The PerfGraph object holds timing data for MOOSE. The idea behind the design is to create a nested set of timing data that faithfully represents the call structure in MOOSE.

The performance graph is part of an ecosystem of objects:

  • PerfGraph: Holds the full graph and the routines for printing it out

  • PerfNode: Makes up each node in the graph and holds timing information for each section of code

  • PerfGuard: Scope guard used to active and deactivate timers

  • PerfGraphInterface: An interface class for gaining access to the PerfGraph for adding timers and pulling timing data

  • PerfGraphOutput: Responsible for printing out the graph

  • PerfGraphData: Postprocessor for outputing time from the graph

The PerfGraph works by registering "sections" of code using unique (std::string) names. The registration of a section returns a PerfID unique ID that is then used when referring to that section of code for starting and stopping timing. It's normal to save the PerfID in a member variable as a variable called *_timer.


PerfGraph based timing should NOT be used inside tight compute loops or anything called inside a tight compute loop (i.e. don't use it in computeQpResidual()). It takes about 1e-6 seconds for the timing itself to happen. That's in the MHz range... meaning that your calculation can't run any faster than that wherever this timer is! As a general rule... that means that you should have >1000 operations going on inside a timed section.

Inheriting From PerfGraphInterface

To use for timing, make sure that your system inherits from PerfGraphInterface. There are a couple of different constructors for PerfGraphInterface:

The first one allows you to pass in a MooseObject* and infer a "prefix" based on the type() of the object (the name of the object). The "prefix" is prependended to any call to registerTimedSection() to give uniform naming from each object

  PerfGraphInterface(const MooseObject * moose_object);

The second one allows you to pass in a MooseObject* and explicitly set a prefix:

  PerfGraphInterface(const MooseObject * moose_object, const std::string prefix);

The final one is for when your object is NOT a MooseObject inherited object. You explicitly pass in the PerfLog & (usually by retrieving it from the MooseApp) and explicitly set a prefix.

  PerfGraphInterface(PerfGraph & perf_graph, const std::string prefix = "");

Timing a Section

Timing a section is a two part process:

  1. Register the section and save off the PerfID

  2. Using the TIME_SECTION macro to start timing a PerfID


Registering the section of code to be timed is accomplished by calling:

  PerfID registerTimedSection(const std::string & section_name, const unsigned int level);

The section_name names the section of code. The prefix + section_name must be globally unique. level is the "log level" of the section. A higher number represents a more detailed log level. Here are some quick guidelines for selecting level:

  • 0: Just the "root" - the whole application time

  • 1: Minimal set of the most important routines (residual/jacobian computation, etc.)

  • 2: Important initialization routines (setting up the mesh, initializing the systems, etc.)

  • 3: More detailed information from levels 1 and 2

  • 4: This is where the Actions will start to print

  • 5: Fairly unimportant, or less used routines

  • 6: Routines that rarely take up much time

registerTimedSection() returns a PerfID that is a unique identifier that identifies that code section. This PerfID should typically get saved as a member variable of the class that is registering the section... this is normally done by initializing a PerfID member variable using registerTimedSection() in the initialization list of a constructor like so:

MyClass::MyClass() : _slow_function_timer(registerTimedSection("slowFunction")) {}


Once a timed section is registered and a PerfID is captured the section can be timed using the TIME_SECTION macro like so:

void slowFunction()

  // do all the things

What TIME_SECTION is doing is creating a PerfGuard object using the passed in PerfID. The PerfGuard tells the PerfGraph about the new scope and the timing is then started for that section. At the end of the function the PerfGuard dies and in the destructor it tells the PerfGraph to remove that scope. Timing this way means that it is exception safe and impossible to "foul up" because there are no "push/pop" methods to match.

Retrieving Time

An object that inherits from PerfGraphInterface can retrieve the time for a registered section by calling _perf_graph.getTime() (or _perf_graph.getSelf/Children/TotalTime()). These functions return a reference to where the time will be updated for that particular section. In the normal MOOSE way, the object should hold onto that reference and just use the value of it when it needs to know the time a section has taken. There is one small issue though... _perf_graph.updateTiming() should be called to ensure that the time held by the referene is up to date.

The PerfGraph Internals

The PerfGraph object's main purpose is to store the complete call-graph of PerfNodes and the current call-stack of PerfNodes. The graph is held by holding onto the _root_node. The _root_node (which is named App) is created at the time the PerfGraph is created (in the MooseApp constructor). All other scopes that are pushed into the graph are then children/descendents of the _root_node.

The call-stack is held within the _stack variable. The _stack is statically allocated to MAX_STACK_SIZE and _current_position is used to point at the most recent node on the stack. When a PerfGuard tells the PerfStack about a new scope the new scope is added a child to the PerfNode that is in the _current_position. _current_position is then incremented and the new PerfNode is put there.

When a scope is removed by the PerfGuard the _current_position is simply decremented - with no other action being necessrry.


Some other capability the PerfGraph has is the ability to print formatted tables displaying the values held in the graph. These normally shouldn't be called directly, but instead should be accessed using a PerfGraphOutput output object.

The print() method prints out an indented set of section names and shows their timing like so:

|                 Section                |   Self(s)  |    %   | Children(s) |    %   |  Total(s)  |    %   |
| App                                    |      0.004 |   1.95 |       0.207 |  98.05 |      0.212 | 100.00 |
|   FEProblem::computeUserObjects        |      0.000 |   0.07 |       0.000 |   0.00 |      0.000 |   0.07 |
|   FEProblem::solve                     |      0.014 |   6.59 |       0.119 |  56.44 |      0.133 |  63.03 |
|     FEProblem::computeResidualInternal |      0.000 |   0.01 |       0.079 |  37.45 |      0.079 |  37.45 |
|     FEProblem::computeJacobianInternal |      0.000 |   0.01 |       0.040 |  18.83 |      0.040 |  18.84 |
|     Console::outputStep                |      0.000 |   0.12 |       0.000 |   0.00 |      0.000 |   0.12 |
|   FEProblem::outputStep                |      0.000 |   0.04 |       0.001 |   0.42 |      0.001 |   0.46 |
|     PerfGraphOutput::outputStep        |      0.000 |   0.00 |       0.000 |   0.00 |      0.000 |   0.00 |
|     Console::outputStep                |      0.001 |   0.32 |       0.000 |   0.00 |      0.001 |   0.32 |
|     CSV::outputStep                    |      0.000 |   0.10 |       0.000 |   0.00 |      0.000 |   0.10 |

Self time is the time actually taken by the section while Children time is the cumulative time of all of the sub-sections below that section and Total is the sum of the two. The % columns represent the percent of the total run-time of the app for the number in the column to the left.

There are also two other ways to print information out about the graph using printHeaviestBranch() and printHeaviestSections(). These are described well over on the PerfGraphOutput page.