HawkTracer is a highly portable, low-overhead, configurable profiling tool built in Amazon Video for getting performance metrics from low-end devices.
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HawkTracer is a highly portable, low-overhead, configurable profiling tool built in Amazon Video for getting performance metrics from low-end devices.

HawkTracer is available on most popular platforms: Linux, Windows, OS X. The library can be used with C and C++.

The library provides many different types of events (e.g. CPU usage event, duration tracepoint), but the list can easily be extended by the user.


  • Low CPU/memory overhead
  • Multi-platform
  • Highly configurable on runtime
  • Easy build integration (CMake & pkg-config files)
  • Pre-defined and user-defined events
  • Simple macros for code instrumentation
  • Streaming events to file, through TCP/IP protocol, or handling them in custom function
  • Client for receiving event stream
  • Library for parsing event stream (so you can write your own client)

License Summary

This sample code is made available under the MIT license. (See LICENSE file)

Getting Started

Building library

$ mkdir build       # It'll be different on Windows
$ cd build
$ cmake ..
$ cmake --build .   # This instead of make, so we don't need extra instructions for Windows

Attaching HawkTracer to a project to profile

Build system integration

CMake-based projects

If you use CMake build system, you can use following code to attach HawkTracer library to your project:


# optionally, you might define a path to HawkTracer's CMake module
# CMake the path below should be a path to a directory where HawkTracerConfig.cmake is located, e.g.:
# list(APPEND CMAKE_MODULE_PATH "/usr/local/lib/cmake/HawkTracer")

find_package(HawkTracer REQUIRED)

add_executable(your_project main.cc)

target_link_libraries(your_project HawkTracer::hawktracer)


HawkTracer library provides pkg-config file which can be used to find required libraries and include paths. You can simply integrate it e.g. with your compilation command:

$ g++ my_project.cpp $(pkg-config --cflags --libs hawktracer)

Instrumenting code

Initialize library

Before you start profiling your code, you need to initialize HawkTracer library. There are 2 functions which always have to be called in projects profiled by HawkTracer: ht_init and ht_deinit. Additionally, you need to specify an event listener. HawkTracer currently provides 2 listeners:

  • TCP listener, which streams events over the network
  • File dump listener, which saves events to a file.

Moreover, HawkTracer allows to provide user-defined listeners. Code below presents example HawkTracer (un)initialization:

int main(int argc, char** argv)
  ht_init(argc, argv); // initialize library
  HT_Timeline* timeline = ht_global_timeline_get(); // timeline, where all events are posted. You can define your own timeline, or use global timeline
  HT_FileDumpListener* listener = ht_file_dump_listener_create("file_name.htdump", buffer_size, NULL); // initialize listener
  const size_t buffer_size = 4096; // size of internal listener's buffer
  ht_timeline_register_listener(timeline, ht_file_dump_listener_callback, listener); // register listener to a timeline

  // your code goes here...
  ht_timeline_flush(timeline); // flush all remaining events from timeline
  ht_timeline_unregister_all_listeners(timeline); // unregister listeners from timeline
  ht_file_dump_listener_destroy(listener); // deinitialize listener
  ht_deinit(); // uninitialize library

  return 0;

The code registers file dump listener, which saves all the events to a file file_name.htdump. The file should be then converted to a viewer's format (see here for details).

Instrumenting the code

HawkTracer requires explicit code instrumentation. The library provides a few helper macros for reporting data to a timeline:

// Pushes any type of event to a timeline

// Reports a duration of specific block of code (available only for C++ or C GNU compiler)

// The same as above, but automatically sets label to current function name

There are few macros which report events to a global timeline, they're prefixed with G_:


For example, you can instrument following code:

void foo()
  HT_TP_G_FUNCTION() // measure duration of foo function execution
  for (int i = 0; i < 100; i++)
    HT_TP_G_STRACEPOINT("in-loop") // measure duration of single loop iteration

Collect the data

For now HawkTracer provides a simple application for converting event stream to a JSON format which can be consumed by the viewing application: hawktracer-to-json. You can use it with a file or with a network stream. Assuming your events have been saved to file_name.htdump file, you can generate the JSON file running following command:

hawktracer-to-json --source file_name.htdump --output output_file.json

Analyzing the data

  • Install google-chrome or chromium browser
  • Open the browser, and open chrome://tracing/ webpage
  • Click load button and open file generated in the previous section
  • You should see a callstack with timing


Please read CONTRIBUTING.md for details on our code of conduct, and the process for submitting pull requests to us.


  • Hat tip to anyone who's code was used
  • Inspiration
  • etc