explore — so, being able to query execution logs from Grafana Explore and to display other types of test data in your dashboard, like listing your threshold, for example. What we currently support now is displaying time series data. What else? Notification systems and being able to send out emails or Slack messages or any type of webhook integration when your tests are failing or aborting by status.
Nicole: What else does the future hold for k6?
Mark: There’s a lot of interest and a lot of discussion right now on how we can work with other Grafana products even better. The integration with Grafana Tempo is probably the closest thing that you’ll see later this year. But then also working with the other teams. What else can we do? How can we combine how people work with any of the other Grafana products and k6? It’s about how we can find novel ways to present the data and give people value.
The easiest way to get started with Grafana Cloud k6 and performance testing is with Grafana Cloud. We have a generous free forever tier and plans for every use case. Sign up for free now!