Best practices

Best practices for measuring with the Green Metrics Tool

One very important note, that serves as a general rule for all usage of the Green Metrics Tool:

Having said that: If you have a proper transfer function between systems or just want to estimate the general overhead a 100-core machine compared to an Arduino for just running an email server you can still do a comparison … just keep in mind, it will have caveats and can only provide guidance.

Also measurements should never be seen as ground truth,
but only as indicator of the order of magnitude.

Our system is designed to raise awareness and educate about
the software energy use in typical off-the-shelf systems.

This reduces its accuracy and reproducibility, but increases its general applicability.

The result is that you get an idea of the order of magnitude the energy consumption
is in, but reduces comparability to identical systems.

Our Hosted Service on our Measurement Cluster is designed for exactly that.

List of best practices

1. Never compare between machines to judge your software

  • At least not within small margins. Energy measurements on multi-task operating systems do always have noise and variance.
  • However a comparison by the order of magnitude is very helpful to judge the underlying hardware
    • In order to judge software on different hardware your systems must be calibrated and run no non-deterministic components like schedulers (realtime linux kernel for instance)
  • Even systems with identical hardware components can have variations that you cannot easily account for, as there are unknown variables unless you measure them ahead (component energy consumption variance etc.)
  • Some comparisons make sense though if you have a tuned Measurement Cluster

2. An application should NEVER come to the bounds of its resources

  • Analyze the peak load of your application. If the system runs at >80% typically scheduling and queuing problems can kick in.
    • If that is however what your application is design to operate it, then do not alter it. However most applications assume an infinite amout of resources and behave weirdly if they run into resource limitations

3. The application you want to test must run at least twice as long as the minimal resolution

  • The minimal resolution is the one you have configured with your Metric Providers
    • Also be aware that Intel RAPL has a minimum time resolution of ~10ms and CPU time resolution is typically around 1 microsecond.

4. When running tests your disk load should not go over 50%

  • Since typically linux systems can run in congestion above 60% and also our tool needs some disk time.
    • Check iostat -xmdz if in doubt

5. Limit amount and resolution of Metric Providers to what you absolutely need

  • Do not exceed 10 Metric Reporters on 100 ms resolution,
  • or 2 metric reporters on 10 ms resolution as this will produce a non-significant load on the system and might skew results.
  • Try to keep the resolution of all metric reporters identical. This allows for easier data drill-down later.

6. Always check STDDEV

  • Optimally your tests should have in terms of energy a Std.Dev. of < 1% to make them reasonably comparable.
    • We understand that if you have random effects in your code this might not be achievable. In that case opt for very high repetitions to get a narrower confidence interval.

7. Design representative Standard Usage Scenarios

  • When designing flows try to think of the standard usage scenario that is representative for the interaction with your app
    • Factor in the idle time that your app has. Typically a web browser for instance is mostly idle, as users read.
    • Nevertheless the browser does use the CPU during that time and consumes energy. Therefore it is an important part to have in your flow
  • Use notes to make flows better understandable

8. Pin your dependencies

  • If you build Docker containers be sure to always specify hashes / versions in the apt-get install commands and also in the FROM commands if you ingest images. By versions we mean here something like FROM alpine@sha256:be746ab119f2c7bb2518d67fbe3c511c0ea4c9c0133878a596e25e5a68b0d9f3 instead of just FROM alpine. If that is not an option be sure to use at least double-dotted semantic versioning like FROM alpine:1.2.3
  • For dependencies in npm, pip or any other package manager also pin the versions
  • Same goes for docker-compose.yml / compose.yml files etc.
  • This practice helps you spot changes to the software infrastructure your code is running on and understand changes that have been made by third parties, which influence your energy results.

9. Use temperature control and validate measurement

Our Hosted Service with the Measurement Cluster checks periodically if the standard deviation of the measurements is within a certain allowed error margin.

It does this by running defined control workloads and also calibrating the machine beforehand so that any measurement only runs if a certain baseline temperature is reached again.

You can either use our service with a free tier or set the cluster up yourself. The setup and methodology is explained in Installation of a cluster

10. Trigger test remotely or keep system inactive

  • Our Measurement Cluster runs tests fully autonomous. In dev setups this is however seldomly the case. To still get good results the system should be as noise free as possible.
  • This means, if possible:
    • Turn your wifi and internet off
    • Do not touch the keyboard or the mouse
      • Never move your mouse or type something on your keyboard while measuring, because the interrupts of the CPU will interfere with the measurement.
    • Do not have dimming or monitor-sleep active as this will cost CPU cycles to trigger
    • Turn off any cronjobs / updates / housekeeping jobs on the system
    • Turn off any processes you do not need atm.
  • Or put more loosely: Listening to spotify while running an energy test is a bad idea :)

11. Your system should not overheat

  • Most modern processors have features that limit their processing power if the heat of the system is too high.
    • This is at the moment a manual task in the GMT, however we are working on a feature that will check if the CPU has run into a heat limiting.
  • Also you should take waiting times between test runs to make sure that the system has cooled down again and your energy measurements are not false-high. A good number for this has emerged in our testing which is 180 s. However on a 30+ core machine this value might be higher. We are currently working on a calibration script to determine this exact value for a particular system.

If you are using a standard cronjob mechanism to trigger the GMT you can use the post-test-sleep to force a fixed sleep time.

12. Mount your /tmp on /tmpfs

Since we extensively write the output of the metric-providers to /tmp on the host system this should be an in-memory filesystem. Otherwise it might skew with your measurement as disk-writes can be quite costly.

On Ubuntu you can use sudo systemctl enable /usr/share/systemd/tmp.mount

13. Turn logging off

Generally logging of either stdout or stderr through the log-stdout and log-stderr keys in the usage_scenario should be turned off, because it generally creates overhead.

You should only have it turned on when you are developing or debugging.

Since the logs will be captured into a memory buffer there is a limit to how much this buffer can hold. If you really log excessive amounts (100 MB+) then at some point the buffer might get exhausted and either you will loose data or the run with the GMT will fail.

14. Use --docker-prune

This switch will prune all unassociated build caches, networks volumes and stopped containers on the system and keep your disk from not getting full.

Downside: It will remove all stopped containers. So if you regularly keep stopped containers than avoid this switch and rather run docker volume prune once in a while.

15. Use non standard sampling intervals and avoid undersampling

If the effect you are looking for in your code is likely only a 200 ms activity you should at least use a sampling rate (metric provider resolution) of 100 ms.

Having said that: It is also good practice to use an odd number here, which is slightly lower. For instance 99 ms or even 95 ms.

The reason for this is that you do not want to run into a lock-step sampling error, where you always look at the machine just after a load has happened, and since no jitter is on the machine you always miss the actual load. By sliding your sampling intervals in relation to the frequency of the event frequency that you want to observe you will still see the event sometimes.

16. System Check Threshhold

The GMT comes with many sytem checks that only issue a warning in the default configuration.

We recommend setting system_check_treshold to 2 in your production setup of the Configuration

17. Idle Duration

If you are trying to calculate an energy per container you should set the idle-duration configuration value high enough so you get a stable value to base the offset on.

We recommend at least 120 s.