GSOC [RFC]: Support for alternative tracing backends

Eugene Syromiatnikov esyr at
Mon Mar 26 08:08:09 UTC 2018

On Sun, Mar 25, 2018 at 12:39:08PM +0530, Harsha Sharma wrote:
> Strace Proposal (Google Summer of Code 2018)

> ->Title of Proposal:
> Support for alternative tracing backends
> ->Suggested By:
> Eugene Syromyatnikov
> ->Abstract of Proposal:
> 1. Add backend interface to allow for multiple alternative backends.
> 2. Using gdbserver:
> With implementation of catch syscalls in gdbserver which adds a new
> QCatchSyscalls packet to enable 'catch syscall', and newstop reasons
> "syscall_entry" and "syscall_return" for those events.
> GDB can catch some or all of the syscalls issued by the debuggee, and
> show the related information for each syscall. If no argument is
> specified, calls to and returns from all system calls will be caught.
> Basic implementation idea for gdbserver backend:
> strace talks to gdbserver via gdbserver backend
> strace sends packet: $vCont;c  (continue)
> strace receives packet:T05syscall_entry:
> 16;06:b0e2ffffff7f0000;07:68e2ffffff7f0000;10:27a9b0f7ff7f0000;thread:p2162.2162;core:5;
> strace sends packet: $g (get registers)
> strace receives packet: daffffffffffffff0000000000000000...
> I plan to use previous patches:[1], [2], [3]

Note that the current state of the patch set is available at [1]. I think
it is worth checking out various XXXs and TODOs there.


> 3. Using ftrace:
> kprobe, uprobe and kernel tracepoint scripts make use of ftrace - This
> allows tracing kernel functions, stack tracing and debugging crash.
> write to files in /sys/kernel/debug/tracing and reading output from
> /sys/kernel/debug/tracing.
> Detailed description:  [4].
> 4. Perf events:
> Call  perf_event_open syscalls , kernel writes events to ring buffer
> in user-space, read tracepoints from ring buffer.
> also act on perf_event_open() file descriptors, allowing enabling and
> disabling the individual counter or event group specified by the file
> descriptor argument respectively. [5]

The main problem with ftrace/perf is that they can overflow the buffer
and lose events. Do you plan to handle those situations?

> [1].
> [2].
> [3].
> [4].
> [5].

> ->Timeline
> 1. 27th March - 22nd April : Getting familiar with various backends (ptrace, gdbserver, ftrace, perf and eBPF)
> 2. 23rd April: Student Projects announced
> 3. 23rd April - 14th May: Community bonding, discuss various possibilities of implementing alternative backends
> 4. 14th May: Coding period starts
> 5. 14th May - 24th May: Add backend interface to allow for multiple alternative backends
> 6. 24th May - 10th June: Add gdbserver backend
> 7. 10th June - 15th June: Add tests and test for multiple architecture and multiple personality support (First evaluation)
> 8. 15th June - 20th June: Brushing up code for gdbserver backend and getting it merged (if possible)
> 9. 20th June - 5th July: Work on adding support for ftrace backend
> 10. 5th July - 12th July: Add tests and  similarly test for multiple architecture and multiple personality support (Second evaluation)
> 11. 12th July - 27th July: Add support for perf backend
> 12. 27th July -3rd August: Adding tests
> 13. 3rd August - 14th August: Getting code merged and write some documentation for available backends with a TODO list
> 14. 14th August: Final evaluation

I would say that the schedule is overly optimistic.

Regarding tests: one possibility is to run all (or the most of) the testsuite
with a backend under test.  However, the relevant infrastructure has to
be developed first.

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