Tutorial :Measuring execution time of selected loops


I want to measure the running times of selected loops in a C program so as to see what percentage of the total time for executing the program (on linux) is spent in these loops. I should be able to specify the loops for which the performance should be measured. I have tried out several tools (vtune, hpctoolkit, oprofile) in the last few days and none of them seem to do this. They all find the performance bottlenecks and just show the time for those. Thats because these tools only store the time taken that is above a threshold (~1ms). So if one loop takes lesser time than that then its execution time won't be reported.

The basic block counting feature of gprof depends on a feature in older compilers thats not supported now.

I could manually write a simple timer using gettimeofday or something like that but for some cases it won't give accurate results. For ex:

for (i = 0; i < 1000; ++i)  {      for (j  = 0; j < N; ++j)      {          //do some work here      }  }  

Now here I want to measure the total time spent in the inner loop and I will have to put a call to gettimeofday inside the first loop. So gettimeofday itself will get called a 1000 times which introduces its own overhead and the result will be inaccurate.


Unless you have an in circuit emulator or break-out box around your CPU, there's no such thing as timing a single-loop or single-instruction. You need to bulk up your test runs to something that takes at least several seconds each in order to reduce error due to other things going on in the CPU, OS, etc.

If you're wanting to find out exactly how much time a particular loop takes to execute, and it takes less than, say, 1 second to execute, you're going to need to artificially increase the number of iterations in order to get a number that is above the "noise floor". You can then take that number and divide it by the number of artificially inflated iterations to get a figure that represents how long one pass through your target loop will take.

If you're wanting to compare the performance of different loop styles or techniques, the same thing holds: you're going to need to increase the number of iterations or passes through your test code in order to get a measurement in which what you're interested in dominates the time slice you're measuring.

This is true whether you're measuring performance using sub-millisecond high performance counters provided by the CPU, the system date time clock, or a wall clock to measure the elapsed time of your test.

Otherwise, you're just measuring white noise.


Typically if you want to measure the time spent in the inner loop, you'll put the time get routines outside of the outer loop and then divide by the (outer) loop count. If you expect the time of the inner loop to be relatively constant for any j, that is.

Any profiling instructions incur their own overhead, but presumably the overhead will be the same regardless of where it's inserted so "it all comes out in the wash." Presumably you're looking for spots where there are considerable differences between the runtimes of two compared processes, where a pair of function calls like this won't be an issue (since you need one at the "end" too, to get the time delta) since one routine will be 2x or more costly over the other.

Most platforms offer some sort of higher resolution timer, too, although the one we use here is hidden behind an API so that the "client" code is cross-platform. I'm sure with a little looking you can turn it up. Although even here, there's little likelihood that you'll get better than 1ms accuracy, so it's preferable to run the code several times in a row and time the whole run (then divide by the loop count, natch).


I'm glad you're looking for percentage, because that's easy to get. Just get it running. If it runs quickly, put an outer loop around it so it takes a good long time. That won't affect the percentages. While it's running, get stackshots. You can do this with Ctrl-Break in gdb, or you can use pstack or lsstack. Just look to see what percentage of stackshots display the code you care about.

Suppose the loops take some fraction of time, like 0.2 (20%) and you take N=20 samples. Then the number of samples that should show them will average 20 * 0.2 = 4, and the standard deviation of the number of samples will be sqrt(20 * 0.2 * 0.8) = sqrt(3.2) = 1.8, so if you want more precision, take more samples. (I personally think precision is overrated.)

Note:If u also have question or solution just comment us below or mail us on toontricks1994@gmail.com
Next Post »