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Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 : Using the Concurrency Visualizer (part 1)

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7/8/2013 3:50:42 AM

Performance analysis of a parallel application is more challenging than performance analysis of a sequential application. A parallel application has more moving parts, such as tasks, threads, the thread pool, and synchronization. Therefore, Microsoft created the Concurrency Visualizer as an advanced profiler and included this powerful tool in Visual Studio 2010. The Concurrency Visualizer provides a wide assortment of charts and reports to help you visualize and analyze the performance of your parallel application.

The Concurrency Visualizer is feature rich. This section contains only an overview of this comprehensive tool, but you can find detailed articles and videos on this subject on MSDN. For example, see “Concurrent Visualization Techniques in the VS2010 Profiler,” by Phil Pennington.

The Concurrency Visualizer is an Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) consumer and receives kernel-level data from low-level tracing in the operating system. ETW provides several benefits. It’s implemented as part of the operating system kernel and not the user-mode application. Because it is non-invasive, ETW has minimal impact on your application. ETW is a systemwide resource and provides a single tracing model that all developers can depend on. As an ETW subscriber, the Concurrency Visualizer has certain restrictions:

  • Visual Studio must have administrative privileges to launch the Concurrency Visualizer.

  • By default, 64-bit applications cannot view a complete stack trace in the Concurrency Visualizer. You must set the Disable Paging Executive flag in the registry. Run the following command from the command line to update the registry appropriately.

    REG ADD "HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory
      Management" -v DisablePagingExecutive -d 0x1 -t REG_DWORD -f

    After updating the registry key, you must reboot the system before attempting to use the Concurrency Visualizer.

  • ETW can consume considerable storage, which might cause data loss and an error when you are using the Concurrency Visualizer. Increase the ETW buffer size to resolve this problem.

To start the Concurrency Visualizer, select Launch Performance Wizard from the Analyze menu to begin profiling. In the Performance Wizard dialog box, shown here, you select the Concurrency option and the Visualize The Behavior Of A Multithreaded Application check box.

Using the Concurrency Visualizer

Then proceed to the next screen. In this screen, you select the project you intend to profile. If you want to start an executable, you can choose the An Executable (.EXE File) option. When you choose this, you’ll see a different dialog box in which you can browse to the target executable.

Using the Concurrency Visualizer

The next window is essentially a confirmation screen. Here you click the Finish button to accept the current settings and begin profiling. Clicking the Previous button allows you to revisit settings and make changes.

Using the Concurrency Visualizer

Your application starts, and trace data is collected as the application runs. Select the Stop Profiling link to stop performance profiling. The data analysis begins when the profiling stops. Be patient, because the analysis might take some time. When the analysis completes, the Concurrency Visualizer presents three views: CPU Utilization, Threads, and Cores.

Using the Concurrency Visualizer

The Performance Explorer opens automatically and provides an overview of the profiling sessions. You can run multiple profiling sessions and save them to individual files with a .psess extension. Each session appears in the Performance Explorer window, shown here.

Using the Concurrency Visualizer

From the command line, you can collect data for the Concurrency Visualizer by using the Visual Studio Profiler. This allows you to automate the process, which is especially helpful on production machines where Visual Studio is not installed.

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