lttng-calibrate(1) Quantify LTTng overhead


lttng [GENERAL OPTIONS] calibrate


The lttng calibrate commands quantifies the overhead of LTTng tracers.

The lttng calibrate command can be used to find out the combined average overhead of the LTTng tracers and the instrumentation mechanisms used. This overhead can be calibrated in terms of time or using any of the PMU performance counter available on the system.

For now, the only implemented calibration is the Linux kernel function instrumentation (kretprobes).

Calibrate Linux kernel function instrumentation

As an example, we use an i7 processor with 4 general-purpose PMU registers. This information is available by issuing dmesg, looking for generic registers.

The following sequence of commands gathers a trace executing a kretprobe hooked on an empty function, gathering PMU counters LLC (Last Level Cache) misses information (use lttng add-context --list to get the list of available PMU counters).

lttng create calibrate-function
lttng enable-event calibrate --kernel \
lttng add-context --kernel --type=perf:cpu:LLC-load-misses \
                           --type=perf:cpu:LLC-store-misses \
lttng start
for a in $(seq 1 10); do
    lttng calibrate --kernel --function
lttng destroy
babeltrace $(ls -1drt ~/lttng-traces/calibrate-function-* | tail -n 1)

The output from babeltrace(1) can be saved to a text file and opened in a spreadsheet (for example, in LibreOffice) to focus on the per-PMU counter delta between consecutive calibrate_entry and calibrate_return events. Note that these counters are per-CPU, so scheduling events would need to be present to account for migration between CPUs. Therefore, for calibration purposes, only events staying on the same CPU must be considered.

Here's an example of the average result, for the i7, on 10 samples:

PMU counter Average Standard deviation










As we can notice, the load and store misses are relatively stable across runs (their standard deviation is relatively low) compared to the prefetch misses. We could conclude from this information that LLC load and store misses can be accounted for quite precisely, but prefetches within a function seems to behave too erratically (not much causality link between the code executed and the CPU prefetch activity) to be accounted for.


General options are described in lttng(1).


One of:

-k, --kernel

Quantify LTTng overhead in the Linux kernel domain.

-u, --userspace

Quantify LTTng overhead in the user space domain.



Use dynamic function entry/return probes to calibrate (default).

This option requires the --kernel option.

Program information

-h, --help

Show command help.

This option, like lttng-help(1), attempts to launch /usr/bin/man to view the command's man page. The path to the man pager can be overridden by the LTTNG_MAN_BIN_PATH environment variable.


List available command options.



Set to 1 to abort the process after the first error is encountered.


Overrides the $HOME environment variable. Useful when the user running the commands has a non-writable home directory.


Absolute path to the man pager to use for viewing help information about LTTng commands (using lttng-help(1) or lttng COMMAND --help).


Path in which the session.xsd session configuration XML schema may be found.


Full session daemon binary path.

The --sessiond-path option has precedence over this environment variable.

Note that the lttng-create(1) command can spawn an LTTng session daemon automatically if none is running. See lttng-sessiond(8) for the environment variables influencing the execution of the session daemon.



User LTTng runtime configuration.

This is where the per-user current tracing session is stored between executions of lttng(1). The current tracing session can be set with lttng-set-session(1). See lttng-create(1) for more information about tracing sessions.


Default output directory of LTTng traces. This can be overridden with the --output option of the lttng-create(1) command.


User LTTng runtime and configuration directory.


Default location of saved user tracing sessions (see lttng-save(1) and lttng-load(1)).


System-wide location of saved tracing sessions (see lttng-save(1) and lttng-load(1)).


$LTTNG_HOME defaults to $HOME when not explicitly set.





Command error


Undefined command


Fatal error


Command warning (something went wrong during the command)


If you encounter any issue or usability problem, please report it on the LTTng bug tracker <>.


• LTTng project website <>

• LTTng documentation <>

• Git repositories <>

• GitHub organization <>

• Continuous integration <>

• Mailing list <> for support and development: [email protected]

• IRC channel <irc://>: #lttng on


This program is part of the LTTng-tools project.

LTTng-tools is distributed under the GNU General Public License version 2 <>. See the LICENSE <> file for details.


Special thanks to Michel Dagenais and the DORSAL laboratory <> at École Polytechnique de Montréal for the LTTng journey.

Also thanks to the Ericsson teams working on tracing which helped us greatly with detailed bug reports and unusual test cases.


LTTng-tools was originally written by Mathieu Desnoyers, Julien Desfossez, and David Goulet. More people have since contributed to it.

LTTng-tools is currently maintained by Jérémie Galarneau <mailto:[email protected]>.