Where is your application stuck?

Xen migration or Container mobility promise better system utilization and system performance. But how does one know if the effort will improve the workload's progress? Resource management solutions promise optimal performance tuning. But how does one determine the resources to be reallocated and the impact of the allotment? Most customers develop their own benchmark that is used for purchasing a solution, but how does one know that the bottleneck is not in the customer benchmark?

Per-task delay accounting is a new functionality introduced for the Linux kernel which provides a direct measurement of resource constraints delaying forward progress of applications. Time spent by Linux tasks waiting for CPU time, completion of submitted I/O and in resolving page faults caused by allocated real memory, delay the forward progress of the application being run within the task. Currently these wait times are either unavailable at a per-task granularity or can only by obtained indirectly, through measurement of CPU usage and number of page faults. Indirect measurements are less useful because they make it harder to decide whether low usage of a resource is due to lack of demand from the application or due to resource contention with other tasks/applications.

Direct measurement of per-task delays has several advantages. They provide feedback to resource management applications that control a task's allocation of system resources by altering its CPU priority, I/O priority and real memory limits and enable them to fine tune these parameters more quickly to adapt to resource management policies and application demand. They are also useful for accurate metering/billing of resource usage which is particularly useful for shared systems such as departmental servers or hosting platforms. For desktop users, these statistics provide a quick way of determining the resource bottleneck, if any, for applications that are not running as fast as expected.

In this paper, we describe the design, implementation and usage of per-task delay accounting functionality currently available in the Linux kernel tree. We demonstrate the utility of the feature by studying the delay profiles of some commonly used applications and how their resource usage can be tuned using the feedback provided. We provide a brief description of the alternative mechanisms proposed to address similar needs.

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