Category nameļ¼šNtrace

Ntrace is available for Visual studio 2010

May 3, 2011 / Comments Off on Ntrace is available for Visual studio 2010

Ntrace is a great tool for logging. It has virtually no impact and is blazing fast. Finally it’s been migrated to Visual studio 2010.
So now I can start building my BizTalk Bestpractice toolbox with it. The author of Ntrace can probably explain best what it is…

What is this ETW thing?

Event Tracing for Windows is a kernel-level tracing service that has been around since Windows 2000. Since it’s baked right into the kernel, it is extremely fast. Most of the developers that use ETW are writing drivers, but why should they have all the fun?

Why should I use ETW?

ETW Tracing has several benefits over the tracing classes provided with the .NET Framework. Most importantly, ETW tracing can be turned on and off without having to restart the application, but it also has features like built-in high performance circular logging (a circular log is one that never grows above a specified size by flushing out older trace messages), and the ability for you to capture the logs from multiple sources into a single trace session.

What is this preprocessor and why do we need it?

Put simply, to maximize application performance when tracing is not enabled. In a perfect world, an application’s performance when tracing is disabled would be identical to one where tracing wasn’t included at all. The problem is that your code is only compiled once; if those trace calls are in there, they’re GOING to get called, and while the ETW functions return quickly when tracing is disabled, the runtime still has to evaluate trace arguments, allocate memory, construct method call stacks, and so on. The application performance would be even faster if the functions were never called in the first place. How much faster is it? Here’s an example: Let’s write a simple application that has a function named DoSomething.

static int DoSomething(String arg0, int arg1, long arg2, DateTime arg3)

As you can see, DoSomething in this case simply returns a value and does no other calculations. It should be blazingly fast, right? Well, it is, but there’s still the overhead of the method call. To demonstrate this, let’s run two loops: one that ends up in a call to DoSomething one million times, and another that will shortcut the call. To do this, we’ll create a method named DoRun that will call DoSomething unless the caller has specified that it should bypass the call entirely. If the value passed to shortcut is true, we’ll skip the DoSomething call altogether.

static void DoRun(bool shortcut)
  DateTime start, stop;

  start = DateTime.Now;
  for (int index = 0; index < 1000000; index++)
    if (!shortcut)
      Program.DoSomething("Hi there!", 42, 42L, DateTime.Now);
  stop = DateTime.Now;

    "Shortcut {0}: {1} milliseconds", 
    (stop - start).TotalMilliseconds);

To get our results, we will now call DoRun twice; once with shortcut set to False, and again with shortcut set to True. On my machine (a 2GHz Core2Duo running Windows Vista x86), the results are:

Shortcut False: 546 milliseconds
Shortcut True: 15.6 milliseconds

In other words, it was 35 times faster to completely bypass the function call. That’s nearly two orders of magnitude! Now, imagine if you were doing something even more complicated there such as calling ToString() on an exception or dumping a string containing the values of all of the properties of the object you are working on and you should be able to see that you get a rather large performance boost by skipping those calls completely. NTrace’s preprocessor provides your code with this boost by automatically injecting conditional statements around your trace calls for you, allowing you to focus on writing your code instead of remembering which conditions to check.


I have been waiting for this tool to upgrade to 2010 for a long time. So see what it is and grab your copy of Ntrace >>here<<

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