10.4 What Is Deterministic Profiling?

Deterministic profiling is meant to reflect the fact that all function call, function return, and exception events are monitored, and precise timings are made for the intervals between these events (during which time the user's code is executing). In contrast, statistical profiling (which is not done by this module) randomly samples the effective instruction pointer, and deduces where time is being spent. The latter technique traditionally involves less overhead (as the code does not need to be instrumented), but provides only relative indications of where time is being spent.

In Python, since there is an interpreter active during execution, the presence of instrumented code is not required to do deterministic profiling. Python automatically provides a hook (optional callback) for each event. In addition, the interpreted nature of Python tends to add so much overhead to execution, that deterministic profiling tends to only add small processing overhead in typical applications. The result is that deterministic profiling is not that expensive, yet provides extensive run time statistics about the execution of a Python program.

Call count statistics can be used to identify bugs in code (surprising counts), and to identify possible inline-expansion points (high call counts). Internal time statistics can be used to identify ``hot loops'' that should be carefully optimized. Cumulative time statistics should be used to identify high level errors in the selection of algorithms. Note that the unusual handling of cumulative times in this profiler allows statistics for recursive implementations of algorithms to be directly compared to iterative implementations.

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