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OSDI '06 Abstract

Pp. 89–102 of the Proceedings

Operating System Profiling via Latency Analysis

Nikolai Joukov, Avishay Traeger, and Rakesh Iyer, Stony Brook University; Charles P. Wright, Stony Brook University and IBM T.J. Watson Research Center; Erez Zadok, Stony Brook University


Operating systems are complex and their behavior depends on many factors. Source code, if available, does not directly help one to understand the OS's behavior, as the behavior depends on actual workloads and external inputs. Runtime profiling is a key technique to prove new concepts, debug problems, and optimize performance. Unfortunately, existing profiling methods are lacking in important areas-they do not provide enough information about the OS's behavior, they require OS modification and therefore are not portable, or they incur high overheads thus perturbing the profiled OS.

We developed OSprof: a versatile, portable, and efficient OS profiling method based on latency distributions analysis. OSprof automatically selects important profiles for subsequent visual analysis. We have demonstrated that a suitable workload can be used to profile virtually any OS component. OSprof is portable because it can intercept operations and measure OS behavior from user-level or from inside the kernel without requiring source code. OSprof has typical CPU time overheads below 4%. In this paper we describe our techniques and demonstrate their usefulness through a series of profiles conducted on Linux, FreeBSD, and Windows, including client/server scenarios. We discovered and investigated a number of interesting interactions, including scheduler behavior, multi-modal I/O distributions, and a previously unknown lock contention, which we fixed.

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Last changed: 23 April 2007 ac