Chapter 24. DTrace

Written by Tom Rhodes.

24.1. Synopsis

DTrace, also known as Dynamic Tracing, was developed by Sun™ as a tool for locating performance bottlenecks in production and pre-production systems. In addition to diagnosing performance problems, DTrace can be used to help investigate and debug unexpected behavior in both the FreeBSD kernel and in userland programs.

DTrace is a remarkable profiling tool, with an impressive array of features for diagnosing system issues. It may also be used to run pre-written scripts to take advantage of its capabilities. Users can author their own utilities using the DTrace D Language, allowing them to customize their profiling based on specific needs.

The FreeBSD implementation provides full support for kernel DTrace and experimental support for userland DTrace. Userland DTrace allows users to perform function boundary tracing for userland programs using the pid provider, and to insert static probes into userland programs for later tracing. Some ports, such as databases/postgres-server and lang/php56 have a DTrace option to enable static probes. FreeBSD 10.0-RELEASE has reasonably good userland DTrace support, but it is not considered production ready. In particular, it is possible to crash traced programs.

The official guide to DTrace is maintained by the Illumos project at DTrace Guide.

After reading this chapter, you will know:

  • What DTrace is and what features it provides.

  • Differences between the Solaris™ DTrace implementation and the one provided by FreeBSD.

  • How to enable and use DTrace on FreeBSD.

Before reading this chapter, you should: