Mark J. Wielaard: dtrace for linux; Oracle does the right thing

At Fosdem we had a talk on dtrace for linux in the Debugging Tools devroom.

Not explicitly mentioned in that talk, but certainly the most exciting thing, is that Oracle is doing a proper linux kernel port:

 commit e1744f50ee9bc1978d41db7cc93bcf30687853e6
 Author: Tomas Jedlicka <>
 Date: Tue Aug 1 09:15:44 2017 -0400

 dtrace: Integrate DTrace Modules into kernel proper

 This changeset integrates DTrace module sources into the main kernel
 source tree under the GPLv2 license. Sources have been moved to
 appropriate locations in the kernel tree.

That is right, dtrace dropped the CDDL and switched to the GPL!

The user space code dtrace-utils and libdtrace-ctf (a combination of GPLv2 and UPL) can be found on the DTrace Project Source Control page. The NEWS file mentions the license switch (and that it is build upon elfutils, which I personally was pleased to find out).

The kernel sources (GPLv2+ for the core kernel and UPL for the uapi) are slightly harder to find because they are inside the uek kernel source tree, but following the above commit you can easily get at the whole linux kernel dtrace directory.

The UPL is the Universal Permissive License, which according to the FSF is a lax, non-copyleft license that is compatible with the GNU GPL.

Thank you Oracle for making everyone’s life easier by waving your magic relicensing wand!

Now there is lots of hard work to do to actually properly integrate this. And I am sure there are a lot of technical hurdles when trying to get this upstreamed into the mainline kernel. But that is just hard work. Which we can now start collaborating on in earnest.

Like systemtap and the Dynamic Probes (dprobes) before it, dtrace is a whole system observability tool combining tracing, profiling and probing/debugging techniques. Something the upstream linux kernel hackers don’t always appreciate when presented as one large system. They prefer having separate small tweaks for tracing, profiling and probing which are mostly separate from each other. It took years for the various hooks, kprobes, uprobes, markers, etc. from systemtap (and other systems) to get upstream. But these days they are. And there is now even a byte code interpreter (eBPF) in the mainline kernel as originally envisioned by dprobes, which systemtap can now target through stapbpf. So with all those techniques now available in the linux kernel it will be exciting to see if dtrace for linux can unite them all.

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Original article title: Mark J. Wielaard: dtrace for linux; Oracle does the right thing.
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