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I am piping output from one program into some Perl I wrote. This is a long running process , sometimes days, so I want to find out where my bottlenecks are and try to open them up. I want to know if data is being piped into my script faster than my script can process it. If this is the case I will try to tune up my script, but not if I don't need to. I see talk about a flag being set when the buffer is full that prevents any more writes to it but how do I check to see if or how often that flag is set? Any ideas?

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3  
I think only the writing process could know. –  enzotib Sep 14 '11 at 21:08
4  
You could look into using pv somewhere along the pipe chain. –  amphetamachine Sep 15 '11 at 3:43
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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I would trace your Perl script with a system call trace tool: strace (Linux), dtruss (OS X), ktrace (FreeBSD), truss (Solaris), etc. The goal would be to see how much time your Perl script spends waiting on reading from its stdin and how much time the other program spends waiting on writing to its stdout.

Here I'm testing this out with the writer as the bottleneck:

terminal 1$ gzip -c < /dev/urandom | cat > /dev/null

terminal 2$ ps auxw | egrep 'gzip|cat'
slamb    25311 96.0  0.0  2852  516 pts/0    R+   23:35   3:40 gzip -c
slamb    25312  0.8  0.0  2624  336 pts/0    S+   23:35   0:01 cat

terminal 2$ strace -p 25312 -s 0 -rT -e trace=read
Process 25312 attached - interrupt to quit
     0.000000 read(0, ""..., 4096) = 4096 <0.005207>
     0.005531 read(0, ""..., 4096) = 4096 <0.000051>

The first number here is the time since the start of the previous syscall, and the last number is the time spent in the syscall. So we can post-process with Perl a bit to aggregate it... [*]

terminal 2$ strace -p 25312 -s 0 -rT -e trace=read 2>&1 | perl -nle 'm{^\s*([\d.]+) read\(0, .*<([\d.]+)>} or next; $total_work += $1 - $last_wait; $total_wait += $2; $last_wait = $2; print "working for $total_work sec, waiting for $total_wait sec"; $last_wait = $2;'
working for 0 sec, waiting for 0.005592 sec
...
working for 0.305356 sec, waiting for 2.28624900000002 sec
...

terminal 2$ strace -p 25311 -s 0 -rT -e trace=write 2>&1 | perl -nle 'm{^\s*([\d.]+) write\(1, .*<([\d.]+)>} or next; $total_work += $1 - $last_wait; $total_wait += $2; $last_wait = $2; print "working for $total_work sec, waiting for $total_wait sec"; $last_wait = $2;'
...
working for 5.15862000000001 sec, waiting for 0.0555740000000007 sec
...

You could go fancier and make a SystemTap or DTrace script that does traces both sides at once, only tracks the correct file descriptor, and prints a nice status update every second or so with what percent of time each was waiting for the other.

[*] - Warning: my crude aggregation isn't quite right if read/write is being called on other file descriptors; it will underestimate the work time in that case.


The dtrace version is pretty neat actually.

terminal 1$ gzip -c < /dev/urandom | cat > /dev/null

terminal 2$ ps aux | egrep 'gzip| cat'
slamb    54189  95.8  0.0   591796    584 s006  R+   12:49AM  22:49.55 gzip -c
slamb    54190   0.4  0.0   599828    392 s006  S+   12:49AM   0:06.08 cat

terminal 2$ cat > pipe.d <<'EOF'
#!/usr/sbin/dtrace -qs

BEGIN
{
  start = timestamp;
  writer_blocked = 0;
  reader_blocked = 0;
}

tick-1s, END
{
  this->elapsed = timestamp - start;
  printf("since startup, writer blocked %3d%% of time, reader %3d%% of time\n",
         100 * writer_blocked / this->elapsed,
         100 * reader_blocked / this->elapsed);
}

syscall::write:entry
/pid == $1 && arg0 == 1/
{
  self->entry = timestamp;
}

syscall::write:return
/pid == $1 && self->entry != 0/
{
  writer_blocked += timestamp - self->entry;
  self->entry = 0;
}

syscall::read:entry
/pid == $2 && arg0 == 0/
{
  self->entry = timestamp;
}

syscall::read:return
/pid == $2 && self->entry != 0/
{
  reader_blocked += timestamp - self->entry;
  self->entry = 0;
}
EOF

terminal 2$ chmod u+x pipe.d
terminal 2$ sudo ./pipe.d 54189 54190
since startup, writer blocked   0% of time, reader  98% of time
since startup, writer blocked   0% of time, reader  99% of time
since startup, writer blocked   0% of time, reader  99% of time
since startup, writer blocked   0% of time, reader  99% of time
since startup, writer blocked   0% of time, reader  99% of time
^C
since startup, writer blocked   0% of time, reader  99% of time

And the SystemTap version:

terminal 1$ gzip -c /dev/urandom | cat > /dev/null

terminal 2$ ps auxw | egrep 'gzip| cat'
slamb     3405  109  0.0   4356   584 pts/1    R+   02:57   0:04 gzip -c /dev/urandom
slamb     3406  0.2  0.0  10848   588 pts/1    S+   02:57   0:00 cat

terminal 2$ cat > probes.stp <<'EOF'
#!/usr/bin/env stap

global start
global writer_pid
global writes
global reader_pid
global reads

probe begin {
  start = gettimeofday_us()
  writer_pid = strtol(argv[1], 10)
  reader_pid = strtol(argv[2], 10)
}

probe timer.s(1), end {
  elapsed = gettimeofday_us() - start
  printf("since startup, writer blocked %3d%% of time, reader %3d%% of time\n",
         100 * @sum(writes) / elapsed,
         100 * @sum(reads) / elapsed)
}

probe syscall.write.return {
  if (pid() == writer_pid && $fd == 1)
    writes <<< gettimeofday_us() - @entry(gettimeofday_us())
}

probe syscall.read.return {
  if (pid() == reader_pid && $fd == 0)
    reads <<< gettimeofday_us() - @entry(gettimeofday_us())
}
EOF

terminal 2$ chmod a+x probes.stp
terminal 2$ sudo ./pipe.stp 3405 3406
since startup, writer blocked   0% of time, reader  99% of time
...
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