Perun: Performance Under Control


What is Perun?

Have you ever encountered a sudden performance degradation and could not figure out, when and where the degradation was introduced?

Do you think that you have no idea whether the overall performance of your application is getting better or not over the time?

Is it hard for you to set performance regression testing everytime you create a new project?

Do you ever feel that you completely loose the control of the performance of your projects?

There exists solutions for managing changes of ones project—Version Control Systems (VCS)—but precise managing of performance is harder. This calls for solutions tuned to support performance management—Performance Versioning Systems.

Perun is an open source light-weight Performance Version System. While revision (or version) control systems track how your code base is changing, what features were added and keeps snapshots of versions of projects, they are mostly generic in order to satisfy needs of broad range of project types. And actually you can run all of the performance regressions tests manually and then use, e.g. git, to store the actual profiles for each minor version (e.g. commits) of your project. However, you are forced to do all of the profiling, annotations with tags and basic informations about collected resources, and many more by yourself, otherwise you lose the precise history of the performance your application. Or you can use database, but lose the flexibility and easy usage of the versioning systems and you have to design and implement some user interface yourself.

Perun is in summary a wrapper over existing Version Systems and takes care of managing profiles for different versions of projects. Moreover, it offers a tool suite allowing one to automate the performance regression test runs, postprocess existing profiles or interpret the results. In particular, it has the following advantages over databases and sole Version Control Systems:

  1. Context—each performance profile is assigned to a concrete minor version adding the missing context to your profiles—what was changed in the code base, when it was changed, who made the changes, etc. The profiles themselves contains collected data and addition information about the performance regression run or application configurations.
  2. Automation—Perun allows one to easily automate the process of profile collection, eventually reducing the whole process to a single command and can be hence hooked, e.g. when one commits new changes, in supported version control system to make sure one never misses to generate new profiles for each new minor or major version of project. The specification of jobs is inspired by continuous integration systems, and is designed as YAML file, which serves as a natural format for specifying the automated jobs.
  3. Genericity—supported format of the performance profiles is based on JSON notation and has just a minor requirements and restrictions. Perun tool suite contains a basic set of generic (and several specific) visualizations, postprocessing and collection modules which can be used as building blocks for automating jobs and interpreting results. Perun itself poses only a minor requirements for creating and registering new modules, e.g. when one wants to register new profiling data collectors, data postprocessors, customized visualiations or different version control systems.
  4. Easy to use—the workflow, interface and storage of Perun is heavily inspired by the git systems aiming at natural use (at least for majority of potential users). Current version has a Command Line Interface consisting of commands similar to git (such as e.g. add, status, log). Interactive Graphical User Interface is currently in development.

Perun is meant to be used in two ways: (1) for a single developer (or a small team) as a complete solution for automating, storing and interpreting performance of ones project or (2) as a dedicated store for a bigger projects and teams. Its git-like design aims at easy distribution and simple interface makes it a simple store of profiles along with the context.

Currently we are considering making a storage layer abstracting the storing of the profile either in filesystem (in git) or in database. This is currently in discussion in case the filesystem storage will not scale enough.


You can install Perun as follows:

make init
make install

These commands installs Perun to your system as a python package. You can then run perun safely from the command line using the perun command. Run either perun --help or see the Command Line Interface documentation for more information about running Perun commands from command line.


Depending on your OS and the location of Python libraries, you might require root permissions to install Perun.

Alternatively you can install Perun in development mode:

make init
make dev

This method of installation allows you to make a changes to the code, which will be then reflected by the installation.

In order to partially verify that Perun runs correctly in your environment, run the automated tests as follows:

make test

In case you run in some unexpected behaviour, error or anything suspicious, either contact us directly through mail or create a new Issue.

Lifetime of a profile

Format of performance profiles is based on JSON format. It tries to unify various performance metrics and methods for collecting and postprocessing of profiling data. Profiles themselves are stored in a storage (parallel to vcs storage; currently in filesystem), compressed using the zlib compression method along with the additional information, such as how the profile was collected, how profiling resources were postprocessed, which metric units are used, etc. For learning how the profiles are stored in the storage and the internals of Perun refer to Perun Internals. For exact format of the supported profile refer to Specification of Profile Format.


The Figure above shows the lifetime of one profile. Profiles can be generated by set of collectors (such as Trace Collector which collects time durations depending on sizes of data structures, or simple Time Collector for basic timing) and can be further refined and transformed by sequence of postprocessing steps (like e.g. Regression Analysis for estimating regression models of dependent variables based on independent variables, or Normalizer Postprocessor, etc.).

Stored profiles then can be interpreted by set of visualization techniques like e.g. Flame Graph, Scatter Plot, or generic Bars Plot and Flow Plot. Refer to Visualizations Overview for more concise list and documentation of interpretation capabilities of Perun’s tool suite.

Perun architecture

Internal architecture of Perun can be divided into several units—logic (commands, jobs, runners, store), data (vcs and profile), and the tool suite (collectors, postprocessors and visualizers). Data includes the core of the Perun—the profile manipulation and supported wrappers (currently git and simple custom vcs) over the existing version control systems. The logic is in charge of automation, higher-logic manipulations and takes care of actual generation of the profiles. Moreover, the whole Perun suite contains set of collectors for generation of profiles, set of postprocessors for transformation and various visualization techniques and wrappers for graphical and command line interface.


The scheme above shows the basic decomposition of Perun suite into sole units. Architecture of Perun was designed to allow simple extension of both internals and tool suite. In order to register new profiling data collector, profile postprocessor, or new visual interpretation of results refer to Creating your own Collector, Creating your own Postprocessor and Creating your own Visualization respectively.

List of Features

In the following, we list the foremost features and advantages of Perun:

  • Unified format—we base our format on JSON with several minor limitations, e.g. one needs to specify header region or set of resources under fixed keys. This allows us to reuse existing postprocessors and visualisers to achieve great flexibility and easily design new methods. For full specification of our format refer to Specification of Profile Format.
  • Natural specification of Profiling Runs—we base the specification of profiling jobs in Yaml format. In project configuration we let the user choose the set of collectors, set of postprocessors and configure runnable applications along with different parameter combinations and input workloads. Based on this specification we build a job matrix, which is then sequentially run and generates list of performance profiles. After the functional changes to project one then just needs to run perun run matrix to genereate new batch of performance profiles for latest (or currently checked-out) minor version of project.
  • Git-inspired Interface—the Command Line Interface is inspired by git version control systems and specifies commands like e.g. add, remove, status, or log, well-known to basic git users. Moreover, the interface is built using the Click library providing flexible option and argument handling. The overall interface was designed to have a natural feeling when executing the commands.
  • Efficient storage—performance profiles are stored compressed in the storage in parallel to versions of the profiled project. Each stored object is then identified by its hash indentificator allowing quick lookup and reusing of object blobs. Storage in this form is rather packed and allows easy distribution.
  • Multiplatform-support—Perun is implemented in Python 3 and its implementation is supported both by Windows and Unix-like platforms. However, several visualizations currently requires support for ncurses library (e.g. Heap Map).
  • Regression Analysis—Perun’s suite contains a postprocessing module for Regression Analysis, which supports several different strategies for finding the best model for given data (such as linear, quadratic, or constant model). Moreover, it contains switch for a more fine analysis of the data e.g. by performing regression analysis on smaller intervals, or using bisective method on whole data interval. Such analyses allows one to effectively interpret trends in data (e.g. that the duration of list search is lineary dependent on the size of the list) and help with detecting performance regressions.
  • Interactive Visualizations—Perun’s tool suite includes several visualization modules, some of them based on Bokeh visualization library, which provides nice and interactive plots, in exchange of scalability (note that we are currently exploring libraries that can scale better) —in browser, resizable and manipulable.
  • Useful API for profile manipulation—helper modules are provided for working with our profiles in external applications (besides loading and basic usage)—we have API for executing simple queries over the resources or other parts of the profiles, or convert and transform the profiles to different representations (e.g. pandas data frame, or flame-graph format). This way, Perun can be used, e.g. together with python and pandas, as interactive interpret with support of statistical analysis.
  • Automatic Detection of Performance Degradation—we are currently exploring effective heuristics for automatic detection of performance degradation between two project versions (e.g. between two commits). Our methodology is based on statistical methods and outputs of Regression Analysis. More details about degradation detection can be found at Detecting Performance Changes

Currently we are working on several extensions of Perun, that could be integrated in near future. Namely, in we are exploring the following possible features into Perun:

  • Regular Expression Driven Collector—one planned collectors should be based on parsing the standard text output for a custom specified metrics, specified by regular expressions. We believe this could allow generic and quick usage to generate the performance profiles without the need of creating new specific collectors.
  • Fuzzing Collector—other planned collector should be based on method of fuzz testing—i.e. modifying inputs in order to force error or, in our case, a performance change. We believe that this collector could generate interesting profiles and lead to a better understanding of ones applications.
  • Clustering Postprocessor—we are exploring now how to make any profile usable for regression analysis. The notion of clustering is based on assumption, that there exists an independent variable (but unknown to us) that can be used to model the dependent variable (in our case the amount of resources). This postprocessor should try to find the optimal clustering of the dependent values in order to be usable by Regression Analysis.
  • Automatic Hooks—in near future, we want to include the initially planned feature of Perun, namely the automatic hooks, that will allow to automate the runs of job matrix, automatic detection of degradation and efficient storage. Hooks would then trigger the profile collection e.g. on_commit, on_push, etc.

Overview of Customization

In order to extend the tool suite with custom modules (collectors, postprocessors and visualizations) one needs to implement module inside the custom package stored in appropriate subdirectory (perun.collect, perun.postprocess and perun.view respectively). For more information about registering new profiling data collector, profile postprocessor, or new visual interpretation of results refer to Creating your own Collector, Creating your own Postprocessor and Creating your own Visualization respectively.

If you think your custom module could help others, please send us PR, we will review the code and in case it is suitable for wider audience, we will include it in our upstream.

Custom Collector

Collectors serves as a unit for generating profiles containing captured resources. In general the collection process can be broken into three phases:

  1. Before—optional phase before the actual collection of profiling data, which is meant to prepare the profiled project for the actual collection. This phases corresponds to various initializations, custom compilations, etc.
  2. Collect—the actual collection of profiling data, which should capture the profiled resources and ideally generate the profile w.r.t. Specification of Profile Format.
  3. After—last and optional phase after resources has been successfully collected (either in raw or supported format). This phase includes e.g. corresponds filters or transformation of the profile.

Each collector should be registered in perun.collect package and needs to implement the proposed interfaced inside the module. In order to register and use a new collector one needs to implement the following api in the module:

def before(**kwargs):
    """(optional) Phase before execution of collector"""
    return status_code, status_msg, kwargs

def collect(**kwargs):
    """Collection of the profile---returned profile is in kwargs['profile']"""
    kwargs['profile'] = collector.do_collection()
    return status_code, status_msg, kwargs

def after(**kwargs):
    """(optional) Final postprocessing of the generated profile"""
    return status_code, status_msg, kwargs

For full explanation how to register and create a new collector module refer to Creating your own Collector.

Custom Postprocessor

Postprocessors in general work the same as collectors and can be broken to three phases as well. The required API to be implemented has a similar requirements and one needs to implement the following in the module:

def before(**kwargs):
    """(optional) Phase before execution of postprocessor"""
    return status_code, status_msg, kwargs

def postprocess(**kwargs):
    """Postprocessing of the profile---returned profile is in kwargs['profile']"""
    kwargs['profile'] = postprocessor.do_postprocessing()
    return status_code, status_msg, kwargs

def after(**kwargs):
    """(optional) Final postprocessing of the generated profile"""
    return status_code, status_msg, kwargs

For full explanation how to register and create a new postprocessor module refer to Creating your own Postprocessor.

Custom Visualization

New visualizations have to be based on the Specification of Profile Format (or its supported conversions, see Profile Conversions API) and has to just implement the following in the module:

import click
import perun.utils.helpers as helpers

def visualization_name(profile, **kwargs):
    """Display the profile in custom format"""

The Click library is used for command line interface. For full explanation how to register and create a new collector module refer to Creating your own Visualization.


We thank for the support received from Red Hat (especially branch of Brno), Brno University of Technology (BUT FIT) and H2020 ECSEL project Aquas.

Further we would like to thank the following individuals (in the alphabetic order) for their (sometimes even just a little) contributions:

  • Jan Fiedor (Honeywell)—for feedback, and technical discussions;
  • Martin Hruska (BUT FIT)—for feedback, and technical discussions;
  • Petr Müller (SAP)—for nice discussion about the project;
  • Michal Kotoun (BUT FIT)—for feedback, and having faith in this repo;
  • Hanka Pluhackova (BUT FIT)—for awesome logo, theoretical discussions about statistics, feedback, and lots of ideas;
  • Adam Rogalewicz (BUT FIT)—for support, theoretical discussions, feedback;
  • Tomas Vojnar (BUT FIT)—for support, theoretical discussions, feedback;
  • Jan Zeleny (Red Hat)—for awesome support, and feedback.