I was asked a couple of times by my subscribers how to do microarchitectural analysis on Windows? To be honest I never had that problem before. Guess why? Because I work at Intel and of course I have the license to use Intel® VTune™ Amplifier. I can’t fully feel the pain of the people who are doing performance related work on windows and don’t have access to Vtune or AMD CodeAnalyst. Since it wasn’t my problem I didn’t make any efforts towards it. Finally I was browsing through Bartek’s coding blog and found the article Curious case of branch performance. To me that seemed like a case that can be easily proven just by running
perf stat if we were on Linux. But since we are on Windows… it’s not that simple.
In this article I want to present one way how you can collect PMU counters without Intel® VTune™ Amplifier. I took almost all the info from Bruce Dawson’s blog. He wrote and article which I want to expand and make it more of a step-by-step process. So, all the credit goes to Bruce here, because i didn’t invent this. If you want to try it yourself, I suggest you first reproduce the example described in Bruce’s article (link to github with sources and scripts).
Take all that is written in my article with a grain of salt though. I’m not a Windows developer and I’m not spending my time doing performance analysis on Windows. This is just one way to collect PMU counters, but there might be others, more simple and robust. In the end you can purchase Intel® VTune™ Amplifier which by the way can be quite expensive. But I want to say upfront, that there are no real alternatives to Vtune if you are going to do serious performance analysis and tuning on Windows (this is not an advertisement).
xperf. You need to install Windows Performance Toolkit which is a part of Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK). For me xperf was automatically added to PATH.
tracelog. Follow instructions to get this tool. You need the following components to be installed:
Tracelog wasn’t added to my PATH, but I was able to find it under the following path:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\10\bin\10.0.17763.0\x64\". It might differ for you.
Installing all those kits require some time, so please be patient.
I will use the example that Bruce created, partially repeating his actions. Here is how you can obtain traces (with branch mispediction information) from your application using the tools mentioned above (should be run as Administrator):
tracelog.exe -start counters -f counters.etl -eflag CSWITCH+PROC_THREAD+LOADER -PMC BranchMispredictions,BranchInstructions:CSWITCH <your app> xperf -stop counters xperf -merge counters.etl pmc_counters_merged.etl xperf -i pmc_counters_merged.etl -o pmc_counters.txt
If we will look inside
pmc_counters.txt we can observe the whole trace in the text format. There is a lot of interesting can be extracted from them, but lets concentrate on two things:
Pmc, TimeStamp, ThreadID, BranchMispredictions, BranchInstructions
CSwitch, TimeStamp, New Process Name ( PID), New TID, NPri, NQnt, TmSinceLast, WaitTime, Old Process Name ( PID), Old TID, OPri, OQnt, OldState, Wait Reason, Swapable, InSwitchTime, CPU, IdealProc, OldRemQnt, NewPriDecr, PrevCState, OldThrdBamQosLevel, NewThrdBamQosLevel
Here is some piece of the actual trace:
Pmc, 214810, 5956, 1101534, 44324578 CSwitch, 214810, ConditionalCount.exe (14224), 5956, 9, -1, 6, 0, System ( 4), 560, 12, -1, Waiting, WrQueue, NonSwap, 6, 1, 3, 84017152, 0, 0, Important, Important Pmc, 214821, 14460, 1101713, 44326484 CSwitch, 214821, csrss.exe ( 888), 14460, 14, -1, 73556, 5, ConditionalCount.exe (14224), 5956, 9, -1, Waiting, WrLpcReply, Swapable, 11, 1, 3, 77701120, 0, 0, Important, Important
Note, that for each CSwitch event there is corresponding Pmc event. We can see that they come with the same timestamp. In this snippet of trace, there was a context switch from our process (which is ConditionalCount.exe) to another process (csrss.exe). We can see this by looking at
Old Process Name ( PID) of CSwitch event with timestamp
214821. So, there was some period of time in which ConditionalCount.exe has been executing on CPU (between timestamps
The value for the
BranchMispredictions counter is constantly growing. We can calculate how much branch mispredictions were there for this period of time, by substracting values from the 2 Pmc event. For this snippet there were
1101713 - 1101534 = 179 branch mispredictions. By summing up together all the deltas we can calculate total number of branch mispredictions for the whole runtime of the app.
Pro tip: if you see the numbers that are different from what you expected, I suggest you try to run the same benchmark on Linux using ‘perf stat
To parse the trace and extract the information Bruce wrote the script. This script actually extracts the PMC values for the processes that we are interested in (2 argument):
python.exe etwpmc_parser.py pmc_counters.txt <your app>
Here is the output that I received on my machine (Win 10, Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-7300U).
Process name: branch misp rate, [br_misp, total branc] ConditionalCount.exe (14224): 21.91%, [109184040, 498250335], 3690 context switches, time: 1093072 ConditionalCount.exe (10964): 0.07%, [369677, 496453009], 761 context switches, time: 257492
Vtune shows similar results.
> tracelog.exe -profilesources Help Id Name Interval Min Max -------------------------------------------------------------- 0 Timer 10000 1221 1000000 2 TotalIssues 65536 4096 2147483647 6 BranchInstructions 65536 4096 2147483647 10 CacheMisses 65536 4096 2147483647 11 BranchMispredictions 65536 4096 2147483647 19 TotalCycles 65536 4096 2147483647 25 UnhaltedCoreCycles 65536 4096 2147483647 26 InstructionRetired 65536 4096 2147483647 27 UnhaltedReferenceCycles 65536 4096 2147483647 28 LLCReference 65536 4096 2147483647 29 LLCMisses 65536 4096 2147483647 30 BranchInstructionRetired 65536 4096 2147483647 31 BranchMispredictsRetired 65536 4096 2147483647
This goes anywhere near to what Linux perf or Vtune are able to do. The number of counters is limited and this is only does counting, no sampling (see the difference between counting and sampling here ). That’s all true, but at least you can do some initial performance analysis.
Second thing is that if you want to collect different PMC than branch misprediction you need to modify not just the tracelog command but also the python script that parses traces.
If you know any other/better way to do that, let me know. I would definitely want to hear that.
I hope that also helps people that are on Windows and do want to participate in my contest. If so, make sure to subscribe using the form at the bottom of the page.