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System Activity Reporter (sar)

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Performance Monitoring memtool vmstat iostat Sarcheck Humor Etc


The System Activity Recorder (sar) and related suite of utilities originated in Solaris. Later it was ported to all major flavors of UNIX, including AIX, HP-UX, and Linux.  Sysstat package is installed by default in standard Red Hat installation. For Suse it is not installed by default and you need to install sysstat package manually (package is provided by Novell).

It is important to note that sar is an very good monitoring package, capabilities of which are usually severely underutilized. Very few system administrators have a habit of weekly looking at SAR logs (see SAR reports).  Moreover it often provide more reliable information then commercial packages that cost considerable money.  It can discover various bottlenecks and is the simplest tool to decide if the server need hardware upgrade of not. And hardware upgrades in a typical datacenter are a highly politically charged thing, so having some more or less solid reference to an actual performance of the server greatly helps.

The reason for sar creation was that gathering system activity data from vmstat and iostat is pretty time-consuming. If you try to automate the gathering of system activity data, and creation of periodic repots you naturally come to creation of a tool like sar. To avoid reinventing the bicycle again and again, Sun engineers wrote sar (System Activity Reporter) and included it in standard Solaris distribution. The rest is history.


Monitored parameters

Monitored parameters are hardwired into sar.  You can monitor half-dozen metrics related to overall system performance, for example:

  1. cpu utilization (it's pretty effective tool for spotting CPU bottlenecks)
  2. hard disk utilization
  3. terminal IO
  4. number of files open
  5. processes running

It also provides queuing, paging, CPU and several other important for judging performance of the particular server metrics. Modern Unixes maintains a series of system activity counters that record various activities and provide those data to sar. The command merely extracts the values of the counters and saves them based on the sampling rate and the set of samples specified. Naturally it does it more efficiently (and sometimes more correctly) then custom shell or Perl scripts.

Structure of the package

The package consists of two programs sarc and sar:

Enabling sar

Sar is not enabled by default.  To enable sar, you must include invocation of two of its components (sadc and sar) at selected intervals  in cron. Usually sadc is evoked via sa1 script and sar via sa2 script). 

In Linux this is done with the installation of the package sysstat. 

On Solaris 9 and 10 it is preinstalled, but you need un-comment lines in the start script (/etc/rc2.d/S21perf) and crontab file (/var/spool/cron/crontabs/sys) associated with the tool. If sar is activated the crontab for root should contain something like this:

# Collect measurements at 10-minute intervals
0,10,20,30,40,50   * * * *   /usr/lib/sa/sa1
# Create daily reports and purge old files
0 * * *   /usr/lib/sa/sa2 -A

Note: Not all  linux distributions install sysstat  package which contains sar by default. For example in Suse you need to  install and activate sysstat package manually (see also Linux implementation of sar) :

The sysstat package contains the sar, sadf, iostat, mpstat, and pidstat commands for Linux. The sar command collects and reports system activity information. The statistics reported by sar concern I/O transfer rates, paging activity, process-related activites, interrupts, network activity, memory and swap space utilization, CPU utilization, kernel activities, and TTY statistics, among others. The sadf command may be used to display data collected by sar in various formats. The iostat command reports CPU statistics and I/O statistics for tty devices and disks. The pidstat command reports statistics for Linux processes. The mpstat command reports global and per-processor statistics.

SAR reports

Here we will use Linux as an example.

The utility that writes data to disk is the binary utility /usr/lib64/sa/sadc It is called system activity data collector binary, and it serves as a backend to the sar command (generator of human readable reports).

By default /usr/lib64/sa/sadc writes binary log of kernel data to the /var/log/sa/sadd  file, where the dd parameter is the current day (two digits in the range 01-31). 

This activity is controlled by cron script sysstat, which is stored in /etc/cron.d/systat and is installed with the installation of the package. 

The utility /usr/bin/sar  is the command that generates human readable report from binary "sa" file created by utility /usr/lib64/sa/sadc 

When  script /usr/lib64/sa/sa2 in invoked from cron it writes report to /var/log/sa directory. This "human readable" report has prefix sar and it it easy to confuse it with binary files with prefix sa. I did it multiple times. So it is important to understand the difference:

So for  July 5, the report created by sar will be /var/log/sa/sar05. While the source binary report is /var/log/sa/sa05

Number of days preserved are controlled by /etc/sysconfig/sysstat file. Default is 28.

Daily "human readable" report typically is around 1 MB.

To print those data in human readable format from "sa" binary files you need to invoke the utility sar with option -f and specify binary file in question. For example:    

sar -u -f  /var/log/sa/sa05 > report05

Alternative implementations

There are several alternative script/programs for reporting sar data. Among them:

There are also alternative implementations:

Side effects

Any tool that collects performance data has some impact on system performance, but with sar, it seems to be minimal. Even one minute sampling usually does not cause any serious issues. That may not hold true on a system that is very busy.

Additional information

For more details see:


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[Jun 27, 2010] The sar command


The sar command only formats input generated by the sadc command (sar data collector). The sadc command acquires statistics mainly from the Perfstat kernel extension (kex) (see 41.1, "Perfstat API" on page 786). The operating system contains a number of counters that are incremented as various system actions occur. The various system counters include: The sadc command samples system data a specified number of times at a specified interval measured in seconds. It writes in binary format to the specified output file or to stdout. When neither the measuring interval nor the interval number are specified, a dummy record, which is used at system startup to mark the time when the counter restarts from zero (0), will be written. 9.2 Examples

[Jun 27, 2010] Performance Analysis Tools for Linux Developers

[Aug 11, 2009] SYSSTAT Howto A Deployment and Configuration Guide for Linux Servers

SYSSTAT is a software application comprised of several tools that offers advanced system performance monitoring. It provides the ability to create a measurable baseline of server performance, as well as the capability to formulate, accurately assess and conclude what led up to an issue or unexpected occurrence. In short, it lets you peel back layers of the system to see how it's doing... in a way it is the blinking light telling you what is going on, except it blinks to a file. SYSSTAT has broad coverage of performance statistics and will watch the following server elements:

(List source -


This article covers a brief overview of how the SYSSTAT utility works, initial configuration, deployment and testing on Linux based servers. It includes an optional system configuration guide for writing SYSSTAT data into a MySQL database. This article is not intended to be an in-depth explanation of the inner workings of SYSSTAT, nor a detailed manual on database storage operations.

Now... on to the interesting parts of SYSSTAT!


The SYSSTAT software application is composed of several utilities. Each utility has a specific function:

(List source -

The four main components used in collection activities are sar, sa1, sa2 and cron. Sar is the system activity reporter. This tool will display interpreted results from the collected data. Sar is ran interactively by an administrator via command line. When a sar file is created, it is written into the /var/log/sa directory and named sar##. The ## is a numerical value that represents the day of the month (i.e. sa03 would be the third day of the month). The numerical value changes accordingly without system administrator intervention. There are many option flags to choose from to display data in a sar file to view information about server operations, such as cpu, network activity, NFS and sockets. These options can be viewed by reviewing the man pages of sar.

Sa1 is the internal mechanism that performs the actual statistical collection and writes the data to a binary file at specified times. Information is culled from the /proc directory where the Linux kernel writes and maintains pertinent data while the operating system is running. Similar to sar, the binary file is written into /var/log/sa and named sa##. Again, the ## represents the day of the month (i.e. sar03 would be the third day of the month). Once more, the numerical value changes accordingly without system administrator intervention.

Sa2 is responsible for converting the sa1 binary file into a human readable format. Upon successful creation of the binary file sa## it becomes necessary to set up a cron task that will call the sa2 libraries to convert the sa1 binary file into the human-readable sar file. SYSSTAT utilizes the scheduled cron command execution to draw and record specified performance data based upon pre-defined parameters. It is not necessary to run the sa2 cron at the same time or as often as the sa1 cron. The sa2 function will create and write the sar file to the /var/log/sa directory.

How often SYSSTAT "wakes up" to record and what data is captured, is determined by your operational needs, regulatory requirements and purposes of the server being monitored. These logs can be rotated to a central logging server and stored for analysis at a later date if desired.


Display CPU Statistics using Sar Command

# sar –u

Linux 2.6.9-42.ELsmp (dev-db) 01/01/2009

12:00:01 AM CPU %user %nice %system %iowait %idle

12:05:01 AM all 3.70 0.00 0.85 0.00 95.45

12:10:01 AM all 4.59 0.00 1.19 0.06 94.16

12:15:01 AM all 3.90 0.00 0.95 0.04 95.11

12:20:01 AM all 4.06 0.00 1.00 0.01 94.93

12:25:01 AM all 3.89 0.00 0.87 0.00 95.23

12:30:01 AM all 3.89 0.00 0.87 0.00 95.23


Average: all 4.56 0.00 1.00 0.15 94.29

Note: If you need a break down of the performance data for the individual CPU's, execute the following command.

# sar -u -P ALL

Display Disk IO Statistics using sar command

# sar –d

Linux 2.6.9-42.ELsmp (dev-db) 01/01/2009

12:00:01 AM DEV tps rd_sec/s wr_sec/s

12:05:01 AM dev2-0 1.65 1.28 45.43

12:10:01 AM dev8-1 4.08 8.11 21.81


Average: dev2-0 4.66 120.77 69.45

Average: dev8-1 1.89 3.17 8.02

Display networking Statistics using sar command

# sar -n DEV | more

Linux 2.6.9-42.ELsmp (dev-db) 01/01/2009

12:00:01 AM IFACE rxpck/s txpck/s rxbyt/s txbyt/s rxcmp/s txcmp/

s rxmcst/s

12:05:01 AM lo 0.17 0.16 25.31 23.33 0.00 0.0

0 0.00

12:10:01 AM eth0 52.92 53.64 10169.74 12178.57 0.00 0.0

0 0.00

# sar -n SOCK |more

Linux 2.6.9-42.ELsmp (dev-db) 01/01/2009

12:00:01 AM totsck tcpsck udpsck rawsck ip-frag

12:05:01 AM 50 13 3 0 0

12:10:01 AM 50 13 4 0 0

[May 23, 2009] CLI Magic Tracking system performance with sar By Keith Winston

March 20, 2006
Sadc (system activity data collector) is the program that gathers performance data. It pulls its data out of the virtual /proc filesystem, then it saves the data in a file (one per day) named /var/log/sa/saDD where DD is the day of the month.

Two shell scripts from the sysstat package control how the data collector is run. The first script, sa1, controls how often data is collected, while sa2 creates summary reports (one per day) in /var/log/sa/sarDD. Both scripts are run from cron. In the default configuration, data is collected every 10 minutes and summarized just before midnight.

If you suspect a performance problem with a particular program, you can use sadc to collect data on a particular process (with the -x argument), or its children (-X), but you will need to set up a custom script using those flags.

As Dr. Heisenberg showed, the act of measuring something changes it. Any tool that collects performance data has some overall negative impact on system performance, but with sar, the impact seems to be minimal. I ran a test with the sa1 cron job set to gather data every minute (on a server that was not busy) and it didn't cause any serious issues. That may not hold true on a busy system.

Creating reports

If the daily summary reports created by the sa2 script are not enough, you can create your own custom reports using sar. The sar program reads data from the current daily data file unless you specify otherwise. To have sar read a particular data file, use the -f /var/log/sa/saDD option. You can select multiple files by using multiple -f options. Since many of sar's reports are lengthy, you may want to pipe the output to a file.

To create a basic report showing CPU usage and I/O wait time percentage, use sar with no flags. It produces a report similar to this:

01:10:00 PM       CPU     %user     %nice   %system   %iowait     %idle
01:20:00 PM       all      7.78      0.00      3.34     20.94     67.94
01:30:00 PM       all      0.75      0.00      0.46      1.71     97.08
01:40:00 PM       all      0.65      0.00      0.48      1.63     97.23
01:50:00 PM       all      0.96      0.00      0.74      2.10     96.19
02:00:00 PM       all      0.58      0.00      0.54      1.87     97.01
02:10:00 PM       all      0.80      0.00      0.60      1.27     97.33
02:20:01 PM       all      0.52      0.00      0.37      1.17     97.94
02:30:00 PM       all      0.49      0.00      0.27      1.18     98.06
Average:          all      1.85      0.00      0.44      2.56     95.14

If the %idle is near zero, your CPU is overloaded. If the %iowait is large, your disks are overloaded.

To check the kernel's paging performance, use sar -B, which will produce a report similar to this:

11:00:00 AM  pgpgin/s pgpgout/s   fault/s  majflt/s
11:10:00 AM      8.90     34.08      0.00      0.00
11:20:00 AM      2.65     26.63      0.00      0.00
11:30:00 AM      1.91     34.92      0.00      0.00
11:40:01 AM      0.26     36.78      0.00      0.00
11:50:00 AM      0.53     32.94      0.00      0.00
12:00:00 PM      0.17     30.70      0.00      0.00
12:10:00 PM      1.22     27.89      0.00      0.00
12:20:00 PM      4.11    133.48      0.00      0.00
12:30:00 PM      0.41     31.31      0.00      0.00
Average:       130.91     27.04      0.00      0.00

Raw paging numbers may not be of concern, but a high number of major faults (majflt/s) indicate that the system needs more memory. Note that majflt/s is only valid with kernel versions 2.5 and later.

For network statistics, use sar -n DEV. The -n DEV option tells sar to generate a report that shows the number of packets and bytes sent and received for each interface. Here is an abbreviated version of the report:

11:00:00 AM     IFACE   rxpck/s   txpck/s   rxbyt/s   txbyt/s
11:10:00 AM        lo      0.62      0.62     35.03     35.03
11:10:00 AM      eth0     29.16     36.71   4159.66  34309.79
11:10:00 AM      eth1      0.00      0.00      0.00      0.00
11:20:00 AM        lo      0.29      0.29     15.85     15.85
11:20:00 AM      eth0     25.52     32.08   3535.10  29638.15
11:20:00 AM      eth1      0.00      0.00      0.00      0.00

To see network errors, try sar -n EDEV, which shows network failures.

Reports on current activity

Sar can also be used to view what is happening with a specific subsystem, such as networking or I/O, almost in real time. By passing a time interval (in seconds) and a count for the number of reports to produce, you can take an immediate snapshot of a system to find a potential bottleneck.

For example, to see the basic report every second for the next 10 seconds, use sar 1 10. You can run any of the reports this way to see near real-time results.


Even if you have plenty of horsepower to run your applications, you can use sar to track changes in the workload over time. To do this, save the summary reports (sar only saves seven) to a different directory over a period of a few weeks or a month. This set of reports can serve as a baseline for the normal system workload. Then compare new reports against the baseline to see how the workload is changing over time. You can automate your comparison reports with AWK or your favorite programming language.

In large systems management, benchmarking is important to predict when and how hardware should be upgraded. It also provides ammunition to justify your hardware upgrade requests.

Digging deeper

In my experience, most hardware performance problems are related to the disks, memory, or CPU. Perhaps more frequently, application programming errors or poorly designed databases cause serious performance issues.

Whatever the problems, sar and friends can give you a comprehensive view of how things are working and help track down bottlenecks to fix a sluggish system. The examples here just scratch the surface of what sar can do. If you take a look at the man pages, it should be easy to customize a set of reports for your needs.

Project details for ksar


ksar is a sar graphing tool that can graph Linux, Mac OS X, AIX, and Solaris sar output. A sar statistics graph can be output to a PDF file.

Project details for atsar

The atsar command can be used to detect performance bottlenecks on Linux systems. It is similar to the sar command on other UNIX platforms. Atsar has the ability to show what is happening on the system at a given moment. It also keeps track of the past system load by maintaining history files from which information can be extracted. Statistics about the utilization of CPUs, disks and disk partitions, memory and swap, tty's, TCP/IP (v4/v6), NFS, and FTP/HTTP traffic are gathered. Most of the functionality of atsar has been incorporated in the atop project.

Gerlof Langeveld [contact developer]

Project details for Sar P Plot

Perl based

Sar P Plot is a simple application which takes the output of the atsar application and puts it into Gnuplot data files. It can be useful on server systems for performance analysis.

Project details for BSDsar

Perl scripts for processing sar data

BSDsar generates a history of usage on a FreeBSD machine. It logs data such as CPU usage, disk activity, network bandwidth usage and activity, NFS information, memory, and swap. It is similar to atsar (for Linux) and sar (for Solaris).

Red Hat Linux-Specific Information The sadc command

As stated earlier, the sadc command collects system utilization data and writes it to a file for later analysis. By default, the data is written to files in the /var/log/sa/ directory. The files are named sa<dd>, where <dd> is the current day's two-digit date.

sadc is normally run by the sa1 script. This script is periodically invoked by cron via the file sysstat, which is located in /etc/crond.d. The sa1 script invokes sadc for a single one-second measuring interval. By default, cron runs sa1 every 10 minutes, adding the data collected during each interval to the current /var/log/sa/sa<dd> file. The sar command

The sar command produces system utilization reports based on the data collected by sadc. As configured in Red Hat Linux, sar is automatically run to process the files automatically collected by sadc. The report files are written to /var/log/sa/ and are named sar<dd>, where <dd> is the two-digit representations of the previous day's two-digit date.

sar is normally run by the sa2 script. This script is periodically invoked by cron via the file sysstat, which is located in /etc/crond.d. By default, cron runs sa2 once a day at 23:53, allowing it to produce a report for the entire day's data. Reading sar Reports

The format of a sar report produced by the default Red Hat Linux configuration consists of multiple sections, with each section containing a specific type of data, ordered by the time of day that the data was collected. Since sadc is configured to perform a one-second measurement interval every ten minutes, the default sar reports contain data in ten-minute increments, from 00:00 to 23:50[2].

Each section of the report starts with a heading that illustrates the data contained in the section. The heading is repeated at regular intervals throughout the section, making it easier to interpret the data while paging through the report. Each section ends with a line containing the average of the data reported in that section.

Here is a sample section sar report, with the data from 00:30 through 23:40 removed to save space:

00:00:01          CPU     %user     %nice   %system     %idle
00:10:00          all      6.39      1.96      0.66     90.98
00:20:01          all      1.61      3.16      1.09     94.14
23:50:01          all     44.07      0.02      0.77     55.14
Average:          all      5.80      4.99      2.87     86.34

In this section, CPU utilization information is displayed. This is very similar to the data displayed by iostat.

Other sections may have more than one line's worth of data per time, as shown by this section generated from CPU utilization data collected on a dual-processor system:

00:00:01          CPU     %user     %nice   %system     %idle
00:10:00            0      4.19      1.75      0.70     93.37
00:10:00            1      8.59      2.18      0.63     88.60
00:20:01            0      1.87      3.21      1.14     93.78
00:20:01            1      1.35      3.12      1.04     94.49
23:50:01            0     42.84      0.03      0.80     56.33
23:50:01            1     45.29      0.01      0.74     53.95
Average:            0      6.00      5.01      2.74     86.25
Average:            1      5.61      4.97      2.99     86.43

There are a total of seventeen different sections present in reports generated by the default Red Hat Linux sar configuration; many are discussing in upcoming chapters. For more information about the data contained in each section, see the sar(1) man page.


[1] Device major numbers can be found by using ls -l to display the desired device file in /dev/. Here is sample output from ls -l /dev/hda:
brw-rw----    1 root     disk       3,   0 Aug 30 19:31 /dev/hda

The major number in this example is 3, and appears between the file's group and its minor number.

[2] Due to changing system loads, the actual time that the data was collected may vary by a second or two.

[Feb 2, 2008] - UNIX SYSTEM ADMINISTRATION - Introducing SAR

An underused tool for looking into system performance, the sar command samples system activity counters available in the Unix kernel and prepares reports. Like most tools for measuring performance, sar provides a lot of data but little analysis, which probably explains why it doesn't get much more of a workout. It's up to the user to interpret the numbers and determine how a system is performing (or what is slowing it down).

Some companies bridge the gap between an excessive amount of available data and the bottom line system performance by creating or employing evaluation tools for the raw numbers and preparing a report that provides conclusions, not just numbers. SarCheck (a tool available from Aptitune Corporation) is one such tool. It provides some of the performance insights that might otherwise only be available to those staffs blessed by the presence of a performance specialist.

The sar command can be thought of as running in two modes: interactive or "real-time". "Real-time" mode reports on the system's current activity and "historical", which uses data previously collected and stored in log files. In both cases, the reports reflect data that is routinely collected in the kernel but, in the latter case, this data is sampled and stored so that past performance can be analyzed.

sar is not strictly a Solaris tool, either. It's available in other flavors of Unix as well, though configuration and default behavior may vary between implementations. RedHat Linux systems collect system activity data routinely and save it in files in the /var/log/sa directory. Solaris systems come prepared for running sar in either mode, but collection of data in performance logs must be specifically invoked by un-commenting lines in the start script (/etc/rc2.d/S21perf) and crontab file (/var/spool/cron/crontabs/sys) associated with the tool.

The Solaris package containing the sar commands is called SUNWaccu. The interactive and historical versions of the sar command differ only in where the data is coming from -- from the kernel moment by moment or from one of the log files containing previously collected performance data.

[Aug 18, 2006] How To Monitor A System With Sysstat On Centos 4.3 HowtoForge - Linux Howtos and Tutorials

A common task for System Administrators is to monitor and care for a server. That's fairly easy to do at a moment's notice, but how to keep a record of this information over time? One way to monitor your server is to use the Sysstat package.

Sysstat is actually a collection of utilities designed to collect information about the performance of a linux installation, and record them over time.

It's fairly easy to install too, since it is included as a package on many distributions.

To install on Centos 4.3, just type the following:

yum install sysstat

We now have the sysstat scripts installed on the system. Lets try the sar command.


Linux 2.6.16-xen (xen30)        08/17/2006

11:00:02 AM       CPU     %user     %nice   %system   %iowait     %idle
11:10:01 AM       all      0.00      0.00      0.00      0.00     99.99
Average:          all      0.00      0.00      0.00      0.00     99.99

Several bits of information, such as Linux kernel, hostname, and date are reported.
More importantly, the various ways CPU time being spent on the system is shown.

The information above is shown for a 1 second interval. How can we keep track of that information over time?

If our system was consistently running heavy in %iowait, we might surmise that a disk was getting overloaded, or going bad.

At least, we would know to investigate.

So how do we track the information over time? We can schedule sar to run at regular intervals, say, every 10 minutes.

We then direct it to send the output to sysstat's special log files for later reports.
The way to do this is with the Cron daemon.

By creating a file called sysstat in /etc/cron.d, we can tell cron to run sar every day.
Fortunately, the Systat package that yum installed already did this step for us.

more /etc/cron.d/sysstat

# run system activity accounting tool every 10 minutes
*/10 * * * * root /usr/lib/sa/sa1 1 1
# generate a daily summary of process accounting at 23:53
53 23 * * * root /usr/lib/sa/sa2 -A

The sa1 script logs sar output into sysstat’s binary log file format, and sa2 reports it back in human readable format. The report is written to a file in /var/log/sa.

ls /var/log/sa

sa17  sar17

sa17 is the binary sysstat log, sar17 is the report. (Today's date is the 17th)

There is quite alot of information contained in the sar report, but there are a few values that can tell us how busy the server is.

Values to watch are swap usage, disk IO wait, and the run queue. These can be obtained by running sar manually, which will report on those values.


Linux 2.6.16-xen (xen30)        08/17/2006

11:00:02 AM       CPU     %user     %nice   %system   %iowait     %idle
11:10:01 AM       all      0.00      0.00      0.00      0.00     99.99
11:20:01 AM       all      0.00      0.00      0.00      0.00    100.00
11:30:02 AM       all      0.01      0.26      0.19      1.85     97.68
11:39:20 AM       all      0.00      2.41      2.77      0.53     94.28
11:40:01 AM       all      1.42      0.00      0.18      3.24     95.15
Average:          all      0.03      0.62      0.69      0.64     98.02

There were a few moments where of disk activity was high in the %iowait column, but it didn't stay that way for too long. An average of 0.64 is pretty good.

How about my swap usage, am I running out of Ram? Being swapped out is normal for the Linux kernel, which will swap from time to time. Constant swapping is bad, and generally means you need more Ram.

sar -W

Linux 2.6.16-xen (xen30)        08/17/2006

11:00:02 AM  pswpin/s pswpout/s
11:10:01 AM      0.00      0.00
11:20:01 AM      0.00      0.00
11:30:02 AM      0.00      0.00
11:39:20 AM      0.00      0.00
11:40:01 AM      0.00      0.00
11:50:01 AM      0.00      0.00
Average:         0.00      0.00

Nope, we are looking good. No persistant swapping has taken place.

How about system load? Are my processes waiting too long to run on the CPU?

sar -q

Linux 2.6.16-xen (xen30)        08/17/2006

11:00:02 AM   runq-sz  plist-sz   ldavg-1   ldavg-5  ldavg-15
11:10:01 AM         0        47      0.00      0.00      0.00
11:20:01 AM         0        47      0.00      0.00      0.00
11:30:02 AM         0        47      0.28      0.21      0.08
11:39:20 AM         0        45      0.01      0.24      0.17
11:40:01 AM         0        46      0.07      0.22      0.17
11:50:01 AM         0        46      0.00      0.02      0.07
Average:            0        46      0.06      0.12      0.08

No, an average load of .06 is really good. Notice that there is a 1, 5, and 15 minute interval on the right.

Having the three time intervals gives you a feel for how much load the system is carrying.
A 3 or 4 in the 1 minute average is ok, but the same number in the 15 minute
column may indicate that work is not clearing out, and that a closer look is warranted.

This was a short look at the Sysstat package.

We only looked at the out put of three of sar's attributes, but there are others.
Now, armed with sar in your toolbox, your system administration job just became a little easier.

This page is released into the public domain.

Optimizing AIX 5L performance Monitoring your CPU, Part 2

Using sar

The next command, sar, is the UNIX System Activity Reporting tool (part of the bos.acct fileset). It has been around for what seems like forever in the UNIX world. This command essentially writes to standard output the contents of the cumulative activity, which you would have selected as its flag. For example, the following command using the -u flag reports CPU statistics. As with vmstat, if you are using shared partitioning in a virtualized environment, it reports back two additional columns of information; physc and entc, which define the number of physical processors consumed by the partitions as well as the percentage of entitled capacity utilized.

I ran this command on the system (see Listing 3) when there were no users around. Unless there were some batch jobs running, I would not expect to see a lot of activity.

Listing 3. Running sar with no users around

# sar -u 1 5 (or sar 1 5)

AIX test01 3 5     03/18/07

System configuration: lcpu=2 

17:36:53    %usr    %sys    %wio   %idle   physc
17:36:54       0       0       0     100    2.00
17:36:55       1       0       0     99     2.00
17:36:56       0       0       0     100    2.00
17:36:57       0       0       0     100    2.00
17:36:58       0       0       0     100    2.00

Average        0       0       0     100    2.00

Clearly, this system also shows no CPU bottleneck to speak of.

The columns used above are similar to vmstat entry outputs. The following table correlates sar and vmstat descriptives (see Table 1).

Table 1. sar output fields and the corresponding vmstat field

sar vmstat
%usr us
%sys sy
%wio wa
%idle id

One of the reasons I prefer vmstat to sar is that it gives you the CPU utilization information, and it provides overall monitoring information on memory and I/O. With sar, you need to run separate commands to pull the information. One advantage that sar gives you is the ability to capture daily information and to run reports on this information (without writing your own script to do so). It does this by using a process called the System Activity Data Collector, which is essentially a back-end to the sar command. When enabled, usually through cron (on a default AIX partition, you would usually find it commented out), it collects data periodically in binary format.

[PDF] Identifying I/O Bottlenecks Under UNIX

[Feb 28, 2006] Easy system monitoring with SAR by Sean Walberg

Extracting useful information

Data is being collected, but it must be queried to be useful. Running the sar command without options generates basic statistics about CPU usage for the current day. Listing 2 shows the output of sar without any parameters. (You might see different column names depending on the platform. In some UNIX flavors, sadc collects more or less data based on what's available.) The examples here are from Sun Solaris 10; whatever platform you're using will be similar, but might have slightly different column names.

Listing 2. Default output of sar (showing CPU usage
-bash-3.00$ sar

SunOS unknown 5.10 Generic_118822-23 sun4u    01/20/2006

00:00:01    %usr    %sys    %wio   %idle
00:10:00       0       0       0     100
. cut ...
09:30:00       4      47       0      49

Average        0       1       0      98

Each line in the output of sar is a single measurement, with the timestamp in the left-most column. The other columns hold the data. (These columns vary depending on the command-line arguments you use.) In Listing 2, the CPU usage is broken into four categories:

The last line is an average of all the datapoints. However, because most systems experience busy periods followed by idle periods, the average doesn't tell the entire story.

Watching disk activity

Disk activity is also monitored. High disk usage means that there will be a greater chance that an application requesting data from disk will block (pause) until the disk is ready for that process. The solution typically involves splitting file systems across disks or arrays; however, the first step is to know that you have a problem.

The output of sar -d shows various disk-related statistics for one measurement period. For the sake of brevity, Listing 3 shows only hard disk drive activity.

Listing 3. Output of sar -d (showing disk activity)

$ sar -d

SunOS unknown 5.10 Generic_118822-23 sun4u    01/22/2006

00:00:01   device       %busy   avque   r+w/s  blks/s  avwait  avserv
. cut ...
14:00:02   dad0             31     0.6      78   16102     1.9     5.3
           dad0,c            0     0.0       0       0     0.0     0.0
           dad0,h           31     0.6      78   16102     1.9     5.3
           dad1              0     0.0       0       1     1.6     1.3
           dad1,a            0     0.0       0       1     1.6     1.3
           dad1,b            0     0.0       0       0     0.0     0.0
           dad1,c            0     0.0       0       0     0.0     0.0

As in the previous example, the time is along the left. The other columns are as follows:

Some of these numbers, such as avwait and avserv values, correlate directly into user experience. High wait times on the disk likely point to several people contending for the disk, which should be confirmed with high avque numbers. High avserv values point to slow disks.

Other metrics

Many other items are collected, with corresponding arguments to view them:

Each UNIX flavor implements its own set of measurements and command-line arguments for sar. Those I've shown are common and represent the elements that I find more useful.

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Sar in UNIX - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


This page has news, information, documentation and links software for the sysstat utilities that I created for Linux. The sysstat utilities are a collection of performance monitoring tools for Linux. These include sar, sadf, mpstat, iostat, pidstat and sa tools. Go to the Features page to display a list of sysstat's features, or see the Documentation page to learn some more about them.

Easy system monitoring with SAR by Sean Walberg

Feb 28, 2006 | IBM DeveloperWorks

How To Monitor A System With Sysstat On Centos 4.3 HowtoForge - Linux Howtos and Tutorials by Quantact-Tim CLI Magic Tracking system performance with sar - UNIX SYSTEM ADMINISTRATION - Introducing SAR

[PDF] Solaris Performance monitoring - sar - NCCCS Systems Office Wiki Project details for BSDsar

BSDsar generates a history of usage on a FreeBSD machine. It logs data such as CPU usage, disk activity, network bandwidth usage and activity, NFS information, memory, and swap. It is similar to atsar (for Linux) and sar (for Solaris). Project details for atsar

The atsar command can be used to detect performance bottlenecks on Linux systems. It is similar to the sar command on other UNIX platforms. Atsar has the ability to show what is happening on the system at a given moment. It also keeps track of the past system load by maintaining history files from which information can be extracted. Statistics about the utilization of CPUs, disks and disk partitions, memory and swap, tty's, TCP/IP (v4/v6), NFS, and FTP/HTTP traffic are gathered. Most of the functionality of atsar has been incorporated in the atop project.

Gerlof Langeveld [contact developer]

Sar Report Generators Project details for Sar P Plot

Sar P Plot is a simple application which takes the output of the atsar application and puts it into Gnuplot data files. It can be useful on server systems for performance analysis. Project details for BSDsar

Perl scripts for processing sar data

BSDsar generates a history of usage on a FreeBSD machine. It logs data such as CPU usage, disk activity, network bandwidth usage and activity, NFS information, memory, and swap. It is similar to atsar (for Linux) and sar (for Solaris).


Solaris troubleshooting - sar

The word "sar" is used to refer to two related items:

  1. The system activity report package
  2. The system activity reporter

System Activity Report Package

This facility stores a great deal of performance data about a system. This information is invaluable when attempting to identify the source of a performance problem.

The Report Package can be enabled by uncommenting the appropriate lines in the sys crontab. The sa1 program stores performance data in the /var/adm/sa directory. sa2 writes reports from this data, and sadc is a more general version of sa1.

In practice, I do not find that the sa2-produced reports are terribly useful in most cases. Depending on the issue being examined, it may be sufficient to run sa1 at intervals that can be set in the sys crontab.

Alternatively, sar can be used on the command line to look at performance over different time slices or over a constricted period of time:

sar -A -o outfile 5 2000

(Here, "5" represents the time slice and "2000" represents the number of samples to be taken. "outfile" is the output file where the data will be stored.)

The data from this file can be read by using the "-f" option (see below).

System Activity Reporter

sar has several options that allow it to process the data collected by sa1 in different ways:



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