Brendan Gregg's "Systems Performance: Enterprise and the Cloud"

Long ago, the prerequisite UNIX performance book was Adrian Cockcroft's 1994 classic, Sun Performance and Tuning: Sparc & Solaris, later updated in 1998 as Java and the Internet. As Solaris evolved to include the invaluable DTrace observability features, new essential performance references have been published, such as Solaris Performance and Tools: DTrace and MDB Techniques for Solaris 10 and OpenSolaris (2006)  by McDougal, Mauro, and Gregg, and DTrace: Dynamic Tracing in Oracle Solaris, Mac OS X and FreeBSD (2011), also by Mauro and Gregg.

Much has occurred in Solaris Land since those books appeared, notably Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2010 and the demise of the OpenSolaris community. But operating system technologies have continued to improve markedly in recent years, driven by stunning advances in multicore processor architecture, virtualization, and the massive scalability requirements of cloud computing.

A new performance reference was needed, and I eagerly waited for something that thoroughly covered modern, distributed computing performance issues from the ground up. Well, there's a new classic now, authored yet again by Brendan Gregg, former Solaris kernel engineer at Sun and now Lead Performance Engineer at Joyent.

Systems Performance: Enterprise and the Cloud is a modern, very comprehensive guide to general system performance principles and practices, as well as a highly detailed reference for specific UNIX and Linux observability tools used to examine and diagnose operating system behaviour.  It provides thorough definitions of terms, explains performance diagnostic Best Practices and "Worst Practices" (called "anti-methods"), and covers key observability tools including DTrace, SystemTap, and all the traditional UNIX utilities like vmstat, ps, iostat, and many others.

The book focuses on operating system performance principles and expands on these with respect to Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora, and CentOS are cited), and to Solaris and its derivatives [1]; it is not directed at any one OS so it is extremely useful as a broad performance reference.

The author goes beyond the intricacies of performance analysis and shows how to interpret and visualize statistical information gathered from the observability tools.  It's often difficult to extract understanding from voluminous rows of text output, and techniques are provided to assist with summarizing, visualizing, and interpreting the performance data.

Gregg includes myriad useful references from the system performance literature, including a "Who's Who" of contributors to this great body of diagnostic tools and methods.

This outstanding book should be required reading for UNIX and Linux system administrators as well as anyone charged with diagnosing OS performance issues.  Moreover, the book can easily serve as a textbook for a graduate level course in operating systems [2].

[1] Solaris 11, of course, and Joyent's SmartOS (developed from OpenSolaris)

[2] Gregg has taught system performance seminars for many years; I have also taught such courses...this book would be perfect for the OS component of an advanced CS curriculum.

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The purpose of this blog is to highlight and to explore general issues around "Cloud Computing" -- its benefits, risks, and component technologies -- and how they are evolving. I'll also periodically comment (of course!) on Oracle's Cloud Computing capabilities, resources, and cloud-related events. -- Harry J Foxwell, PhD, Principal Consultant for Cloud Computing, Oracle Public Sector HW

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