Fedora 12 Spotlight Feature: SystemTap

October 26, 2009

by Fedora Team

There are plenty of new features slated for Fedora 12 and we’ll be featuring just a few over the next few weeks in our spotlight feature blog series. Enhancements to SystemTap should delight developers and system administrators. Here are just a few of the reasons why we love SystemTap - be sure to check out a more in-depth overview and podcast on SystemTap here.

Red Hat’s Will Cohen, a performance tools engineer and SystemTap developer, best sums up SystemTap in stating: “Being able to modify and instrument code to understand what is going on in open source is cool, but having to recompile the code and restart machine to run that modified code isn’t so cool. SystemTap provides infrastructure to simplify that instrumentation process. It allows developers and system administrators to instrument the kernel and user space programs without the need to recompile, restart or even stop your program or system. They can observe what is happening without having to stop or interrupt anything.”

SystemTap 1.0, which is part of Fedora 12, brings at least three significant sets of improvements. First, it includes a variety of new features, such as the ability to take advantage of kernel tracepoints, extended support for C++ code, and a set of static probe markers programmers can include in their code to make tracing easier. If supporting debugging information or “debuginfo” isn’t installed on the system, the newest versions of SystemTap even suggest the command needed to get the appropriate debuginfo RPM installed. Developers are currently at work making that debuginfo more compact, and we expect to see that feature in a future Fedora release, supported fully by SystemTap.

Second, SystemTap has been closely integrated with the popular Eclipse IDE so developers can launch SystemTap scripts on their C/C++ projects from within Eclipse itself, as well as providing an anchor for linking SystemTap data with Eclipse graphics.

Third, the SystemTap developers have listened to SystemTap users, and now provide a more robust set of documentation, tutorials, and example scripts. These materials are designed to make it easier for programmers to get started using SystemTap, not only by giving them fuller explanations of the tools available, but by allowing them to follow or adapt the example scripts for their own use. These example scripts are used in the test suite, so SystemTap can continue to provide a set of examples that work with each new release.

If you’re interested in learning more about SystemTap, the documentation along with tutorials and examples are available here. Or just install Fedora 12’s “systemtap” package, which includes the documentation on your system automatically. (Hint: You can get the pre-release Fedora 12 Beta now and try it out.)

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