Digging into PVS with PoolMon and WPA

An article by Nick Rintalan from Citrix Blogs

In case you missed it a couple weeks ago, Andrew Morgan (one of our CTPs), posted a great article on how to accurately determine the size of the new RAM Cache.

As Andrew pointed out in his article, we now use nonpaged pool memory, so it’s fairly easy to fire up PoolMon and investigate. But I wanted to clarify one thing since Andrew only commented on the key pooltag denoted by ‘VhdR’. (He said he reached out to Citrix for further insight, but received no response…so allow me to respond! ;) ) Andrew is spot-on that we use ‘VhdR’ for RAM cache allocation. But we also use ‘VhdL’ for internal metadata allocation, so that is the other pooltag to key on and grab for any scripting. It’s never going to be very large but I did want to point it out since it’s the other pooltag we use in case you want to incorporate it into any scripts.
Using WPA to Really Dig Into PVS

Working at Citrix has its benefits. One of those is being able to talk to the brilliant developers and product architects who write our code and get some “inside info.” In this case, I talked with Moso Lee, who really is the brains behind the new RAM Cache with Overflow to Disk technology (so we all have Moso to thank!)

We were talking about monitoring and debugging PVS and he quickly pointed out that we’ve always had an Event Provider for PVS (look for ‘VhdEtw.xml’ in the PVS installation directory). And if folks really want to go deep with PVS and identify performance bottlenecks, then you might consider using Windows Performance Analyzer (WPA). I’m not going to go into detail on how WPA or event tracking works, but I do want to provide a quick example on how to use this extremely powerful tool to truly understand and debug PVS. Because if you really want to understand how our PVS driver works, how we’re manipulating the storage stack or when we’re failing over and writing to the VHDX disk, for example, then this tool and article is for you! It’s certainly not for the average IT admin, but I know all the PVS geeks and filter driver gurus out there will love it.

Let’s get started.

As I mentioned earlier, PVS is an ETW provider for WPA. So, you’ll first want to grab the WPA which is part of the latest SDK for Windows 10. You can selectively install the Performance Toolkit as shown in the screenshot, which includes WPA and WPR.

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