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Tracing framework for full system simulators


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Simutrace is a tracing framework for full system simulators and has been conceived with full length, no-loss tracing of high-frequency events such as executed CPU instructions and main memory references in mind.

The framework places no restriction on the type and number of captured events and employs a scalable storage format, which easily handles traces of hundreds of gigabytes in size. Simutrace has been particularly extended to facilitate efficient memory tracing by incorporating aggressive, but fast memory trace compression.

Simutrace is a research project of the operating systems group at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

Table of Contents


Simutrace uses a client-server architecture, where a client such as an extension in a full system simulator collects events (e.g., memory accesses) and a storage server receives the data, performs trace compression and storage as well as provides easy access to the data for later analysis and inspection. The server can be situated on the same as well as on a remote host.

When connecting to the server, the client is assigned a session and may create a new or open an existing trace data store. Within a store, trace events are organized into streams. Each stream stores events of a single type (e.g., memory writes). A client may create an arbitrary number of streams using built-in or custom event types. Writing and reading trace data with Simutrace thus follows common streaming semantics.

For a thorough introduction to Simutrace and its capabilities please refer to our white paper Efficient Full System Memory Tracing with Simutrace.

Binary Files

Simutrace consists of four libraries and one executable:

simustore(.exe): The server executable, containing all trace processing and storage functionality.

libsimutrace(.so/.dll): This is the client library offering the public C interface to Simutrace. This library needs to be used by all applications that want to use Simutrace. See for a documentation of the API.

libsimutraceX(.so/.dll): This is the client extensions library, which provides additions on top of the standard Simutrace API such as a stream multiplexer and helper functions.

libsimubase, libsimustore: These are static libraries that encapsulate common code for the client library and the storage server. You won't see these as build output as they are statically linked into the client library and storage server binary, respectively.

Getting Started

In this section, we first describe the supported platforms, prerequisites and the environment for building Simutrace from source. You may download pre-compiled binaries at The section continues by giving a short introduction on how to start Simutrace.

Supported Platforms

Simutrace supports Windows Vista+, Linux, and MacOSX 10.9+. Since trace processing is a memory intensive task, we only support 64 bit operating system versions. We tested Simutrace on x86-64 hardware, only.

For best performance, we recommend running the server on a system with at least 8 CPU cores (4+4) and 12 GiB of RAM. The server very well operates a 24 core dual-socket Xeon system at full load when reading a memory trace with 700 MiB/s. The hardware requirements for the client are significantly lower as all heavyweight processing is done in the server process. The client runs perfectly fine on a single core with 1 GiB of RAM. When running the client and server on the same machine, the memory of the client is shared with the server and does not add to the server's requirements.


This section describes the installation of one of the pre-compiled versions of Simutrace and its prerequisites. If you cannot find a version of Simutrace on suitable to your environment (e.g., OS), you can build Simutrace from source.

Note: The installation does not currently include extensions for a full system simulators to generate trace events from a simulation. For information on simulator extensions, please refer to

Step 1: Visual C++ Redistributable Package 2015 (Windows-only)

The Visual C++ Redistributable package installs run-time components that are required to run Simutrace. Download the package from Microsoft and follow the instructions given on the download page.

If you have Visual Studio 2015 installed, the required components are already on your system.

Step 2: Simutrace

Download the latest version of Simutrace from For Windows we provide MSI installation packages. For rpm-based and deb-based Linux distributions you can add repositories to your packaging software from Launchpad and openSUSE Build Service. For all other supported platforms, we currently do not provide binary packages. You have to build from source for these systems.

Building from Source

If you want to make changes to Simutrace or want to run Simutrace on a platform that is not officially supported, you can build the software from source.

Step 1: Setting up the Build Environment

Simutrace uses CMake (2.8 or newer) to generate build files for the development tools available on your system.

On Windows, download the latest CMake version from To build Simutrace, we use the latest version of Microsoft Visual Studio (Visual C++). A free (express) version can be downloaded from Microsoft.

On Linux, you have to install cmake, the basic development tools such a C++11 compatible GCC (version 4.7 or higher) and make. Some distributions provide a package that will install the required tools. On Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS you can enter:

$ sudo apt-get install cmake build-essential

Step 2: Cloning the Source Repository

Before you can clone the source repository you need to install git. On Windows you may install it from On Linux you will most probably find a binary package in your system's package management system. On Ubuntu 14.04 LTS you can enter:

$ sudo apt-get install git

After installing git, you clone the source repository by entering:

$ git clone

The repository encompasses the server, the C client interface library to write simulator extensions and analysis clients, sample code, documentation sources, and more.

The repository has the following structure:

|-- 3rdParty
|   `-- libconfig-1.4.9     libconfig to parse configuration files
|-- samples
|   |-- csharp.memreplay    Memory replay sample in c#
|   |-- csharp.simple       Sample on how to use C# binding
|	|-- storemon            Small monitoring app, which displays live stats
|   |                       on the streams in a specified store
|   |-- simple              Very basic sample client in C
|   `-- parallel            Sample client in C, which writes and reads
|                           to/from a trace using multiple threads
|-- setups                  Setup and packaging projects and metadata
`-- simutrace
    |-- bindings            Bindings for Simutrace
    |-- documentation       Documentation source and theme.
    |-- include             Header files, use SimuTrace.h.
    |   |-- simubase        Internal headers for libsimubase.
    |   `-- simustor        Internal headers for libsimustor.
    |-- libsimubase         Internal platform abstraction library.
    |-- libsimustor         Internal tracing core library.
    |-- libsimutrace        Public client library.
    |-- libsimutraceX       Public client extensions library.
    `-- storageserver       Trace storage and access server.
        `-- simtrace        simtrace (*.sim) storage format provider
            |               and type-specific trace encoders/decoders.
            `-- VPC4        Prediction-based memory trace compressor.

Step 3: Building

Before you can build the source, you have to generate the build files with CMake. If you are using Windows you will most probably want to generate a Visual Studio solution. On Linux, you can generate makefiles with cmake and build Simutrace by running the following commands from the root directory of the source tree:

$ mkdir build
$ cd build
$ cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ..
$ make

The final executables will be located in bin/ and can be installed using:

$ make install
Debug Version

To build the debug version of Simutrace you have to choose the appropriate solution configuration in Visual Studio (Debug) or on Linux generate the makefiles with:

$ cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Debug ..

Starting Simutrace

Simutrace uses a client-server architecture. Starting Simutrace thus constitutes starting the server on the one side and starting one or more clients on the other side.

You start the server by running the main simustore(.exe) executable. The server will then wait for clients to connect.

The server can take various settings to change the way it operates and to regulate the amount of resources it allocates. We recommend downloading the sample configuration file from our website, which contains a detailed description of the settings available and their default values. When you build Simutrace from source, the configuration file is already in the output directory. To supply the file during startup, type:

$ ./simustore -c simustore.cfg

How to start the client, depends on the client application. A client may be an extension in a full system simulator, which connects to the server and outputs all events it observes in the simulation. A client may also be an analysis software, which reads the traces back in to perform some form of analysis.

Simutrace does not come with any specific client application, yet. Instead we provide samples that show you how to bind against the client library (libsimutrace(.so/.dll)) and use the Simutrace API to work with the storage server.

Writing and Reading Traces

To write or read a trace you must develop a client application that calls the server as desired. The client library provides a C interface for this purpose. You may use the interface by including SimuTrace.h.

Note: if you wish to use a different programming language for your client, see if and how your preferred language can bind to a native C shared/dynamic library. For some languages we already provide bindings. Take a look at the bindings directory for supported languages.

Please see the source of the sample clients as well as the documentation for details on how to bind to the client library and invoke the API.


Unfortunately, the internal classes, interfaces and components of Simutrace are not documented, yet. However, you will find a complete documentation of the public client API, required to write or read traces, at

Building the Documentation

The documentation in Simutrace is automatically build from source using doxygen. On Windows, you will find the latest version of doxygen at On Linux, install doxygen with your package management system. On Ubuntu 14.04 LTS you can enter:

$ sudo apt-get install doxygen

Afterwards, you can build the documentation by running cmake as usual and building the simutrace-doc target. On Ubuntu 14.04 LTS you may enter the following commands from the root directory of the source tree:

$ mkdir build
$ cd build
$ cmake ..
$ make simutrace-doc

You will find the documentation in bin/doc/html.

Bugs and Feature Requests

A bug is a demonstrable problem that is caused by code in the repository. Although we give our best to provide tools that simply work, bugs always happen.

Guidelines for bug reports:

  • Use the GitHub issue search - check if the issue has already been reported.

  • Check if the issue has been fixed - try to reproduce it using the latest release or development branch in the repository.

  • Isolate the problem - ideally create a reduced test case and a live example.

A good bug report shouldn't leave others needing to chase you up for more information. Please try to be as detailed as possible in your report. What is your environment? What steps will reproduce the issue? On which operating system do you experience the problem? Does the bug happen on other operating systems, too? What would you expect to be the outcome? All these details will help to fix potential bugs.


Short and descriptive example bug report title

A summary of the issue and the environment in which it occurs. If suitable,
include the steps required to reproduce the bug.

    + This is the first step
    + This is the second step
    + Further steps, etc.

 - a link to the reduced test case

Any other information you want to share that is relevant to the issue being
reported. This might include the lines of code that you have identified as
causing the bug, and potential solutions (and your opinions on their

To report an issue please use the issue tracker.

Feature Requests

Since the project is primarily maintained by a single person, in most cases we won't be able to implement requested features. Nevertheless, we would be happy to know where Simutrace does not fulfill your requirements and from what improvements you would benefit from.

Please use the issue tracker for feature requests.

Known Issues

For known issues, please see KNOWN ISSUES.


We try to comply with the semantic versioning scheme ( If we incorporated incompatible changes from one minor version to the other, you will find these documented in the changelog and the API documentation. For the current version, please refer to VERSION.


Simutrace has been designed with extensibility in mind. It is particularly easy to add support for other processing logic (e.g., for instruction flow encoding) or trace formats. Being able to add further communication channels, such as RDMA-based networks, has always been intended in the design, too. Platform dependent code is encapsulated in libsimubase, facilitating ports of Simutrace to operating systems other than Windows and Linux. Last but not least, the client-server architecture makes developing trace sources (e.g., plug-ins for full system simulators) and analysis software straightforward.

If you want to contribute an extension to Simutrace, if you have developed a trace source or analysis client that could be of interest to others or if you have improved any of the existing components, please use the issue tracker as preferred channel.

Before submitting extensions to Simutrace, please carefully study the existing source. Your code must adhere to the same coding style to be accepted in the repository (formatting, exception handling, etc.).

We would be happy to see your contribution in the next release!

If you have found a bug or have a feature request, please see Bugs and Feature Requests.

Copyright and Licenses

Copyright 2015 (C) Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Marc Rittinghaus, Thorsten Groeninger

Simutrace is licensed under the GNU General Public License and the GNU Lesser General Public License, depending on the component. Each source file includes a reference to its license in the header, leading to the following licensing model:

Component License
libsimubase LGPL
libsimustor LGPL
libsimutrace LGPL
libsimutraceX LGPL
storageserver GPL

3rd Party Components

Simutrace makes use of the following 3rd party libraries, components or algorithms:

Simutrace's memory trace compressor uses a modified version of the algorithm presented in M. Burtscher et al. The vpc trace-compression algorithms. Computers, IEEE Transactions on, 54(11):1329�1344, 2005.

The debug build of Simutrace includes the FastDelegate library.


Simutrace has been primarily developed and is maintained by Marc Rittinghaus < > as part of his research at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in the area of full system tracing and acceleration of full system simulation.

Countless hours of invaluable prototyping and testing have been contributed by Thorsten Groeninger, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

Additional contributors:

  • Bastian Eicher


Tracing framework for full system simulators



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