Efficient In-Depth I/O Tracing and its Application for Optimizing Systems

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Virginia Tech

Understanding user and system behavior is most vital for designing efficient systems. Most systems are designed with certain user workload in mind. However, such workloads evolve over time, or the underlying hardware assumptions change. Further, most modern systems are not built or deployed in isolation, they interact with other systems whose behavior might not be exactly understood. Thus in order to understand the performance of a system, it must be inspected closely while user workloads are running. Such close inspection must be done with minimum disturbance to the user workload. Thus tracing or collection of all the user and system generated events becomes an important approach in gaining comprehensive insight in user behavior.

As part of this work, we have three major contributions. We designed and implemented an in-depth block level I/O tracer, which would collect block level information like sector number, size of the I/O, actual contents of the I/O, along with certain file system information like filename, and offset in the file, for every I/O request. Next, to minimize the impact of the tracing to the running workload, we introduce and implement a sampling mechanism which traces fewer I/O requests. We validate that this sampling preserves certain I/O access patterns. Finally, as one of the application of our tracer, we use it as a crucial component of a system designed to do VM placements according to user workload.

I/O Tracing, VM placement, File-system tracing