Probing PHP with Systemtap on Linux

DTrace is a dynamic tracing tool build by Sun Microsystems and is available for Solaris, MacOS and FreeBSD. It features a tracing language which can be used to probe certain “probing” points in kernel or userland. This can be very useful to gather statistics, etc. Linux comes with a separate solution called systemtap. It also features a tracing language and can probe both userland and kernel space. A few Linux distributions such as Fedora enable systemtap in their default kernel.

PHP introduced DTrace support with PHP 5.3, enabling probing points in the PHP executable that can be used to simplify probing of PHP applications without having to the PHP implementation details. We enabled probes on function calls, file compilation, exceptions and errors. But this has always been limited to the operating systems that support DTrace. With the popularity of DTrace, Systemap programmers decided to add a DTrace compatibility layer that allows to use DTrace probes as Systemtap probing points as well.

With my recent commit to the PHP 5.5 branch, we allow DTrace probes to be build on Linux, so people can use Systemtap to probe those userland probes.

To compile PHP with userland probes you need to obtain the PHP 5.5 from git:

$ git clone git://github.com/php/php-src php-src
$ cd php-src
$ git checkout PHP-5.5
Now build PHP with DTrace support. First we have to rebuild configure as we build directly from the repository. Make sure your Linux distribution comes with systemtap and uprobes support.

$ ./buildconf --force
$ ./configure --disable-all --enable-dtrace
$ make
After being done with building we can see if we found any probes:

$ stap -l 'process.provider("php").mark("*")' -c 'sapi/cli/php -i'
process("sapi/cli/php").provider("php").mark("compile__file__entry")
process("sapi/cli/php").provider("php").mark("compile__file__return")
process("sapi/cli/php").provider("php").mark("error")
process("sapi/cli/php").provider("php").mark("exception__caught")
process("sapi/cli/php").provider("php").mark("exception__thrown")
process("sapi/cli/php").provider("php").mark("execute__entry")
process("sapi/cli/php").provider("php").mark("execute__return")
process("sapi/cli/php").provider("php").mark("function__entry")
process("sapi/cli/php").provider("php").mark("function__return")
process("sapi/cli/php").provider("php").mark("request__shutdown")
process("sapi/cli/php").provider("php").mark("request__startup")
Let’s build us a short Systemtap script that counts the function calls of a specific function. we use the function-return and function-entry probes for that:

$ cat request.stp
global callcount;
probe process.provider("php").mark("function-entry") {
    callcount[user_string($arg1)] += 1;
}
probe end {
    printf("count : function\n");
    foreach (name in callcount) {
        printf("%5d : %s\n", callcount[name], name);
    }
}
$ sudo stap -c 'sapi/cli/php test.php' request.stp
count : function
  100 : foo
  101 : bar

So that’s all. You can use systemtap now to probe your PHP. Hope you come up with some useful scripts. Share them!

3 thoughts on “Probing PHP with Systemtap on Linux

  1. Pingback: Linux News Watch | Probing PHP with Systemtap on Linux – experimentalworks

  2. Pingback: Adding DTrace Probes to PHP Extensions | codegooroo

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