Linux perf tool

Since Linux 2.6.31, linux has had a new performance counter subsystem (initially called "perf counters" and later renamed to "perf events"). The facilities provided by perf events, and the associated tool "perf", are generally a superset of what you can do with oprofile and qprof, so it's a good idea to use perf if you can. It does support fewer processors than the other systems, although more are being added over time.

The perf events subsystem is compiled in by default in the kernel shipped with most distros (e.g. Ubuntu) which means there's no fiddling around compiling your own kernel or modules.



On Debian and Ubuntu you can install "perf" by installing the linux-tools-<your kernel version> package:

$ sudo apt-get install linux-tools-<your kernel version>

From source

If your distro doesn't include "perf" as a package you can build it manually like so:

  • apt-get install binutils-dev libdwarf-dev libelf-dev (or equivalent on your distro)
  • download a kernel source tree, matching your kernel version, from
  • unpack it
  • cd tools/perf
  • make
  • if you want, make install, or just copy the binary somewhere appropriate


Check that it works:

$ perf stat true

 Performance counter stats for 'true':

       3.684489  task-clock-msecs         #      0.410 CPUs 
              1  context-switches         #      0.000 M/sec
              0  CPU-migrations           #      0.000 M/sec
            158  page-faults              #      0.043 M/sec
        2920646  cycles                   #    792.687 M/sec
        2962512  instructions             #      1.014 IPC  
         687407  branches                 #    186.568 M/sec
          24356  branch-misses            #      3.543 %    
  <not counted>  cache-references        
  <not counted>  cache-misses            

    0.008976351  seconds time elapsed

if you see some zeroes here it probably means your processor isn't fully supported by the kernel's perf events subsystem.

Now to profile a GHC-compiled executable:

$ perf record ./queens
$ perf report

The output looks something like this:

# Samples: 9161149923
# Overhead  Command      Shared Object  Symbol
# ........  .......  .................  ......
    30.65%   queens  queens             [.] s1ql_info
    18.67%   queens  queens             [.] s1qj_info
    12.17%   queens  queens             [.] s1qi_info
     9.94%   queens  queens             [.] s1o9_info
     5.85%   queens  queens             [.] r1nI_info
     5.33%   queens  queens             [.] s1sF_info
     5.18%   queens  queens             [.] s1sG_info
     3.69%   queens  queens             [.] s1oP_info
     1.68%   queens  queens             [.] stg_upd_frame_info
     0.88%   queens  queens             [.] stg_ap_2_upd_info
     0.62%   queens  queens             [.] s1sE_info
     0.56%   queens  [kernel]           [k] read_hpet
     0.39%   queens  queens             [.] stg_ap_p_info
     0.35%    :2030             f76beb  [.] 0x00000000f76beb
     0.31%   queens  queens             [.] s1oD_info
     0.28%  swapper  [kernel]           [k] mwait_idle_with_hints
     0.25%   queens  queens             [.] __stg_gc_enter_1
     0.23%   queens  queens             [.] evacuate
     0.18%  swapper  [kernel]           [k] read_hpet
     0.12%   queens  queens             [.] scavenge_block

which is great for pointing to the hotspots. You can also annotate the source code (of the RTS) or the assembly, using perf annotate.

Perf with NoFib

There is a caveat to using perf on an executable built by the nofib Makefiles.

To more accurately measure changes in binary sizes, nofib strips the symbols out of the final executable. Therefore, the useful names like "stg_ap_p_info" and "s1ql_info" will not show up in the perf report output. IE The following commands will yield information that is difficult to use.

$ cd nofib/your/favorite/test
$ make clean; make boot; make NoFibRuns=0 >& log
$ perf record ./test <test inputs>
$ perf report

One workaround is to find the ghc options used in the log file and invoke ghc <options from log> --make Main.hs -o test directly. The useful symbol names will then show up in the perf report output. NB The symbols are in the .o files that nofib's make generates; only the linking must be done without using the Makefiles.

Last modified 6 years ago Last modified on Jan 6, 2014 10:58:52 AM