A utility to track the performance of Tor and Tor onion services



OnionPerf is a utility to track Tor and onion service performance.

OnionPerf uses multiple processes and threads to download random data through Tor while tracking the performance of those downloads. The data is served and fetched on localhost using two TGen (traffic generator) processes, and is transferred through Tor using Tor client processes and an ephemeral Tor Onion Service. Tor control information and TGen performance statistics are logged to disk, analyzed once per day to produce a json stats database and files that can feed into Torperf, and can later be used to visualize changes in Tor client performance over time.

For more information, see https://github.com/robgjansen/onionperf
For a dockerized setup, see https://github.com/hiromipaw/onionperf-docker

Get OnionPerf

git clone https://github.com/robgjansen/onionperf.git
cd onionperf

Install System Dependencies

  • Tor (>= v0.2.7.3-rc): libevent, openssl
  • TGen (Shadow >= v1.11.1): cmake, glib2, igraph
  • OnionPerf: python

The easiest way to satisfy all system dependencies is to use a package manager.

sudo yum install gcc cmake make glib2 glib2-devel igraph igraph-devel libevent libevent-devel openssl openssl-devel python
# Ubuntu/Debian:
sudo apt-get install gcc cmake make libglib2.0 libglib2.0-dev libigraph0 libigraph0-dev libevent libevent-dev openssl openssl-dev python

Note: in newer distributions, libevent may be called libevent-2.0 and openssl-dev may be called libssl-dev.

Install Python modules

  • OnionPerf python modules: stem (>= v1.4.0), twisted, lxml, networkx, numpy, matplotlib.

Option 1: Package Manager

The easiest way to satisfy all system dependencies is to use a package manager.

# Fedora/RedHat:
sudo yum install python-stem python-twisted python-lxml python-networkx python-matplotlib numpy scipy
# Ubuntu/Debian:
sudo apt-get install python-stem python-twisted python-lxml python-networkx python-matplotlib python-numpy python-scipy

Option 2: pip

Python modules can also be installed using pip. The python modules that are required for each OnionPerf subcommand are as follows:

  • onionperf monitor: stem
  • onionperf measure: stem, lxml, twisted, networkx
  • onionperf analyze: stem
  • onionperf visualize: scipy, numpy, pylab, matplotlib

You must first satisfy the system/library requirements of each of the python modules.

Note: the following commands may not contain all requirements; please update if you find more!

# Fedora/RedHat:
sudo yum install python-devel libxml2 libxml2-devel libxslt libxslt-devel libpng libpng-devel freetype freetype-devel
# Ubuntu/Debian:
sudo apt-get install python-devel libxml2 libxml2-dev libxslt1 libxslt1-dev libpng libpng-devel freetype freetype-devel

It is recommended to use virtual environments to keep all of the dependencies self-contained and to avoid conflicts with your other python projects.

pip install virtualenv
virtualenv --no-site-packages venv
source venv/bin/activate
pip install -r requirements.txt # installs all required python modules for all OnionPerf subcommands

If you don't want to use virtualenv, you can install with:

pip install stem lxml twisted networkx scipy numpy matplotlib

Note: You may want to skip installing numpy and matplotlib if you don't plan to use the visualize subcommand, since those tend to require several large dependencies.

Build Tor

Note: You can install Tor via the package manager as well, though the preferred method is to build from source.

We need at least version

git clone https://git.torproject.org/tor.git -b release-0.2.7
cd tor
./configure --disable-asciidoc

Build TGen Traffic Generator

The traffic generator currently exists in the Shadow simulator repository, but we will build TGen as an external tool and skip building both the full simulator and the TGen simulator plugin.

git clone https://github.com/shadow/shadow.git
cd shadow/src/plugin/shadow-plugin-tgen
mkdir build
cd build
cmake .. -DSKIP_SHADOW=ON -DCMAKE_MODULE_PATH=`pwd`/../../../../cmake/

Build and Install OnionPerf

If using pip and virtualenv (run from onionperf base directory):

source venv/bin/activate
pip install -I .

If using just pip:

pip install -I .


python setup.py build
python setup.py install

Run OnionPerf

OnionPerf has several modes of operation and a help menu for each. For a description of each mode, use:

onionperf -h
  • monitor: Connect to Tor and log controller events to file
  • measure: Measure Tor and Onion Service Performance using TGen
  • analyze: Analyze Tor and TGen output
  • visualize: Visualize OnionPerf analysis results

Measure Tor

To run in measure mode, you will need to give OnionPerf the path to your custom 'tor', 'tgen', and 'twistd' binary files if they do not exist in your PATH environment variable.

./onionperf measure --tor=/home/rob/tor/src/or/tor \
--tgen=/home/rob/shadow/src/plugin/shadow-plugin-tgen/build/tgen --twistd=/usr/bin/twistd

This will run OnionPerf in measure mode with default ports; a TGen server runs on port 8080 and a Twisted web server runs on port 8081. Port 8080 must be open on your firewall if you want to do performance measurements with downloads that exit the Tor network. You should also open port 8081 if you want the data that OnionPerf gathers to be publicly accessible.

By default, OnionPerf will run a TGen client/server pair that transfer traffic through Tor and through an ephemeral onion service started by OnionPerf. TGen and Tor log data is collected and stored beneath the onionperf-data directory, and other information about Tor's state during the measurement process is collected from Tor's control port and logged to disk.

While running, OnionPerf log output is saved to component-specific log files. Log files for each OnionPerf component (tgen client, tgen server, tor client, tor server, twistd server) are stored in their own directory, under onionperf-data:

  • tgen-client/onionperf.tgen.log
  • tgen-server/onionperf.tgen.log
  • tor-client/onionperf.torctl.log
  • tor-client/onionperf.tor.log
  • tor-server/onionperf.torctl.log
  • tor-server/onionperf.tor.log
  • twistd/onionperf.twisted.log

Every night at 11:59 UTC, OnionPerf will analyze the latest results from these log files using the same parsing functions that are used in the onionperf analyze subcommand (which is described in more detail below). The analysis produces a onionperf.analysis.json stats file that contains numerous measurements and other contextual information collected during the measurement process. The README_JSON.md file in this repo describes the format and elements contained in the json file.

The analysis also produces a .tpf file in the standard Torperf format (type torperf 1.0) which contains a subset of the measurement data available in the json file. This file is produced to increase interoperability with existing tools written to process Torperf measurement results. More information regarding how to read Torperf's measurements results can be found at: https://collector.torproject.org/#torperf.

The daily generated json and tpf files are placed in the twistd docroot and are available through the web interface at the configured port (localhost:8081 by default) or on the local filesystem in the onionperf-data/twistd/docroot directory.

Once the analysis is complete, OnionPerf will rotate all log files; each log file is moved to a log_rotate subdirectory and renamed to include a timestamp. Each component has its own collection of log files with timestamps in their own log_rotate subdirectories.

You can reproduce the same json file that is automatically produced every day while running in onionperf measure mode. To do this, you would run onionperf analyze on specific log files from the log_rotate directories. You can also plot the measurement results from the json files by running in onionperf visualize mode. See below for more details.

Analyze/Visualize Results

OnionPerf runs the data it collects through analyze mode every night at midnight to produce the onionperf.analysis.json stats file. This file can be reproduced by using onionperf analyze mode and feeding in a TGen log file from the onionperf-data/tgen-client/log_archive directory and the matching Torctl log file from the onionperf-data/tor-client/log_archive directory.

For example:

onionperf analyze --tgen onionperf-data/tgen-client/log_archive/onionperf_2015-11-15_15\:59\:59.tgen.log \
--torctl onionperf-data/tor-client/log_archive/onionperf_2015-11-15_15\:59\:59.torctl.log

This produces the onionperf.analysis.json file, which can then be plotted like so:

onionperf visualize --data onionperf.analysis.json "onionperf-test"

This will save new PDFs containing several graphs in the current directory. These include:


  • Number of transfer AUTH errors, each client
  • Number of transfer PROXY errors, each client
  • Number of transfer AUTH errors, all clients over time
  • Number of transfer PROXY errors, all clients over time
  • Bytes transferred before AUTH error, all downloads
  • Bytes transferred before PROXY error, all downloads
  • Median bytes transferred before AUTH error, each client
  • Median bytes transferred before PROXY error, each client
  • Mean bytes transferred before AUTH error, each client
  • Mean bytes transferred before PROXY error, each client


  • 60 second moving average throughput, read, all relays
  • 1 second throughput, read, all relays
  • 1 second throughput, read, each relay
  • 60 second moving average throughput, write, all relays
  • 1 second throughput, write, all relays
  • 1 second throughput, write, each relay


While OnionPerf is running, it will log heartbeat status messages to indicate the health of the subprocesses. It also monitors these subprocesses with "watchdog threads" and restarts each subprocess if they fail. If more than 10 failures happen within 60 minutes, then the watchdog will give up and exit, and at that point the heartbeat message should indicate that one of the subprocesses died.

While running, a number of Warning messages might be logged. For example:

2016-12-21 12:15:17 1482318917.473774 [onionperf] [WARNING] command
finished before expected"

This specific warning indicates that the tgen server watchdog thread detected that the tgen server prematurely exited. The watchdog should have spun up another tgen server to replace the one that died.

To find out why this is happening you should check the specific component logs which are all subdirectories of the onionperf-data directory. In this particular case tgen-server log file revealed the problem:

2016-12-20 18:46:29 1482255989.329712 [critical] [shd-tgen-server.c:94] [tgenserver_new] bind(): socket 5 returned -1 error 98: Address already in use

The log indicated that port 8080 was already in use by another process.


GitHub pull requests are welcome and encouraged!