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AIX Versions 3.2 and 4 Performance Tuning Guide

Understanding the Trace Facility

The trace facility is more flexible than traditional system-monitor services that access and present statistics maintained by the system. With traditional monitor services, data reduction (conversion of system events to statistics) is largely coupled to the system instrumentation. For example, many systems maintain the minimum, maximum, and average elapsed time observed for executions of task A and permit this information to be extracted.

The AIX trace facility does not strongly couple data reduction to instrumentation, but provides a stream of trace event records (usually abbreviated to events). It is not necessary to decide in advance what statistics will be needed; data reduction is to a large degree separated from the instrumentation. The user may choose to determine the minimum, maximum and average time for task A from the flow of events. But it is also possible to extract the average time for task A when called by process B; or the average time for task A when conditions XYZ are met; or calculate the standard deviation of run time for task A; or even decide that some other task, recognized by a stream of events, is more meaningful to summarize. This flexibility is invaluable for diagnosing performance or functional problems.

In addition to providing detailed information about system activity, the trace facility allows application programs to be instrumented and their trace events collected in addition to system events. The trace file then contains a complete record of the application and system activity, in the correct sequence and with precise time stamps.

Limiting the Amount of Trace Data Collected

The trace facility generates large volumes of data. This data cannot be captured for extended periods of time without overflowing the storage device. There are two ways that the trace facility can be used efficiently:

Starting and Controlling Trace

The trace facility provides three distinct modes of use:

Formatting Trace Data

A general-purpose trace report facility is provided by the trcrpt command. The report facility provides little data reduction, but converts the raw binary event stream to a readable ASCII listing. Data can be visually extracted by a reader, or tools can be developed to further reduce the data.

The report facility displays text and data for each event according to rules provided in the trace format file. The default trace format file is /etc/trcfmt. It contains a stanza for each event ID. The stanza for the event provides the report facility with formatting rules for that event. This technique allows users to add their own events to programs and insert corresponding event stanzas in the format file to specify how the new events should be formatted.

Viewing Trace Data

When trace data is formatted, all data for a given event is usually placed on a single line. Additional lines may contain explanatory information. Depending on the fields included, the formatted lines can easily exceed 80 characters. It is best to view the reports on an output device that supports 132 columns.

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