Effective Annotating of Strace Output for MySQL Performance Troubleshooting

“Annotating strace output is like adding signposts to the path of performance optimization, leading you to the heart of MySQL’s efficiency.” – MinervaDB

What is Linux Process Snapper?

Linux Process Snapper, commonly known as strace, is a powerful command-line tool used for tracing and debugging processes on a Linux-based system. It enables monitoring and capturing of system calls made by a process, such as file operations, network activity, and thread behaviour. Strace offers detailed insights into the interaction between a process and the underlying Linux kernel, making it an invaluable tool for diagnosing performance issues.

Annotating strace output for troubleshooting MySQL performance can be highly beneficial. It helps organize and interpret the extensive stream of system call traces generated by strace. Here’s a guide on how to effectively annotate strace output when diagnosing MySQL performance issues:

1. Start strace with Timestamps

When running strace to trace MySQL, include timestamps with each output line. This provides a chronological context for system calls, making correlating events with specific MySQL actions easier. Use the -t option:

strace -tt -T -o mysql_strace.log -p

Here is an explanation of each option:

  • tt: This option includes timestamps in the strace output.
  • T: This option displays the time spent in each system call.
  • o mysql_strace.log: This option redirects the output to a file named mysql_strace.log.
  • p <mysql_thread_pid>: This option allows you to specify the PID (process ID) of the MySQL thread you want to trace. Replace <mysql_thread_pid> with the actual PID.

After running this command, it will start tracing the specified MySQL thread and write the output to the mysql_strace.log file. Remember to replace <mysql_thread_pid> with the PID of the MySQL thread you are interested in.

The resulting log file will contain a detailed record of the MySQL thread’s system calls, timestamps, and the time spent in each call. As mentioned in the previous responses, you can then analyze this log file to troubleshoot MySQL performance issues.

2. Redirect Output to a File

Redirect the strace output to a text file for further analysis and annotation. This makes it easier to work with the data and add your comments without cluttering the terminal. Use the > operator to redirect output to a file:

strace -t -p > mysql_strace.log

strace -t -T -o mysql_strace.log -p

3. Annotate with Comments

While reviewing the strace output, add comments and annotations directly into the log file. You can use any text editor or command-line tools like sed or awk to insert comments at specific lines or timestamps. For example:

MySQL query begins here
[timestamp] execve(“/usr/sbin/mysqld”, …)
File I/O operation
[timestamp] open(“/var/lib/mysql/mydb/mytable.MYI”, O_RDONLY) = 12

4. Filter Relevant System Calls

Use e to filter specific system calls that are relevant to your MySQL performance issue. For example, you can focus on file-related calls with e file, network-related calls with e network, or I/O calls with e trace=open,read,write.

strace -t -T -e trace=open,read,write -o mysql_strace.log -p

5. Filter by Process Name

  • To filter strace output by process name instead of using a PID, you can use the option e trace=process. This is useful when you want to trace all MySQL-related processes.

strace -t -T -e trace=open,read,write,process -o mysql_strace.log -p

6. Filter by MySQL Thread ID

  • If you have access to the MySQL server’s thread IDs, you can filter the strace output to monitor specific MySQL threads. This can be beneficial for tracking query latency in individual threads.

strace -t -T -e trace=open,read,write,process -o mysql_strace.log -f -tt -p $(pidof mysqld) -o /tmp/mysql_strace.log

7. Trace Memory Allocation

  • To trace memory allocation and deallocation, use the e trace=memory option. This can help identify memory-related issues that may impact query performance.

strace -t -T -e trace=memory -o mysql_memory_strace.log -p

8. Trace System Calls of Child Processes:

  • Use the f option to trace system calls of child processes. This can be helpful if MySQL spawns subprocesses for query execution.

strace -t -T -f -e trace=open,read,write,process -o mysql_strace.log -p


Linux Process Snapper (strace) is a valuable tool for monitoring and optimizing MySQL thread performance during concurrent read operations. By using strace to trace system calls and analyze thread behavior, you can identify inefficiencies, resource contention, and I/O bottlenecks. Armed with this information, you can fine-tune your MySQL configuration and optimize your database environment to improve thread performance, ensuring efficient handling of concurrent read operations.

About Shiv Iyer 390 Articles
Open Source Database Systems Engineer with a deep understanding of Optimizer Internals, Performance Engineering, Scalability and Data SRE. Shiv currently is the Founder, Investor, Board Member and CEO of multiple Database Systems Infrastructure Operations companies in the Transaction Processing Computing and ColumnStores ecosystem. He is also a frequent speaker in open source software conferences globally.