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Subject[RFC 0/2] Experience on full stack profiling using eBPF.
Hi Alexei,

We are working on full stack system profiling tools and found your eBPF
is an amazing start point for us. However, during our prototype
designing and implementing we also found some limitations on it. I'd
like to share our experience with you in this mailing list, and I hope
you and others can provide comments and suggestions for us.

Our goal is to profile production systems by analyzing end-to-end trace
of particular procedures, including full IO request through sys_write()
system call to underlying disk driver, full network processes through
sys_sendto() to NIC driver and even full database query through client
initiating to server processing to client finalizing. To avoid heavy
tracing overhead and overwhelming data, we randomly sample a few out of
huge amounts of procedures, only trace events caused by them at
different layers and leave other procedures work normally. As a result,
we make as few traces as possible for our profiling with the minimal
effect to system performance.

In this series of RFC we provide a very rough implementation which
traces at different layers for IO processes in a QEMU system. Patch 1/2
deploys some new tracepoints at each layer of IO stack, patch 2/2
attaches eBPF programs on them. eBPF programs select events according to
their trigger conditions, and propagate these conditions to eBPF
programs at lower layers. We use hash tables to record trigger

Our prototype is able to sample one sys_write() call among all write by
a dd command. The result is as follow:

dd-985 [000] .... 54878.066046: iov_iter_copy_from_user_atomic: Node1 iov=00000000011c0010 page=ffffea0001eebb40
kworker/ [000] .... 54886.746406: ext4_bio_write_page: Node2 page=ffffea0001eebb40 bio=ffff88007c249540
kworker/ [000] .... 54886.750054: bio_attempt_back_merge: Node3 bio=ffff88007c249540 rq=ffff88007c3d4158
kworker/ [000] d... 54886.828480: virtscsi_add_cmd: Node4 req=ffff88007c3d4158 index=2
tracex5-9 [000] .Ns. 54886.840415: bio_endio: Node5 bio=ffff88007c249540

The result trace log is less than 20 lines, which will be more than
10000 lines without sampling and conditions. We can easily get a graph
like this from the above result trace:

S1/2/3 are samples.

S1S2 S3
| | |
(vfs)pagecache -----------------------------------------> timeline
S1S2 S3
| | |
(block)request -----------------------------------------> timeline
S1S2 S3
| | |
bio_end -----------------------------------------> timeline

During our work we found that eBPF can be improved so we can make our
life easier:

1. BPF prog cannot use div/mod operator, which is useful in sampling.

2. BPF is a filter, the output trace goes to trace pipe, sometimes we
may need a structured trace output like, so we can record more
in filter function. BPF Array table is a good place to record data, but
the index is restricted to 4 byte size.

3. Though most of events are filtered out, the eBPF program attached to
tracepoints still run for every execution. We should find a way to
minimize performance overhead for those events filtered out.

4. Provide a more user-friendly interface for user to use.

Thanks for your work.

Signed-off-by: He Kuang <>
He Kuang (2):
tracing: add additional IO tracepoints
samples: bpf: IO profiling example

block/bio.c | 1 +
block/blk-core.c | 4 +
drivers/scsi/virtio_scsi.c | 3 +
fs/ext4/page-io.c | 4 +
include/trace/events/block.h | 81 +++++++++++++++++
include/trace/events/ext4.h | 21 +++++
include/trace/events/filemap.h | 25 ++++++
include/trace/events/scsi.h | 21 +++++
mm/filemap.c | 2 +
samples/bpf/Makefile | 4 +
samples/bpf/tracex5_kern.c | 195 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
samples/bpf/tracex5_user.c | 56 ++++++++++++
12 files changed, 417 insertions(+)
create mode 100644 samples/bpf/tracex5_kern.c
create mode 100644 samples/bpf/tracex5_user.c


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