When working with application software that is under constant development, the temptation is to think of operating system performance – where the kernel has been developed and tuned for decades – as a solved problem. It isn’t! The operating system itself is a complex body of software, managing a variety of ever-changing physical devices with new and different application workloads. The kernels themselves are also in constant development, adding features to improve the performance of particular workloads, and removing newly-encountered bottlenecks as systems continue to scale. Analyzing and working to improve the performance of the operating system itself is an ongoing task that should lead to continual performance improvements. The applications themselves can also be analyzed from operating system context, delivering more – and often greater – performance wins.
Most kernels are now open source, allowing a deeper understanding of their internals, and how these behave with application workloads. In some cases, this open source code can be traced and analyzed directly. This enables the modern systems performance analyst to do much more than just interpret vendor tools: they can spelunk into the depths of the operating system to answer any performance question needed.
This talk summarizes the activities of the modern systems performance analyst, including traditional tool interpretation and more modern source code-based tracing. This is intended to be suitable for all open source operating systems, especially illumos and Linux kernels.
Brendan Gregg is the lead performance engineer at Joyent, where he analyzes performance and scalability at any level of the software stack. He is the author of the upcoming book “Systems Performance”, and co-author of “DTrace” and “Solaris Performance and Tools”. He was previously a performance lead and kernel engineer at Sun Microsystems where he developed the ZFS L2ARC, and later Oracle. He has also invented and developed numerous performance analysis tools, including some that are shipped by default in Mac OS X and Oracle Solaris 11. His recent work has included performance visualizations for illumos and Linux kernel analysis.
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