The Problems You’re Having May Not Be the Problems You Think You’re Having: Results from a Latency Study of Windows NT

MSR-TR-98-29 |


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This paper is intended to catalyze discussions on two intertwined systems topics. First, it presents early results from a latency study of Windows NT that identifies some specific causes of long thread scheduling latencies, many of which delay the dispatching of runnable threads for tens of milliseconds. Reasons for these delays, including technical, methodological, and economic are presented and possible solutions are discussed. Secondly, and equally importantly, it is intended to serve as a cautionary tale against believing one’s own intuition about the causes of poor system performance. We went into this study believing we understood a number of the causes of these delays, with our beliefs informed more by conventional wisdom and hunches than data. In nearly all cases the reasons we discovered via instrumentation and measurement surprised us. In fact, some directly contradicted “facts” we thought we “knew”.