Conference paper

StormWatch: A Tool for Visualizing Memory System Protocols

Recent research has offered programmers increased options for programming parallel computers by exposing system policies (e.g., memory coherence protocols) or by providing several programming paradigms (e.g. message passing and shared memory) on the same platform. Increased flexibility can lead to higher performance, but it is also a double-edged sword that demands a programmer understand his or her application and system at a more fundamental level. Our system, Tempest, allows a programmer to select or implement communication and memory coherence policies that fit an application's communication patterns. With it, we have achieved substantial performance gains without making major changes in programs. However, the process of selecting, designing, and implementing coherence protocols is difficult and time consuming, without tools to supply detailed information about an application's behavior and interaction with the memory system. StormWatch is a new visualization tool that aids a programmer through four mechanisms: tightly-coupled bidirectionally linked views, interactive filters, animation, and performance slicing. Multiple views present several aspects of program behavior simultaneously and show the same phenomenon from different perspectives. Real-time linking between views enables a programmer to explore levels of abstraction by changing a view and observing the effect on other views. Interactive filters, along with bidirectional linking, can isolate the effects of statements, loops, procedures, or files. StormWatch can also animate a program's dynamic behavior to show the evolution of program execution and communication. Finally, performance slicing captures causality among events. The examples in the paper illustrate how StormWatch helped us substantially improve the performance of two applications.


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