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Part III. System Administration
Chapter 25. DTrace
DTrace, also known as Dynamic Tracing, was developed by Sun(TM) 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 package:databases/postgresql12-server[] and package:lang/php74[] have a DTrace option to enable static probes.
The official guide to DTrace is maintained by the Illumos project at http://dtrace.org/guide[DTrace Guide].
After reading this chapter, you will know:
What DTrace is and what features it provides.
Differences between the Solaris(TM) DTrace implementation and the one provided by FreeBSD.
How to enable and use DTrace on FreeBSD.
Before reading this chapter, you should:
Understand UNIX(R) and FreeBSD basics (crossref:basics[basics,FreeBSD Basics]).
Have some familiarity with security and how it pertains to FreeBSD (crossref:security[security,Security]).
Implementation Differences
While the DTrace in FreeBSD is similar to that found in Solaris(TM), differences do exist. The primary difference is that in FreeBSD, DTrace is implemented as a set of kernel modules and DTrace can not be used until the modules are loaded. To load all of the necessary modules:
# kldload dtraceall
Beginning with FreeBSD 10.0-RELEASE, the modules are automatically loaded when `dtrace` is run.
FreeBSD uses the `DDB_CTF` kernel option to enable support for loading `CTF` data from kernel modules and the kernel itself. `CTF` is the Solaris(TM) Compact C Type Format which encapsulates a reduced form of debugging information similar to `DWARF` and the venerable stabs. `CTF` data is added to binaries by the `ctfconvert` and `ctfmerge` build tools. The `ctfconvert` utility parses `DWARF``ELF` debug sections created by the compiler and `ctfmerge` merges `CTF``ELF` sections from objects into either executables or shared libraries.