Raja R. Sambasivan, Ilari Shafer, Michelle Mazurek, Gregory R. Ganger
IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (Proc. Information Visualization 2013), Vol. 19, no. 12, Dec. 2013
Publication year: 2013

Distributed systems are complex to develop and administer, and performance problem diagnosis is particularly challenging. When performance degrades, the problem might be in any of the system’s many components or could be a result of poor interactions among them. Recent research efforts have created tools that automatically localize the problem to a small number of potential culprits, but research is needed to understand what visualization techniques work best for helping distributed systems developers understand and explore their results.  This paper compares the relative merits of three well-known visualization approaches (side-by-side, diff, and animation) in the context of presenting the results of one proven automated localization technique called {\it request-flow comparison}.  Via a 26-person user study, which included real distributed systems developers, we identify the unique benefits that each approach provides for different problem types and usage modes.