Tools for measuring real-time metrics

Various tools are available for measuring real-time metrics. Here are some tools along with example commands.


Some of the tools aren’t available on the OS, but can be installed via Debian packages. The package names are provided in the corresponding sections.

To install a Debian package:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install <package-name>


The cyclictest is most commonly used for benchmarking real-time systems, and providing precise measurements such as actual latency and maximum latency. It is included in the rt-tests Debian package.

sudo cyclictest --mlockall --smp --priority=80 --interval=200 --distance=0


  • --mlockall: Locks current and future memory allocations to prevent being paged out.

  • --smp: Sets options for standard testing on SMP systems.

  • --priority=80: Sets the priority of the first thread to 80. Each further thread gets a lower priority.

  • --interval=200: Sets the base interval of the thread(s) to 200 microseconds.

  • --distance=0: Sets the distance of thread intervals to 0 microseconds.

This command runs a test case that is relevant for most Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP) real-time systems.


dstat is a versatile tool for generating system resource statistics. The tool can be installed with the dstat Debian package.


On Ubuntu 24.04, the dstat command is provided by the pcp package and does not support the --top-init option.

dstat --time --top-int


  • --time: Enables time/date output.

  • --top-int: Shows most frequent interrupt.

This command displays system resource statistics with timestamps and shows most frequent interrupts.


The oslat program is designed to identify thread latency at the OS level caused by unexpected system scheduling or interruptions such as system ticks. It is included in the rt-tests Debian package.

sudo oslat --duration 30s --cpu-list 0-3 --cpu-main-thread 0 --rtprio 95 --workload-mem 10M --workload memmove


  • --duration 30s: Specifies the test duration of 30 seconds.

  • --cpu-list 0-3: Specifies CPUs 0 through 3 to run on. If none are specified, it runs on all cores.

  • --cpu-main-thread 0: Specifies CPU 0 as the CPU which the main thread runs on.

  • --rtprio 95: Indicates a priority of 95 from the SCHED_FIFO from a range of 1-99.

  • --workload-mem 10M: Sets the memory size for the workload to 10M.

  • --workload memmove: Specifies the type of workload. Options: no, memmove.

This command runs the oslat test and then prints the results, which include latency measurements for each core.


The ps command reports a snapshot of the current processes. It helps monitoring system resource usage.

ps -A --format psr,tid,pid,comm,%cpu,priority,nice -T | sort --general-numeric-sort | grep irq


  • -A: Selects all processes.

  • --format: Specifies user-defined format to display processor (psr), thread ID (tid), process ID (pid), command name (comm), CPU utilization of the process in percentage format (%cpu), kernel scheduling priority, and nice value.

  • -T: Shows the thread ID, possibly with process ID of the dispatchable entity (SPID) column.

This command lists formatted information about all processes. filtering the output to display lines related to interrupt requests (IRQs).


The perf is a performance analysis tool for Linux. It collects and reports statistics about system-wide performance metrics such as CPU migrations, CPU cycles, instructions, and branches. It is included in the linux-tools-common Debian package.

sudo perf stat dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/null count=1000000

With the above command, perf reports performance counter statistics for the execution of dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/null count=1000000, which reads 1 million null characters from /dev/zero and writes them to /dev/null. This command can be utilized for measuring latency during disk operations.


The stress-ng is a tool to load and stress a computer system. It was designed to exercise various physical subsystems of a computer as well as the various operating system kernel interfaces. This tool may be installed with the stress-ng Debian package.

sudo stress-ng --cpu 4 --vm 2 --hdd 1 --fork 8 --timeout 2m --metrics


  • --cpu 4: Starts 4 workers exercising the CPU by sequentially working through all the different CPU stress methods.

  • --vm 2: Starts 2 workers continuously calling mmap (2)/ munmap (2) and writing to the allocated memory.

  • --hdd 1: Starts 1 worker continually writing, reading and removing temporary files.

  • --fork 8: Starts 8 workers continually forking children that immediately exit.

  • --timeout 2m: Runs each stress test for at least 2 minutes.

  • --metrics: Outputs number of bogo operations in total performed by the stress processes.

This command runs the specified workload and prints measurements including the real time spent executing the stressor, numbers of bogo operations and CPU usage.


The watch command is useful for monitoring changes over time by executing a program periodically.

watch --interval 1 cat /proc/interrupts

With the --interval flag set to 1, the command updates the output every 1 second, providing a continuous stream of information from the /proc/interrupts file. This could be used to monitor real-time observation of system activities such as interrupts or status of processes.