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Ahead-of-Time Compilation of Java and Polyglot Applications

Below are sample applications illustrating GraalVM’s unique capabilities to create self-contained executable images which can run incredibly fast. Here you will also find a more sophisticated example displaying GraalVM’s ability to create polyglot native executables.


1. Download or clone the repository and navigate into the native-list-dir directory:

  git clone
  cd graalvm-demos/native-list-dir

There are two Java classes, but you will start by building for the purposes of this demo. You can manually execute javac, and there is also a script included for your convenience.

Note that you can use any JDK for compiling the Java classes. However, we refer to javac from GraalVM in the build script to simplify the prerequisites so another JDK does not need to be installed.

2. Download GraalVM, unzip the archive, export the GraalVM home directory as the $JAVA_HOME and add $JAVA_HOME/bin to the PATH environment variable: On Linux:

  export JAVA_HOME=/home/${current_user}/path/to/graalvm
  export PATH=$JAVA_HOME/bin:$PATH

On macOS:

  export JAVA_HOME=/Users/${current_user}/path/to/graalvm/Contents/Home
  export PATH=$JAVA_HOME/bin:$PATH

On Windows:

  setx /M JAVA_HOME "C:\Progra~1\Java\<graalvm>"
  setx /M PATH "C:\Progra~1\Java\<graalvm>\bin;%PATH%"

Note that your paths are likely to be different depending on the download location.

3. Install Native Image by running.

  gu install native-image

4. Then execute:


The script creates a native executable from the Java class.

Look at it in more detail:

$JAVA_HOME/bin/native-image ListDir

The native-image utility ahead-of-time compiles the ListDir class into a standalone binary in the current working directory. After running the command, the executable file listdir should have been produced.

Running the Application

To run the application, you need to either execute the ListDir class as a normal Java application using java, or since we have a native executable prepared, run that directly.

The file executes both, and times them with the time utility:

time java ListDir $1
time ./listdir $1

To make it more interesting, pass it to a parent directory: ./ .., where .. is the parent of the current directory (the one containing all the demos).

Depending on the directory content you pass this script for, the output will be different than this:

java ListDir ..
Walking path: ..
Total: 141 files, total size = 14448801 bytes

real	0m0.320s
user	0m0.379s
sys	0m0.070s
./listDir ..
Walking path: ..
Total: 141 files, total size = 14448801 bytes

real	0m0.030s
user	0m0.005s
sys	0m0.011s

The performance gain of the native version is largely due to the faster startup.

Polyglot Capabilities

You can also experiment with a more sophisticated ExtListDir example, which takes advantage of GraalVM’s Java and JavaScript polyglot capabilities.


Building the native executable command is similar to the one above, but since the example uses JavaScript, you need to inform the native-image utility about that by passing the --language:js option. Note that it takes a bit more time because it needs to include the JavaScript support.

$JAVA_HOME/bin/native-image --language:js ExtListDir

The execution is the same as in the previous example:

time java ExtListDir $1
time ./extlistdir $1

Profile-Guided Optimizations for High Throughput

Oracle GraalVM Enterprise Edition offers extra benefits for building native executables. These are profile-guided optimisations (PGO). As an example, a program demonstrating Java streams will be used.

1. Run the application with java to see the output:

$JAVA_HOME/bin/native-image Streams
./streams 1000000 200
Iteration 20 finished in 1955 milliseconds with checksum 6e36c560485cdc01

2. Build an instrumented image and run it to collect profiles:

$JAVA_HOME/bin/native-image --pgo-instrument Streams
./streams 1000 200

Profiles collected from this run are now stored in the default.iprof file. Note that the profiling now runs with a much smaller data size.

3. Use the profiles gathered at the previous step to build an optimized native executable:

$JAVA_HOME/bin/native-image --pgo Streams

4. Run that optimized native executable:

./streams 1000000 200
Iteration 20 finished in 827 milliseconds with checksum 6e36c560485cdc01

You should see more than 2x improvements in performance.