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Model Run Performance
Debugging and Analysis
Model Run Performance
This section provides suggestions for improving RiverWare model run times; that is, we try to answer the question: what can you do to make your models run faster?
Improving Model Run Performance
Following are suggestions for making your models run faster.
• Turn off unnecessary diagnostics, close as many RiverWare windows as possible, and close other applications.
• Determine if there is excessive paging during the run. If paging is a problem, purchase more physical memory. If that is not possible, adjust the paging properties.
• Analyze your model run using RiverWare utilities to determine if there are unexpected slowdowns due to excessive dispatching or slow RPL functions. Address these slowdowns by modifying your model or ruleset.
• Improve hardware; sometimes this is the most cost effective method to improve performance.
• For long production runs, use batch mode and/or divide the model into multiple runs on multiple CPUs.
• If a simulation exceeds the system’s virtual memory limit (RiverWare exits with an “out of memory” error) there are several possibilities for addressing the issue: enable 3 GB tuning, or run a 64‑bit version of RiverWare on a 64‑bit operating system. See “Configure to Use 3 GB Tuning on 32‑bit Architecture” and “Consider Running on a 64-bit Architecture” for details.
Note:  If pursuing these options does not resolve the problem, there could be a modeling or internal RiverWare error. Contact
RiverWare attempts to perform its operations as efficiently as possible, but run times are often affected by model particulars as well as the configuration of the system on which RiverWare is run. RiverWare cannot control these factors, but many of them are under your control and these are the subjects of this section. This document attempts to be general but also attempts to prioritize the steps that will make the most difference to a user. This is very difficult to do as each user has a different system, budget, and institutional requirements. A step that may make the most sense for one user (like buying new hardware) may not even be an option other users.
Where we present information specific to Windows, examples are taken from the Windows 8.1 operating system. Although we introduce some technical concepts, e.g., RAM, CPU, and Paging, this document is not intended to be a complete reference on computer performance issues. For more information, the reader is directed to the internet or reference books for a particular system or topic.
The remainder of this section is divided into three subsections. In the first, we describe a set of tools useful for identifying performance problems or slowdowns in RiverWare. In the second, we describe steps which may be taken within RiverWare to make models run faster. Finally, we discuss several ways to improve your computer system for optimizing RiverWare performance on your model.
Performance Analysis Tools
The first step in improving performance is typically information collection. This section describes a number of tools and approaches used to diagnose performance problems, including both tools within RiverWare as well as external utilities. The following topics are discussed:
RPL Analysis
In simulations that use RPL sets (e.g., RBS ruleset, optimization goal sets, expression slot set, initialization rules set, user defined accounting method set, iterative MRM ruleset or global functions set), the RPL Set Analysis tool can be used to identify functions that execute an inordinate number of times or spend a lot of time in their execution. See “RPL Analysis Tool” for details.
RPL Timing and Count Predefined Functions
The following RPL predefined functions measure performance:
• RunTime() returns the number of seconds which have elapsed since the run began. See “RunTime” in RiverWare Policy Language (RPL) for details.
• DispatchTime() Returns the accumulated time spent executing object dispatch methods since the beginning of the current run. See “DispatchTime” in RiverWare Policy Language (RPL) for details.
• DispatchCount() returns the number of object dispatch method executions that have occurred since the beginning of the current run. See “DispatchCount” in RiverWare Policy Language (RPL) for details.
Note:  More specific dispatch times and counts are also available in the RPL Set Analysis tool; see “RPL Analysis Tool”.
Using expression slots or rules, these function can be used to record the performance. Following is a series of expression slots that record the cumulative number of seconds that have elapsed since the beginning of the run or determine the number of seconds each timestep takes. This can be used to determine if a particular operation is taking more time than expected. For example, does a timestep that has a flood control operation take significantly longer than a non-flood control timestep?
Figure 1.1 presents an example of Expression Slots showing how the RunTime function can be used. The left and right functions are configured to evaluate at “end of Timestep, current timestep only”. The center function is configured to evaluate at “Beginning of Timestep, current timestep only”. Together, these give the “Time per timestep” shown in the expression on the right.
Figure 1.1   
Windows Task Manager
The Task Manager is accessed by right-clicking the toolbar and selecting Task Manager. The Task Manager has two tabs that record performance information. The Performance tab displays a number of useful items as shown in Figure 1.2 and Figure 1.3.
• Total CPU usage
• Number of processors on this machine and a plot of their usages
• Total physical memory (RAM) on the machine. In Figure 1.3, it is approximately 32 GB of RAM.
The Processes tab displays the percentage of CPU and memory used for each process.
We will refer to this utility in future sections. When using this utility to assess the performance of a RiverWare model, make sure that other large processes are not running.
Figure 1.2  Task Manager CPU view
Figure 1.3  Task Manager Memory view
Windows perfmon Utility
In Windows, there is a performance monitoring utility called perfmon. This tool can be used to determine how processes including RiverWare are using memory. When using this utility to assess the performance of a RiverWare model, make sure that other processes are not running.
Use one of the following methods to start perfmon:
• Select Start, then All Programs, then Command Prompt and enter perfmon.
• Select Start, then Run, then enter perfmon.
The perfmon utility displays counters of variables. The following instructions are provided to show you how to use perfmon for simple analysis. This document is not comprehensive; use the perfmon Help for more information.
When you first start perfmon, a graph of the selected or default counters is provided, as shown in Figure 1.4. Select Performance Monitoring.
Figure 1.4  perfmon default view
The most useful view is the Reports view. Select the Reports icon to switch views. Figure 1.5 shows the Reports view.
Figure 1.5  perfmon Reports view
There may be counters defined. To add counters, select the Plus icon to open the Add Counters dialog. Figure 1.6 illustrates.
Use the following steps in the Add Counters dialog:
1. Select a Performance Object and expand the list.
2. Highlight the counter from the list.
3. Select the instance, i.e. riverware.
4. Select Add.
5. Repeat for other counters.
6. Select OK when finished.
Figure 1.6  perfmon Add Counters dialog
Table 1.1 describes the most useful counters.
Table 1.1   
Performance Object
Hard Page Faults per second
Physical Disk
% Disk Time
Disk that contains the paging file
Percentage of time the selected disk is reading or writing.
Virtual Bytes
Total size of all process
Virtual Bytes
Total size of the RiverWare process
Working Set
Size of memory that was recently touched by all processes
Working Set
Size of memory that was recently touched by RiverWare
Note:  For more information or a description of any of these counters, highlight the counter in the Add Counter dialog and click Show Description. Once the perfmon tool is configured, it can be saved as a .msc file and reloaded as necessary.
Now that we have tools to collect performance information, we present recommendations for acting on this information to improve performance.
Run RiverWare More Efficiently
This section describes steps that can be taken to run RiverWare more efficiently and thus improve runtime performance.
Reduce Diagnostics Processing
When diagnostics are enabled, RiverWare must process diagnostics as well as perform the primary calculations of the simulation. The overhead associated with diagnostics consists of the following:
1. Decide whether individual diagnostics should be issued.
2. Collect the data to be posted.
3. Post the diagnostic.
In some contexts, Step 1. and Step 2. can require significant computation, but in most situations it is Step 3. that dominates diagnostic processing time. See “About RiverWare Diagnostics” for a general discussion of diagnostics.
Disable Diagnostics
Since the overhead associated with processing diagnostics can represent a significant fraction of a run, if they are not necessary, and performance is an issue, then it is best to disable them. To disable, make sure the Enable Informational Diagnostics option is not selected in the Diagnostics Manager.
Figure 1.7  Diagnostics Manager with diagnostics disabled
Filter Diagnostics
When diagnostics are being sent to the Diagnostic Output Window, the time to post a diagnostic is related to the number of diagnostics in the diagnostic output window. In other words, the more diagnostics that have already been posted, the more time it requires to post an additional diagnostic. This means that the time spent posting diagnostics within a total run is proportional to the square of the number of diagnostics posted. Thus even though posting an individual diagnostic is not expensive, it can take a lot of time to post a large number of them. By filtering diagnostics to post only those diagnostics currently of interest, run times are decreased and less effort is required to sift through diagnostics for the desired information.
Figure 1.8 shows the diagnostics filtering dialog with the following filters enabled:
• Timestep = January 12, 1996
• Rules = Mighty Min Flow for Fish Release
• Object = Mighty
• Slots = Mighty.Inflow, Outflow and Storage
Figure 1.8  Diagnostics filtered
Send Diagnostics to a File
Figure 1.9  Diagnostics Manager indicating to send diagnostics to a file
If it is useful to see many diagnostics, consider sending them to a file instead of to the Diagnostic Output Window. File I/O is relatively fast, and one can still view the diagnostics in a text editor, perhaps one with more sophisticated searching and filtering capabilities than those provided by the Diagnostic Output Window.
Note:  Posting a diagnostic to the diagnostic output window requires additional memory usage, so sending diagnostics to a file instead of a window will reduce RiverWare memory use, which can have a positive impact on run times as well.
Break Long Runs Into Multiple Runs
For most models, the size of the RiverWare process is dominated by series data. If the model is too large to fit into virtual memory, there are two ways to break up the model, either in time or in space. To break the model up by time, divide the total run into multiple runs of shorter duration, configure DMIs to exchange data between runs, and write RCL scripts to conduct these runs in sequence. See “Batch Mode and RiverWare Command Language” in Automation Tools for details about RCL scripts.
Another possibility is to simulate upstream portions of the model for the full time range of interest and then import the results into a model that simulates the remainder of the basin. Of course, operational dependency of upstream objects on downstream objects may prevent this from being an option.
Close Unused Windows
Updating the graphical user interface during a run requires CPU time and increases the size of the RiverWare process. When it is desirable to run RiverWare interactively, you can reduce the amount of time updating dialogs during the run by closing them. This is especially important for series data such as that displayed by an SCT, a SeriesSlot dialog or a model run analysis dialog. Each time a slot value changes internally, the corresponding slot’s dialog might need to be updated if it is open. In general, if performance is critical, we recommend that all unused dialogs be closed.
Run in Batch Mode
Consider completely avoiding updating the user interface during a run by writing a RCL script to conduct a batch mode run. After a run, you can then bring up RiverWare interactively to analyze the results.
Improve Your RPL Set Logic
Although RiverWare often spends much of its time dispatching, RPL statement execution can represents a significant factor of the time spent during a rulebased simulation. Some RPL set logic is more computationally intensive than others, and changing RPL logic with this in mind can often improve model run times. Use the RPL Analysis tool to identify functions that are taking a long time or execute too many times (see “RPL Analysis Tool”). Then, determine if there is a more efficient way to write these functions. See “Developing Efficient RPL Expressions” in RiverWare Policy Language (RPL) for a list of suggestions to writing efficient RPL expressions.
Invest in Hardware
Often, the most significant improvements in RiverWare model performances can be obtained by investing in hardware. When investing in hardware, the following should be considered (in order of most significance):
• Invest in a 64‑bit machine
• Physical Memory (RAM) - purchase enough to eliminate paging
• If completely eliminating paging is impossible, purchase multiple faster disks.
• If making multiple runs, purchase additional machines or use multiple CPUs.
• Purchase a machine looking at the following attributes:
– Memory size
– Cache size
– Bus speed
– Disk speed
– CPU speed
Install More Physical Memory (RAM)
If your model is causing paging, then installing more RAM will lead to less paging and faster run times. Most modern operating systems allow programs to access more memory locations than are available to that program in physical memory. When RiverWare attempts to access a location that is not in physical memory, a page fault occurs and the operating system brings the page containing that location into physical memory. Since the time to access a memory location is likely to be orders of magnitude quicker if that memory location is currently in physical memory than when it is located in disk storage, reducing the number of page faults during a RiverWare run will decrease the run time.
To determine if your model leads to page faults and the associated disk I/O delays, use the Windows perfmon tool to display the Memory: Pages/Sec counter and the PhysicalDisk: % Disk Time for the disk which contains your system page file. See “Windows perfmon Utility” for details.
These counters will be non-zero when the system is processing (hard) page faults. You will also notice that when RiverWare is doing significant I/O, the CPU Usage for the RiverWare process as displayed in the Windows Task Manager will be less than full (for a single CPU, less than 100%). Figure 1.10 shows a sample model run.
Note:  RiverWare Virtual Bytes is 11.1 GB.
Figure 1.10  Sample model run
How much RAM do you need? If your model/computer consistently utilizes 11 GB of memory, then make sure you have at least 12 GB of RAM available for it, and preferably more. Adding enough RAM will ensure that all the required memory used will indeed be used from the RAM, and not supplemented by paging. To determine how much memory is used during a model run, look at the perfmon utility. Under the Process, Virtual Bytes entry, it shows the number of bytes used by the riverware process. This is the total space that RiverWare is using. To fit RiverWare completely in memory, the amount of RAM should be larger than this plus enough for the operating system.
Purchase Additional, Faster Disks
If is impossible for you to eliminate paging during a model run, one strategy is to make the paging faster. To do this, purchase faster disks so the paging operation is faster.
Note:  This refers to physical disks, not Windows drive letters, which are really partitions on physical disks. Partitioning a single drive does not improve performance.
It also helps if the different operations running on the machine do not compete for use of the same disk. For this reason it helps to have your paging files on different physical disks from your normal data and programs. See “Adjust the Size or Location of Your Paging File” for details.
Use Additional CPUs for Multiple Runs
If you are making multiple runs, i.e. alternative analysis, and you have access to multiple machines (or a single machine with multiple CPUs), then you can run multiple RiverWare processes simultaneously. For example, if you are completing an alternatives analysis and are ready for three production runs, use three machines to run alternatives 1, 2 and 3 in parallel. The entire analysis will take the same time as running one run and should be three times faster than running them in series. Batch processing can help to manage many parallel different runs; see “Batch Mode and RiverWare Command Language” in Automation Tools. Also, see “Distributed Concurrent Runs” in Solution Approaches for details about running traces of a Concurrent Multiple Run in parallel on different processors on the same computer.
Also remember that a machine with multiple CPUs will speed execution of parallel runs but the total physical memory is shared among all CPUs and can limit run speed. In that regard, it may still be better to run parallel runs on completely separate machines.
Purchase a Bigger, Faster Machine
Above we have presented some approaches to upgrade existing hardware so that RiverWare performs better. Often it may be more cost effective to replace hardware with new machines. When selecting a new machine look at the following attributes, in order: 64‑bit, physical memory size, cache size, bus speed, disk speed, and CPU speed.
Consider Running on a 64-bit Architecture
If RiverWare encounters an “out of memory” error, you will need to increase the RiverWare virtual memory limit in one of several ways:
• On 32bit, you can increase the limit from 2 GB to 3 GB by configuring the system; see “Configure to Use 3 GB Tuning on 32‑bit Architecture”.
• If a simulation requires more than 3 GB of virtual memory, then you will need to run the 64‑bit RiverWare executable under a 64‑bit Windows operating system, effectively permitting an unlimited address space.
Physical Memory
Depending on the operating system you are running, you might benefit from having more than 4 GB of physical main memory, especially on a 64‑bit operating system. Most workstation or personal computer operating systems do not make use of more than 4 GB, and purchasing more would waste money. That said, you might be wise to purchase a machine with enough slots and large enough memory boards (e.g., two 2 GB rather than four 1 GB boards) to allow you to expand in the future to more than 4 GB.
Most operating systems configured for “servers” do allow large banks of main memory to be used. At CADSWES we have not yet experimented with Windows server configurations, so we cannot attest to the potential speed benefits of purchasing such a machine, nor can we guarantee that there will not be attendant problems. This is an option worthy of consideration.
Cache Size
Data accesses are faster if the data reside in memory than if they reside on disk. Modern computers further speed up memory accesses by employing caches of faster memory. Cache memory is physically different from main memory, making it more expensive, and cache memory physically resides closer to the CPU (the heart of the computer) than does main memory.
Thus, if the data needed resides in a memory cache, the access will be faster than if it resides in main memory. Consequently, you will benefit from having the largest caches available on the machines you purchase. Some architectures have Level 1 (L1), Level 2 and Level 3 caches. Some have only L1 and L2 and often only the lower-level (L2, L3) cache sizes are configureable when you purchase a machine.
Front-side Bus Disk Speed
Accesses to main memory are slower than accesses to cache memory. This is because the cycle time of the cache memory is lower than that of main memory, but also because the electrons have to travel farther from main memory than from cache memory. On many architectures, data (and instructions) flowing from main memory to the CPU have to travel across a central system bus. Consequently, the speed of the bus determines the speed of main-memory accesses, and a good rule of thumb is to purchase the fastest bus you can get. Most Intel-based computers call this bus the “Front-Side Bus”.
Most object-oriented applications, RiverWare included, are not limited by CPU speed, due to the nature of their memory access patterns. Consequently, CPU speed is not the most important factor in purchasing a new machine as most new machines have adequate CPU speeds.
One of the ways modern computers are made more powerful is by giving them more than one CPU. Some applications are multi-threaded, which allows them to run somewhat faster by using more than one CPU in parallel. RiverWare is not multi-threaded, however, you might still benefit from having multiple CPUs because the operating systems typically run more than one program, even if you have nothing but RiverWare running. Having another CPU can reduce the amount of time that RiverWare has to give up the CPU and its cached data for use by another process. If you tend to use your machine for things other than running RiverWare (that is to say, you do not have a dedicated machine for RiverWare), then you most certainly can benefit from additional CPUs.
Note:  In so-called “multi-core” machines, two or more CPUs might share some cache, but be unable to share all of the cache. For example, a four-core machine might in fact be two two-core machines, where two CPUs share half the L2 cache and the other two CPUs share the other half of the L2 cache. This kind of architecture might be labeled as having, say 8 MB of L2 cache, when in fact it has two 4 MB L2 caches (2 x 4 MB). In this example, the most L2 cache that RiverWare could use is 4 MB. This also means that a process scheduled on the CPU that shares cache with the RiverWare CPU can have a negative impact on RiverWare performance, whereas the processes scheduled on the other CPUs have no effect on RiverWare available cache. The upshot: a two CPU machine with caches dedicated to each CPU might perform better than a two CPU machine with shared cache, all else being equal.
Manage Memory
When you run a RiverWare model on a computer, there are other applications that are competing for the computer’s memory resources (such as the CPU or a disk). If your model is small and your machine is “big/fast”, there is no conflict. If the opposite is true, your model is big and your computer is “small/slow”, (this is more likely if you are reading this), then there may be competition between applications for the limited system resources. This section describes three approaches to make the RiverWare model run faster by adjusting other applications or changing the configuration of the operating system.
Close Other Applications
When other applications are running at the same time as RiverWare, it is possible that competition for system resources will degrade RiverWare performance. The obvious solution is to close the other applications. But, if you do not want to close out of other applications, it is possible to tell the operating system to give preference to RiverWare by increasing its priority. To change the priority:
On the Task Manager, select the Processes tab. Locate the riverware.exe process, (note, there may be more than one if you are running multiple models). Right-click riverware.exe and select Set Priority, then High. It will warn that system instability may occur. Select OK.
Adjust the Size or Location of Your Paging File
If RiverWare is paging and you cannot reduce the amount of paging, then you can sometimes configure your system to reduce the overhead associated with paging. First, move the page file off the disk that holds your system partition to another fast, dedicated hard disk. By moving your page file to a dedicated disk, you can reduce the time to write and read pages. In addition, if you can spread the page file across several non-system disks, you can decrease page file competition.
It is beyond the scope of this discussion to provide all the potentially relevant details for various systems configurations, however your system administrator or IT department should be able to assist if necessary. For other resources, search the internet for “windows page file”.
Configure to Use 3 GB Tuning on 32‑bit Architecture
This is not so much a tip for improving performance as a tip to use if you run out of memory when running your model. Typically when you run out of memory, the process crashes and sometimes posts an out-of-memory error depending on how you are running. If this happens, you may possibly be able to use 3 GB tuning to allow your model to continue running.
In the default configuration, Windows reserves 2 GB of the 4 GB of addressable space for its use. This leaves 2 GB for all other applications. The 3 GB Tuning feature of Windows allows the user to increase the amount of available memory (physical + virtual) for applications by 50 percent—from 2 GB up to 3 GB. The operating system then uses only 1 GB of the addressable space for its processing. Again, this is a fairly advanced topic and we encourage you to use online Windows documentation for more information on how to configure this feature:
• Available switch options for the Windows XP Boot.ini files:
• How to edit the Boot.ini file in Windows XP:
• How to use the /USERVA switch in the Boot.ini file to tune /3 GBconfigurations:
3 GB tuning only applies to 32‑bit, not 64‑bit operating systems. On 64‑bit operating systems, the full set of available addressable space is available for each process.
Revised: 06/03/2019