The Visual Studio Profiler Data Collection Control Part 1: Excluding Application Startup Time
Even if you are familiar with Visual Studio Team System you may not already know that a powerful profiler is included with both the Developer and Team Suite editions of that product. If you are not familiar with the profiler you can check out some of my earlier blog entries or TechNotes. In my new series of blogs posts, starting with my first post about the comparison documents, I’m coving all the cool new features added to the profiler that customers will finally be able to see in the upcoming Orcas Beta releases.
In this article I’ll be focusing in on the data collection control. This control allows users several new ways to control and annotate your profiling files from the IDE while the profiler is running. Previously we have offered most of this control already, but only from the VSPerfCmd command line tool. The Data Collection Control lets you do things like pause and resume profiling, name marks and annotate the VSP file by adding marks to it. To show how to use the basic functions of the Data Collection Control I’ll walk through a few quick scenarios to demo these features. This TechNote assumes that you are familiar with the basics of using the profiler, if not check out the TechNotes here for a good intro.
A highly common customer scenario that we are addressing with the data collection control is the customer who wants to collect steady-state data on their process and who does not care about how their time is being spent in startup. By controlling when you are collecting performance data the data collection control makes it a breeze to exclude startup information from being collected. For my example, I’m using the PeopleTrax sample application. When you first start up PeopleTrax the application take a while to initialize, then you can click the “Get People” button to populate a list of customer names. For the purpose of this demonstration I want to just collect data on the actual “Get People” operation and not collect any data during the application startup or shutdown.
First off, make sure that you have a performance session set up in the Performance Explorer that is targeting your application. Now normally we would use the green launch button on the Performance Explorer to start our profiling session. But in our case this would not work, as we would begin by collecting data, and we don’t want to record any of our startup time. So instead of clicking launch, we’re going to click the dropdown control on the launch button and select “Launch with profiling paused.” This will launch the application with the profiler attached to the process, but will the actual collection of profiling data paused.
Now after we have launched the PeopleTrax application will pop up, and back in the IDE we will see the new data collection control docked with the Performance Explorer (the data collection control should be on top of the Performance Explorer when you are currently profiling).
Along the top toolbar of the data collection control you will see several icons, two of which are of particular interest to our current scenario; these being the pause profiling (second from the left) and resume profiling (third from the left) icons that control profiling state. Since we started out with profiling paused the profiler is not currently collecting data and thus the pause profiling button is grayed out. After the PeopleTrax application has initialized and popped up on-screen we have now passed the startup portion of the application and we want to collect data on the “GetPeople” operation.
To do this, we will enable profiling data collection from the data control. Just click the “Resume Profiling” button. Now the pause profiling button will be active and the infobar on the data collection control will inform you that profiling is active. Right after activating profiling move over to the PeopleTrax application and click “Get People” to populate the customer list from the database. After the listview is populated click the pause profiling button to stop collecting data and then shutdown the PeopleTrax application to generate your report file.
Now the generated report will have only the data collected after you pressed the resume profiling button and before you pressed the pause profiling button, excluding startup and shutdown time. You also could exclude this time by annotating your code to start and stop profiling, but the data collection controls makes this a quick and simple operation from the IDE, without having to muck about with command line tools.
In my next blog entry I’ll look at how we can use the data collection control and filter queries to view only specific parts of performance reports after collecting a large data file.
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