Chris Bargmann

Talk: Introduction into Go Profiling: Tools

In the dynamic landscape of software development, efficiency and performance are paramount. Profiling in Go offers a profound avenue for optimizing applications, ensuring they run smoothly and efficiently. This comprehensive guide explores the essentials of profiling in Go, from its relation to observability to practical tools and techniques for gathering critical profiling data.

Profiling in Software Development

Profiling stands at the core of understanding an application’s behavior, specifically its resource usage patterns. It transcends basic observability, providing a granular view of how applications consume CPU, memory, and other resources. This insight is invaluable for optimizing performance, reducing costs, and improving overall application health.

Observability lays the foundation for understanding system operations through logs, metrics, and traces. Profiling complements these pillars by offering detailed insights into resource utilization, essentially acting as the microscope through which we examine an application’s performance DNA.

Profiling data can be broadly categorized into two types: Space (Memory) Profiling and Time (CPU) Profiling. Memory profiling helps identify where and how memory is allocated and used, aiding in the detection of leaks and inefficient usage. CPU profiling, on the other hand, reveals where the application spends most of its execution time, highlighting hotspots and potential areas for optimization.

Profiling in Go

Go’s standard library is equipped with powerful profiling tools, designed to seamlessly integrate with the development workflow. Let’s explore the primary tools and methodologies for profiling Go applications.

testing Package for Profiling

The testing package in Go is not just for writing tests. It includes built-in support for profiling through benchmark tests. Here’s a quick overview of how to use it for gathering CPU and memory profiles:

// Example benchmark test for profiling
func BenchmarkGenerateRandomString(b *testing.B) {
    for i := 0; i < b.N; i++ {

To run the benchmark and collect a CPU profile, use the following command:

go test -bench=. -cpuprofile=cpu.out

Profiling with runtime/pprof

For more granular control over profiling data collection, runtime/pprof offers a programmatic interface. Developers can integrate profiling directly into their applications, enabling dynamic data collection based on specific conditions or events.

import "runtime/pprof"

func startCPUProfile() {
    f, err := os.Create("")
    if err != nil {
        log.Fatal("could not create CPU profile: ", err)
    if err := pprof.StartCPUProfile(f); err != nil {
        log.Fatal("could not start CPU profile: ", err)
    defer pprof.StopCPUProfile()

Web-based Profiling with net/http/pprof

The net/http/pprof package exposes profiling data via HTTP, making it accessible through simple web requests. This method is particularly useful for profiling live applications without the need for direct code instrumentation.

import _ "net/http/pprof"

func main() {
    go func() {
        log.Println(http.ListenAndServe("localhost:6060", nil))

Interpreting Profiling Data

Profiling data can be visualized and interpreted through various formats, such as top tables, icicle graphs, flame graphs, and flow diagrams. Each format offers a unique perspective on resource utilization, helping identify performance bottlenecks and optimization opportunities.

Interpreting profiling data is crucial for effective optimization. Tools like go tool pprof offer various commands and visualizations to analyze the collected data, from textual reports (top, list) to graphical views (flame graphs, icicle charts).

Gathering Profiling Data in Go

Gathering profiling data in Go applications can be achieved through code instrumentation using the tools mentioned above or via eBPF-based collection methods. While eBPF offers a non-intrusive approach, it lacks the runtime insights provided by direct instrumentation.

A few tips:


Profiling in Go is a powerful technique for performance optimization, providing deep insights into how an application utilizes system resources. By leveraging Go’s built-in tools and understanding how to interpret profiling data, your devs can significantly improve their applications’ efficiency and reliability.

For those eager to delve deeper into profiling in Go, the following resources offer extensive knowledge and practical examples:

Profiling may initially seem daunting, but with practice and the right tools, it becomes an indispensable part of the performance optimization toolkit. As we continue to build and scale our Go applications, let’s embrace profiling not just as a debugging exercise, but as a fundamental aspect of our development workflow.

#Go #Profiling #Observability