Time measurement PPX

The time measurement PPX is an OCaml preprocessing tool that intends to embed generated benchmark tooling into specific pieces of OCaml code.

It is able to measure the time spent in the execution of annotated OCaml expressions and to log these measurements when desired. Since it uses Tezos_event_logging for the logging part, this PPX can easily be used together with Tezt framework to perform the benchmarking of specific parts of Octez node.

This PPX is only intended to be used for tests. As the current runtime implementation performs memory allocation, an unwise usage could mess with the garbage collector or blow up your memory.


Getting started

Suppose we want to measure the performance of some specific parts of the following OCaml function inside the module lib_my_module:

let my_function () =
  let open Lwt_syntax in
  let a = f () in
  let b = g () in
  let* c = h () in
  foo a b c

Suppose also that module lib_my_module contains the following dune file:

  (name tezos_my_module)
  (libraries lwt)
  (flags (:standard -open Lwt)))

We can measure the execution time of f () and g () and log them by adding the following OCaml attributes:

let my_function () =
  let a = f () [@time.duration f_time] in
  let b = g () [@time.duration g_time] in
  let* c = h () in
  foo a b c [@time.flush]

[@time.duration] will be used to measure the time of f () and g () expressions execution and to name them respectively f_time and g_time. [@time.flush] will then be used to log these measurements.

When the preprocessing will occur, the code will be transformed as follows:

let my_function () =
  let a = Tezos_time_measurement_runtime.Default.Time_measurement.duration
    ("f_time", [])
    (fun () -> f ())
  let b = Tezos_time_measurement_runtime.Default.Time_measurement.duration
    ("g_time", [])
    (fun () -> g ())
  let* c = h () in
    (foo a b c)
    (fun __flush__id__0 ->
        (fun () -> __flush__id__0)
        (Tezos_time_measurement_runtime.Default.Time_measurement.flush ()))

Woah! What a mess… Let’s see what this means.

The first thing that can be noted is that our annotated expression f () has been wrapped in a closure fun () -> f () to delay the execution of f (). The resulting thunk is passed to the function Time_measurement.duration from the module Tezos_time_measurement_runtime.Default along with the argument ("f_time", []).

Time_measurement.duration measures the current time before and after executing the given thunk in order to compute the span between the two timestamps. The resulting measurement is then bufferized in memory and, at last, the function evaluates in the result of the thunk so that we can respect the invariants of the initial program. Hence, the result of the expression f () is well bounded to the identifier a as expected.

The couple ("f_time", []) given as argument represents a key that is bound to the time measurement in order to discriminate it later. This key is computed from the payload that was given inside the attribute [@time.duration f_time]. "f_time" is the label of the key, an identifier that represents the name of the measurement. [] is a list of strings that contains some additional metadata. It can be useful to distinguish several measurements registered with the same label, for example if the expression is evaluated in a loop. In our case, the list is empty because no metadata was provided in the attribute’s payload.

The same logic applies for g (). We measure the time at the limits of its execution, we bufferize the resulting span along with the key ("g_time", []), and we then bind the result of the expression to the identifier b.

At the end of the treatment, the Lwt.t promise foo a b c is bound to a fresh identifier __flush__id__0. This permit to memoize its result while calling the Time_measurement.flush function from the module Tezos_time_measurement_runtime.Default. This function logs all the time measurements that where previously bufferized and also removes them from memory. The flushing promise is then bounded again to return __flush__id__0 value to preserve the program invariants as well.

That’s great, but since OCaml attributes are ignored by default, we still need to update the dune stanza of lib_my_module so that it can take effect:

  (name tezos_my_module)
  (libraries lwt)
  (flags (:standard -open Lwt))
  (instrumentation (backend tezos-time-measurement)))

This update adds the tezos-time-measurement instrumentation backend, which, if set using --instrument-with tezos-time-measurement on dune build command line, will preprocess our OCaml code using the PPX.

This is useful to prevent our code from embedding benchmarking tooling in production by mistake: If no backend is specified for the compilation, added attributes will just be ignored by the OCaml compiler and that’s it!

We can now compile our ready-to-benchmark code:

dune build --instrument-with tezos-time-measurement

We can then run the executable:


When my_function is executed, an event named "time_measurements.v0" is displayed on standard output. For example:

Aug 23 17:52:58.593 - benchmarking: time measurements:
Aug 23 17:52:58.593 - benchmarking:   [(f_time, 0.000177); (g_time, 0.005658)]

Compatible OCaml Attributes

The PPX provides the handling of three attributes:

  • [@time.duration <label> (<metadata>)] is used to measure the time of OCaml expressions execution. The <label> inside the payload will be used to tag the measured time. The <metadata> is an OCaml expression that can be added optionally and should evaluate to a list of strings. It can be given to add additional contextual information to the measurement and it can permit to discriminate it from other measurements registered with the same label.

    Be careful, annotating Lwt.t values with this attribute may not give consistent time measurements since it will only measure the time spent to return the corresponding promise.

  • [@time.duration_lwt <label> (<metadata>)] does the same as [@time.duration] except that it must annotate an expression evaluating in a Lwt.t value. The measured time will then be the time spent by the promise to be fulfilled.

  • [@time.timestamp_pre <label> (<metadata>)] is used to measure the current timestamp before the annotated expression is evaluated. The measurement will be tagged with the given <label> and optional <metadata> like with [@time.duration].

  • [@time.duration] is used to log each time measurements that were registered using [@time.duration], [@time.duration_lwt] or [@time.timestamp_pre]. Since logging will be done using tezos-event-log library, it must be done inside a Lwt.t monad. So, this attribute must be placed on an expression evaluating in a Lwt.t value in order to compile.

Some of these attributes are used, for instance, in the implementation of the performance regression test framework.

Instrumenting the octez-node executable

A helper has been added in the Makefile, so you just need to run the following command to instrument the node during the compilation:

./make enable-time-measurement