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I'm investigating the performance of a multi-threaded database sever. There is a particular workload that runs in roughly 61 seconds on a particular machine. The pid of the database process was 79894 when I ran perf against the workload.

In addition to the software threads in the database server, there are a number of Linux related threads, which are normally dormant on an idle system, that become active while my workload is running. Thus I want to use the -a option of perf as well as the -p option.

I run perf in 2 ways and get somewhat different results with each way.

The first ways I run the following perf command in one window

perf stat -p 2413 -a

and immediately run the database workload in another window. When the database workload finishes, I control C out of perf and get the following results

    Performance counter stats for process id '79894':

              1,842,359.55 msec cpu-clock                 #   30.061 CPUs utilized          
                 3,798,673      context-switches          #    0.002 M/sec                  
                   153,995      cpu-migrations            #    0.084 K/sec                  
                16,038,992      page-faults               #    0.009 M/sec                  
         4,939,131,149,436      cycles                    #    2.681 GHz                    
         3,924,220,386,428      stalled-cycles-frontend   #   79.45% frontend cycles idle   
         3,418,137,943,654      instructions              #    0.69  insn per cycle         
                                                          #    1.15  stalled cycles per insn
           402,389,588,237      branches                  #  218.410 M/sec                 
             5,137,510,170      branch-misses             #    1.28% of all branches  


     61.28834199 seconds time elapsed

The second method is to run

perf stat  -a  sleep 61

in one window and immediately run the database workload in another window. After 61 seconds both perf and the workload finish and perf produces the following results

 Performance counter stats for 'system wide':

      4,880,317.67 msec cpu-clock                 #   79.964 CPUs utilized          
         8,274,996      context-switches          #    0.002 M/sec                  
           202,832      cpu-migrations            #    0.042 K/sec                  
        14,605,246      page-faults               #    0.003 M/sec                  
 5,022,298,186,711      cycles                    #    1.029 GHz                    
 7,599,517,323,727      stalled-cycles-frontend   #  151.32% frontend cycles idle   
 3,421,512,233,294      instructions              #    0.68  insn per cycle         
                                                  #    2.22  stalled cycles per insn
   402,726,487,019      branches                  #   82.521 M/sec                  
     5,124,543,680      branch-misses             #    1.27% of all branches        

      61.031494851 seconds time elapsed

Because I used -a in both versions, I expected to get roughly the same results.

But with sleep,

cpu-clock is 2.5 times what you get with the -p version, 
context-switches are double what you get with the -p version  
and the other values are more or less the same

So 2 questions,

    (1) which set of results do I believe?
and 
    (2) how can there be more stalled-cycles-frontend than cycles in the sleep version?

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