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Sun Wins Top Tech Innovation Award 111

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the fun-with-hardware dept.
Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "Sun's DTrace trouble-shooting software won top prize in the Wall Street Journal's 2006 Technology Innovation Awards competition. It's the second time in three years that Sun took the top award. From the article, which also names a dozen other winners: 'Where most debugging takes place as software is being developed, DTrace analyzes problems with systems that are in production — running a company's database, say, or executing stock trades. It does this with a process called "dynamic tracing," which enables a developer or systems administrator to run diagnostic tests on a system without causing it to crash. Before DTrace, such tests often took days or weeks to reproduce the problem and identify the cause. With DTrace, performance problems can be tracked to their underlying causes in hours, even minutes.'"
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Sun Wins Top Tech Innovation Award

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  • by User 956 (568564) on Monday September 11, 2006 @08:16PM (#16085719) Homepage
    Sun's DTrace trouble-shooting software won top prize in the Wall Street Journal's 2006 Technology Innovation Awards competition. It's the second time in three years that Sun took the top award.

    Sounds like they've put those HP founders [linuxinsider.com] to work, instead of just parading them around in t-shirts.
  • Hmmm. (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by jd (1658)
    I'm not 100% sure it's a good idea to have the application run in parallel to the analyzer in a production environment. Because the analyzer must have total access to the code and data spaces of the application, any bug in the analyzer could really ruin somebody's day.

    However, inline analyzers have existed. Intel's VTune is clunky, limited in supported architectures but useful where it applies. Parallel developers might well use DAKOTA and KOJAK to do the same for MPI applications, which traditional analyze

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Dynamic instrumentation (you know -- the "D" in DTrace's name) has been in-use on the live air traffic control systems of several countries' Air Traffic Control systems (http://www.ocsystems.com/cs_memoryleak.html, http://www.ocsystems.com/cs_injectingfaults.html [ocsystems.com]) for more than a decade.

      Your worry about bugs in the dynamic instrumentation tool affecting the production system is no different than worrying about bugs in the operating system affecting the production system and addressed the same way -- by seri
      • It's interesting that it's done in mission-critical systems like ATC - it shows that the dynamic probes used must be of a very high grade. High-profile high-risk systems aren't the kind of thing where you fix the serious bugs later. (Can you imagine what your average 747 pilot would say if they were told to stay in a holding pattern until Patch Tuesday?)

        Oh, I worry about bugs throughout the infrastructure. OS bugs, compiler bugs, system library bugs, firmware bugs - all of these can turn even a 100% perfect

    • Re:Hmmm. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday September 11, 2006 @10:27PM (#16086220)
      If it can, that's great and can Sun kindly port it to Linux. If it can't, then all I can say is that the competition must've sucked this year.

      what an ODD way to think of things!

      "if it doesn't run on linux then its not worth an award"

      such a small universe you live in...
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You need to improve your reading comprehension skills. That is not what he said at all.
        • by Otter (3800)
          That is not what he said at all.

          Agreed, but what he *did* say -- "I have no idea what dtrace does, but it might deserve the award or it might suck!" -- is even sillier.

          • by jd (1658)
            No, what I said was "these are the criteria I am claiming it needs to meet to qualify as excellent and innovative respectively, it needs to meet both to qualify as both, and no matter how good it is in just one category, if it does not have the necessary qualifications then it does not deserve an award that claims it does."

            DTrace may be excellent. It may be the best program since sliced silicon. But if it's not innovative, then whatever other award it may be entitled to, it is NOT entitled to an award for i

            • by Otter (3800)
              Since all of this directly follows from the stipulation that an award for excellence and innovation must offer excellence and innovation (except where the best effort in either category is zero), it seems much simpler to state the stipulations and treat the reader with the courtesy and respect of assuming they can perform simple expansion of the set of invariants that must be true.

              I'm sure we all appreciate your cutting things as short as you did, but I'd suggest that your "stipulation that an award for ex

              • by jd (1658)
                99.9% of everything that has been observed is obvious. Once it has been observed. I would claim that the blatant abuse of the term "innovative" by companies, trade magazines and even those programmers who should (in theory) know better is proof enough that what is blatantly obvious to you and me is NOT obvious to a great many others. Rather, the term has become diluted and polluted to the point where it fails to serve a useful purpose and is merely marketroid mind-mangling.

                The purpose of my post was two-fol

    • Re:Hmmm. (Score:5, Informative)

      by twiddlingbits (707452) on Monday September 11, 2006 @10:31PM (#16086230)
      I used to work for Sun and DTrace is da bomb to put it mildly. It has ZERO impact on real-time execution and can even see into the OS (if you use Solaris). I've built many a real-time system over the years and having this tool would have saved me countless hours of debugger time and logic analyzer time. The one down side to Dtrace is that it does so much it is hard to Master. There is a week long course Sun reccomends before you really can get the most for your efforts. I think it deserves a place on the Innovation shelf right beside the T1 chipset. And there are plans to port a version to Linux, but it may not be free. It also probably won't be able to see as deep into the OS layers as it does with Solaris but that will come in due time. Sun's license isn't 100% compatiable with the Linux GPL either so that could be another issue
      • The one down side to Dtrace is that it does so much it is hard to Master.

        This is why I'm really looking forward to OS X 10.5. It includes DTrace, and XCode 3.0 includes a really snazzy UI for it.

      • by jd (1658)
        Now THAT is a genuinely informative, useful and brilliant reply. Thank you! I don't care how steep the learning curve is, to me that's a non-issue, and if the course is only a week then I don't consider that to be effort. People are in so much of a rush, these days, and learn bugger all. Learning any true craft takes time, patience and practice. A week-long course (40 hours, if it's full-time, which would be unusual) seems awfully short, when a good solid understanding of the theory, how the program relates
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by swordgeek (112599)
      "Does this mean I think Sun don't deserve the award? I've not used that tool, so I'm not in a position to say. It would have to do a lot in addition to basic analysis to earn the right to be innovative, never mind the title of "top technical innovation". If it can, that's great and can Sun kindly port it to Linux."

      First of all, it does. It's a new system tracing paradigm, and that's not a word I throw around lightly. Download OpenSolaris, install it, and then see what dtrace can do before you comment on it.
      • by jd (1658)
        That's because Linux geeks are increasingly wary of "Thought Contamination", "Intellectual Property" and the ghosts of AT&T lawsuits past. (If you even SEE proprietary code, you can be accused of Intellectual Property Theft if you write something similar.) SCO is doing an amazingly bad job of going that route, but the laws now prohibiting reverse-engineering and favouring legal solutions to technical problems are strong indicators that we will see more and more such cases. For this reason, Linux coders
  • by csoto (220540) on Monday September 11, 2006 @08:23PM (#16085752)
    After all, it takes a considerable amount of insight to pick a code analyzer (admittedly one as brilliant as dtrace) as important and newsworthy. Good job, guys! It shows you can look deeply at a topic and understand what makes computer systems valuable. A lesser effort would award something from Microsoft, Google or Apple, whose products are great, but lack the sophistication of many Sun innovations.
    • by I Like Pudding (323363) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:04AM (#16086706)
      Sun open-sourced Dtrace. As such, somebody ported [slashdot.org] it to FreeBSD, and Apple picked it up for Leopard. The next version of Xcode [apple.com] is going to have a guified version called Xray built on top.

      All in all, I'm really glad to see Sun getting back into the zone with some excellent products. Dtrace and Niagra might actually get me looking at Solaris once again. I don't particularly care for the that flavor, but it's stable as hell.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        Dtrace and Niagra might actually get me looking at Solaris once again. I don't particularly care for the that flavor, but it's stable as hell.

        I have an UltraSPARC machine on my desk running Solaris 10. The kernel is a joy to work with; I write code to the POSIX specs and it just works. On Linux, OS X and FreeBSD I have to spend a few hours tracking down the little corner cases where they don't quite conform to the specs (don't talk to me about realtime signal delivery).

        The init system is nice, but a

        • by finkployd (12902) * on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @07:35AM (#16087581) Homepage
          The rest of the userland, however, is a disaster. The filesystem hierarchy is GNU, BSD, or SysV depending on how you look at it, and many of the core utilities are missing useful options.

          Blastwave.org - not always the most up to date releases, but certainly the best replacement for those utilities you don't like.

          The default shell doesn't do things like tab completion (or even have a history buffer), and the man pages seem to be formatted for printing not on-screen display.

          It is trivial to change your shell to bash (distributed with Solaris 10). Give that these are your complaints I have to advise you to NEVER touch AIX. You think Solaris is bad in userland...

          Finkployd
          • Blastwave.org - not always the most up to date releases, but certainly the best replacement for those utilities you don't like.

            Thanks. My biggest complaints about Solaris basically boil down to 'it's not BSD;' I never was much of a SysV fan... Actually, the big thing I don't like is that it doesn't seem to be very easy to do a minimal install of Solaris and then install the bits you actually use; I tried that and ended up with CDE but no compiler. Probably, it all boils down to familiarity. I mainly u

            • by finkployd (12902) *
              Thanks. My biggest complaints about Solaris basically boil down to 'it's not BSD;' I never was much of a SysV fan... Actually, the big thing I don't like is that it doesn't seem to be very easy to do a minimal install of Solaris and then install the bits you actually use; I tried that and ended up with CDE but no compiler.

              That's a good point, I have resigned myself to just always insalling "everything". Safest option but then there is a lot of "svcadm disable blah" you gotta to do make it secure.

              Ugh. AIX. T
              • I will say this for AIX, there is absolutely no better volume management system out there than Logical Volume Manager for AIX. Volume manamgent on Linux and Solaris does not hold a candle to this.

                Are you including ZFS when you talk about Solaris here? From what I've seen, it is almost as good (and better in some cases) than the VMS system, which I always considered the gold standard.

  • oprofile, not strace (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mad Merlin (837387) on Monday September 11, 2006 @08:51PM (#16085862) Homepage

    Several people have mentioned strace, but I have yet to see anyone mention oprofile. I haven't used dtrace before, but oprofile allows you to see where an application is spending it's time transparently, with negligible performance hit, and without restarting the application.

    oprofile has been around since late 2002 it seems, so it's not particularly new either. How does dtrace compare to oprofile?

  • by mattr (78516) <.mattr. .at. .telebody.com.> on Monday September 11, 2006 @08:54PM (#16085875) Homepage Journal
    I noted in my article Boxing in the LLRing [telebody.net], which despite positive responses Slashdot rejected in favor of Roland Piquepaille's daily column and various political commentary, that Squeak [squeak.org] has an amazing debugger [seaside.st] (I am not going to call it a full-blown analyzer) that allows you to debug applications as they are running on the very interesting Seaside application server.

    As described in this paper [unibe.ch] (pdf), Seaside [seaside.st] provides multiple control flows and a high level of abstraction that is very useful to web app developers.

    The 4500 word article [telebody.net] is coverage of a 300 developer "Lightweight Languages" all-day seminar held in a real boxing ring in Tokyo, covering 30 languages and frameworks including Perl, Python, Ruby, Haskell, OCaml, Squeak, and many others.
    • Writing a debugger for a high-level dynamic object oriented language where everything is at the same level (ie the application and the OS are indistiguishable) is pretty easy.

      Writing a debugger for a low-level compiled language that crosses memory protection spaces and also integrates with high-level languages, and making it actually useful and reliable. That's pretty hard.

      I think some people here get defensive that Linux doesn't have dtrace, but Sun really deserves kudos for dtrace and even more so for he
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Monday September 11, 2006 @09:19PM (#16085967) Homepage Journal
    and maybe after it is ported to linux/*bsd and ten years have gone by, admins will actually start using it to its full potential. Now, if someone were to code a nice gui frontend to dtrace, that'd be innovation, because it would take an absolute master of UI design to turn using dtrace into something that was easy-to-do for the uninitiated.
    • Admins are not necessarily coder are they? You have to be a fairly savy developer to be able to use Dtrace.
      You ultimately need to fix the code and need someone to modify it.

      Having said that...I am sure it will get easier to use in the future. I for one welcome all the help I can get. Admins included!!
      • by afidel (530433)
        Not necessarily. I've used Oracle's tools to find a bug in JD Edwards which I forwarded to support to fix. I'm a sysadmin by trade with a couple years of programming from college, but no experience in the tools JD Edwards is written in. Good debug tools can help even the people who aren't coding an app analyze it and get the information to the people who CAN fix it, this is most critical when a vendor can't reproduce a bug.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by E-Lad (1262)
        You might want to check out the DTrace Toolkit [tpg.com.au] and take a look at the DTrace scripts it includes. Many of the tools you see there are very admin-oriented, and those are mostly simple examples of what can be done with DTrace

        Remember, it offers observability to most, if not all, of the system in a variety of ways which makes DTrace suitable for both admins and develoopers.
    • by o517375 (314601)
      Well, you may be ballpark right about the time frame for porting, but the sad part is that even after that time Sun will be no better for it.
    • by univgeek (442857)
      DTrace will be in OS X.5 among other BSD's. Apparently there's a nice front-end too.
    • by bdash (598142) <{zn.ten.hsadb} {ta} {gro.todhsals}> on Monday September 11, 2006 @11:29PM (#16086438) Homepage
      Apple announced that the Xray developers tool in the upcoming Leopard version of Mac OS X will leverage dtrace to perform application tracing, amongst other things. Take a look at the bottom section of http://www.apple.com/macosx/leopard/xcode.html [apple.com] for more information.
    • Yeah, cause my mom has been waiting for this for years.

      Seriously, I don't think too many of the folks drooling over dtrace are waiting for the GUI.

    • Please check out the Chime project which is about visualization software for DTrace. You can find more information at http://www.opensolaris.org/os/project/dtrace-chime / [opensolaris.org] For those who think that DTrace is old news, I really suggest that you download one of the OpenSolaris-based distributions http://www.opensolaris.org/os/about/distributions/ [opensolaris.org] and play around with DTrace. Yes, it's CLI is aimed at the geek in all of us but there is software like Chime and MacOS X's upcoming Xray which will help with t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LarsWestergren (9033)
      and maybe after it is ported to linux/*bsd and ten years have gone by, admins will actually start using it to its full potential.

      Porting DTrace involves messing around in the kernel of the OS being instrumented, and since the GPL forbids mixing in non-GPL code, DTrace will never come to Linux.

      I believe it has already been ported to BSD and is on the way to Mac.

      I saw a demo of DTrace at Javaforum in Stockholm a week ago, it was VERY impressive stuff.
    • by swordgeek (112599)
      Sure like whining, don't you?

      If people want it in Linux, they can figure out the GPL issues that are so near and dear to their heart. A port to *BSD is already happening, and it's going to be in OS X, complete with (gasp!) a GUI frontend.
      • by QuantumG (50515)
        Ya know, it's not exactly hard to get dtrace onto Linux. It's not a big system, simply rewrite it. The only hard part would be not improving it as you did. (That's not a dig at dtrace, I mean that you would inevitably find ways to customize it to Linux that may make your reimplementation incompatible with the Solaris version and it would take some discipline to avoid those changes). And as for GUIs, yes, as many others have pointed out, there are some in development.

    • by assantisz (881107)
      DTrace is *the* tool for admins. Never before were you able to have such a detailed look into a live system. Once you have an idea where the problem might be you write a D-script that installs specific probes and monitors them (and processes the returned values in any way you want). For some admins (including me) DTrace beats calling tech support.
  • by ccoder (468480)
    try out dltrace http://labs.idefense.com/labs_05.php?show=5 [idefense.com]

    It was released about 4/25, but doesn't show up when you look for dtrace - its works great in Linux/UNIX environments for tracing errors through different packages / libraries.

    great job theif!

    -Iridium

  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Monday September 11, 2006 @11:18PM (#16086395) Journal
    To paraphrase the old saw... That award and $2.95 ought to cover a cup of coffee - er, I mean, a cup of Java!...
  • Just run VMS... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ClaudeVMS (637469)
    It's so reliable you never need to look for problems.
  • by MeerCat (5914) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @06:17AM (#16087384) Homepage
    For those who, like me, had heard of dtrace but little more (is it like strace, for example), this is very handy article written by one of the authors in Communications of The ACM

    http://www.acmqueue.org/modules.php?name=Content&p a=showpage&pid=361&page=1 [acmqueue.org]

    Yeah,it's 5 pages long, so those won't RTFA are even less likely to read this, but it's a good read covering motivation, history, solution compromises and some anecdotes that could qualify for http://thedailywtf.com/ [thedailywtf.com]
    • by swordgeek (112599)
      Interesting stuff.

      I attended a lecture by Bryan Cantrill just before OpenSolaris hit the public with dtrace, zones, zfs, and persistent self-healing services. Talking to him is pretty amazing--he can make developing traces on kernel hooks an interesting and dynamic lecture topic, and then can talk about football in the next breath. Then he'll regale you (yes, I said regale) with tales of the development groups outsmarting the marketing standards board within Sun. You reaalise very quickly that he's brillian
  • Geesh, why does no one link to the original USENIX paper on DTrace:
    Dynamic Instrumentation of Production Systems [sun.com]

    Quite a fascinating read, actually.

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