To Execution profile or to Memory Profile – Kirk Pepperdine at InfoQ

I recently had a group of developers performance troubleshooting a problem-riddled application from my performance workshop. After dispensing with a couple easy wins, the group was faced with a CPU that was running very hot. The group reacted exactly in the same way that I see most teams do when faced with a hot CPU; they fired up an execution profiler hoping that it would help them sort things out. In this particular case, the problem was related to how the application was burning through memory. Now, while an execution profiler can find these problems, memory profilers will paint a much clearer picture. My group had somehow missed a key metric that was telling them that they should have been using a memory profiler. Lets run through a similar exercise here so that we can see when and why it is better to use a memory profiler.

Profilers work by either sampling top of stack or instrumenting the code with probes, or a combination of both. These techniques are very good at finding computations that happen frequently or take a long time. As my group experienced, the information gathered by execution profilers often correlates well with the source of the memory inefficiency. However it points to an execution problem which can sometimes be confusing.

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