24/07/2016

Report from the battlefield #5 - Logging can kill performance

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Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48390
Source: own resources, Authors: Agnieszka and Michał Komorowscy

So far in Report from the battlefield series I wrote about my experiences as an expert in the recruitment company. This time I'll write a bug that I found in the production. It was all about the performance. The problem was that in the new version of an application one operation slowed down about 6 times. Initially, I suspected that amount of data simply increased considerably or some network problems. Fortunately, I easily reproduced the issue on my dev machine. Reproducing a problem is half the battle. Though performance problem are usually difficult to analyse so I was ready for a long investigation.

I started stepping through the code with a debugger just to see what is going on. Everything seemed to be ok until... One of the final operations was to log into a file what was retrieved from a database. What's important the log level was set to Trace so even large amount of data shouldn't matter in the production. Why? Because in the production, precisely because of the performance reasons, the logger should be configured not to log everything to a file. In other words it should ignore messages usually with the log level = Trace or Debug. However, after I had pressed F10 (Step Over), I had to wait a few seconds till the logging ends. BINGO!

My first though was that someone configured the logger in the wrong way in the production. Typical PEBKAC problem. To verify my hypothesis I changed the configuration of the logger and executed the problematic operation. Unfortunately, the problem occurred again. Another look at the code and I know what was wrong. And do you already know?

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The problem was that for large amount of data the application required a few seconds just to create/prepare a message for the logger. To make thing worse this message was created, regardless if it was later used by the logger or not. During development it may acceptable but not in the production! There are 2 potential solutions of this problem. Details depends on the logging framework:
  • The first approach is to simply check the logging level before creating/preparing a message e.g.:
    if(Logger.LogLevel == LogLevel.Trace) 
    {
        /* Prepare and log a message */
    }
    
  • The second approach is to use deferred execution for example lambdas e.g.:
    Logger.Trace(() => /* Prepare a message */).
    If a logger supports this syntax, a lambda will be executed if and only if it is required.

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