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access icon openaccess Hardware-assisted instruction profiling and latency detection

Debugging and profiling tools can alter the execution flow or timing, can induce heisenbugs and are thus marginally useful for debugging time critical systems. Software tracing, however advanced it may be, depends on consuming precious computing resources. In this study, the authors analyse state-of-the-art hardware-tracing support, as provided in modern Intel processors and propose a new technique which uses the processor hardware for tracing without any code instrumentation or tracepoints. They demonstrate the utility of their approach with contributions in three areas - syscall latency profiling, instruction profiling and software-tracer impact detection. They present improvements in performance and the granularity of data gathered with hardware-assisted approach, as compared with traditional software only tracing and profiling. The performance impact on the target system – measured as time overhead – is on average 2–3%, with the worst case being 22%. They also define a way to measure and quantify the time resolution provided by hardware tracers for trace events, and observe the effect of fine-tuning hardware tracing for optimum utilisation. As compared with other in-kernel tracers, they observed that hardware-based tracing has a much reduced overhead, while achieving greater precision. Moreover, the other tracing techniques are ineffective in certain tracing scenarios.

http://iet.metastore.ingenta.com/content/journals/10.1049/joe.2016.0127
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content/journals/10.1049/joe.2016.0127
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