Quick links

Making the ``Box'' Transparent: System Call Performance as a First-class Result

Report ID:
May 2003
Download Formats:


For applications that make heavy use of the operating system, the
ability of designers to understand system call performance behavior
may be essential to achieving high performance. Conventional
approaches to performance analysis, such as monitoring tools and
profilers, collect and present their information off-line or via
out-of-band channels. We believe that making this information
first-class and exposing it to running applications via in-band
channels on a per-call basis presents opportunities for analysis
and performance tuning not available via other mechanisms.
Furthermore, our approach provides direct feedback to applications on
time spent in the kernel, resource contention, and time spent blocked,
allowing them to immediately observe how the application and workload
affect kernel behavior. Not only does this approach provide greater
into the workings of the kernel, but it also allows
applications to control how performance information is collected,
filtered, and correlated with application-level events.

To demonstrate the power of this approach, we show that our
implementation, DeBox, obtains precise information about OS behavior
at low cost, and that it can be used in debugging/tuning application
performance on complex workloads. In particular, we focus on the
industry-standard SpecWeb99 benchmark running on the Flash Web
Server. Using DeBox, we are able to diagnose a series of problematic
interactions between the server and the operating system. Addressing
these issues as well as other optimization opportunities generates an
overall factor of four improvement in our SpecWeb99 score and
throughput gains on other benchmarks. Equally importantly, our
measurements suggest that parallelism stemming from programmer
convenience has a sharply negative impact on latency. We show how our
optimizations reduce this impact, improving latency from a factor of 4
to 47 under different conditions.

Follow us: Facebook Twitter Linkedin