Performance Analysis: The USE Method

Brendan Gregg’s talk at FISL, July 2012.

This talk introduces the USE Method: a simple strategy for performing a complete check of system performance health, identifying common bottlenecks and errors. This methodology can be used early in a performance investigation to quickly identify the most severe system performance issues, and is a methodology the speaker has used successfully for years in both enterprise and cloud computing environments. Checklists have been developed to show how the USE Method can be applied to Solaris/illumos-based and Linux-based systems.

Many hardware and software resource types have been commonly overlooked, including memory and I/O busses, CPU interconnects, and kernel locks. Any of these can become a system bottleneck. The USE Method provides a way to find and identify these.

This approach focuses on the questions to ask of the system, before reaching for the tools. Tools that are ultimately used include all the standard performance tools (vmstat, iostat, top), and more advanced tools, including dynamic tracing (DTrace), and hardware performance counters.

Other performance methodologies are included for comparison: the Problem Statement Method, Workload Characterization Method, and Drill-Down Analysis Method.

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