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Archive for July, 2011

Plotting GetThreadTimes

As a side project, I have been developing an application to monitor the performance of our main product (hence the lack of update). In my experience, our large C++ programs have not worked well under most profilers (either too slow, or too resource intensive). The PGO technique I posted last year works well within the scope of a library, but does not provide performance data in a system wide perspective. ProcExp from SysInternal provides good performance insights with threads CPU cycles and context switches, but the results are not recordable. So I started by duplicating ProcExp’s thread performance output through GetThreadTimes.

Plotting The Data

GetThreadTimes is a very powerful function that provides the cumulative CPU and kernel time consumed by a particular thread. The resolution is known to be coarse, and has a tendency to overlook very short execution (e.g. thread that couldn’t fully consume its quantum). A post online noticed the granularity of measurement, and suggested a 1 second sampling time to get sufficiently accurate result.

Below is a timing report from GetThreadTimes sampling once a second. The target application is Media Player Classic playing a 720p H.264 video.

GetThreadTimes sampled at one second interval.

Sadly, the plot is almost completely indecipherable. There are large fluctuations from reading to reading, and thread times collected are occasionally zero.

So I spent a lot of time optimizing the data. After many trials and errors, I finally decided to smooth on the data points with a 15 second rolling average. The resulting plot looks far more consumable.

Same data as before, but with 15 second rolling average.

Final Thoughts

After digging into Windows Internal, I still couldn’t grasp the output of GetThreadTimes. Without averaging, the data is extremely difficult to consume.

By smoothing out the data with a rolling average, the data plot became very practical. In fact, this method has already uncovered a performance bug during overnight runs.

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