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Tracing Summit: hearing from the users

I was in San Diego yesterday for the Tracing Summit, part of the Linux Plumbers’ Conference. Topics included SystemTap, ftrace, perf, and GDB tracepoints… and of course LTTng.

Even better than putting developers from all those projects in the same room, in the morning there were a couple presentations from tracing users: Frank Rowand and Vinod Kutty who use tracing on embedded systems and financial trading servers, respectively. The danger of inward-facing development conferences is that design decisions can be made based on what developers think the end-users want… but talking to those end-users directly is essential. Kudos to the organizers, Dominique Toupin and Mathieu Desnoyers, for arranging for those talks.

So what did they have to say?

  • the term “embedded” spans the range from low-end cameras to wall-sized video editing consoles (this isn’t news to anybody doing embedded development)
  • embedded devices are often very storage-constrained, so they can’t hold a lot of trace data, and CPU-constrained, so the tracing needs to be low-overhead
  • desirable things to trace in embedded systems include power consumption, memory usage, and boot time
  • high-frequency trading is about minimizing latency (on the order of microseconds), to the point that they disable power-saving because CPU speed transitions take too long
  • recent technologies like RDMA, OpenOnload, and DPAA are bypassing the kernel, so tracing solutions must cover userspace too

Some additional details were recorded in an etherpad (a communal note-taking page). Slides should eventually be available on the Tracing Summit wiki page.

GDB, Linux, ftrace, systemtap, tracepoints, lttng, perf

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