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Device Finds HairLine Cracks In Code

Systems administrators often fly blind when trying to figure out what caused a systems glitch. "When software is running, it can't be seen," says Bryan Cantrill
Systems administrators often fly blind when trying to figure out what caused a systems glitch. "When software is running, it can't be seen," says Bryan Cantrill, senior staff engineer at Sun Microsystems, and the force behind a tool called DTrace, a dynamic tracing framework for the Solaris Operating Environment. "DTrace mechanisms allow you to see production software," so administrators can examine the history and inner workings of system code, he says.

It's the little things that often cause problems. "It's not the well-thought-out parts of the system that are failing you. It's the part of the system that you just tacked onto the side," Cantrill says.

cantrill

Sun's Bryan Cantrill came up with DTrace to help people solve system problems faster.

Sun is evolving DTrace to work with domain-specific languages that developers employ to target a particular kind of problem. "We need to be able to instrument the entire system and understand how [these languages] interact with these systems," Cantrill says.

His work on DTrace is garnering some smart attention. The 31-year-old has been named one of 35 top technology innovators under 35 in MIT's Technology Review.

There's a certain satisfaction when Cantrill sees his work improving the quality of life for those who use DTrace.

At one company, Cantrill says, IT staff spent months trying to resolve a problem troubling an IT system. After implementing DTrace, the late hours all but disappeared. "To get someone to tell you that, because of this software, they were able to go home at night to see their kids was tangible," he says. "We rarely get those kinds of moments."

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