Build a Statically Linked or Mostly-Statically Linked Native Executable

GraalVM Native Image by default builds dynamically linked binaries: at build time it loads your application classes and interfaces and hooks them together in a process of dynamic linking.

However, you can create a statically linked or mostly-static linked native executable, depending on your needs.

A static native executable is a statically linked binary that can be used without any additional library dependencies. A static native executable is easy to distribute and deploy on a slim or distroless container (a scratch container). You can create a static native executable by statically linking it against musl-libc, a lightweight, fast and simple libc implementation.

A mostly-static native executable is a binary that links everything except the standard C library, glibc. This is an alternative option to staticly linking everything. This approach is ideal for deployment on a distroless container image.

Note: This currently only works when linked against glibc.

This guide shows how you can take advantage of Native Image linking options including fully dynamic, fully static, and mostly static (except libc) to generate an executable ideal for your deployment scenario.

Table of Contents #

Prerequisites and Preparation #

The following prerequisites should be met:

  • Linux AMD64 operating system
  • GraalVM distribution for Java 11 of higher with Native Image support
  • A 64-bit musl toolchain, make, and configure
  • The latest zlib library

As a preparation step, install the musl toolchain, compile and install zlib into the toolchain.

  1. Download the musl toolchain from musl.cc. (We recommend this one). Extract the toolchain to a directory of your choice. This directory will be referred as $TOOLCHAIN_DIR.
  2. Download the latest zlib library sources from zlib.net and extract them. (This documentation uses zlib-1.2.11.)
  3. Create a new environment variable, named CC:
     CC=$TOOLCHAIN_DIR/bin/gcc
    
  4. Change into the zlib directory, and then run the following commands to compile and install zlib into the toolchain:
     ./configure --prefix=$TOOLCHAIN_DIR --static
     make
     make install
    

Build a Static Native Executable #

Assume you have the following source code saved in the EnvMap.java file:

import java.util.Map;

public class EnvMap {
    public static void main (String[] args) {
        var filter = args.length > 0 ? args[0] : "";
        Map<String, String> env = System.getenv();
        for (String envName : env.keySet()) {
            if(envName.contains(filter)) {
                System.out.format("%s=%s%n",
                                envName,
                                env.get(envName));
            }
        }
    }
}

This application iterates over your environment variables and prints out the ones that contain the String of characters passed as a command line argument.

  1. First, ensure the directory named $TOOLCHAIN_DIR/bin is present on your PATH. To verify this, run the following command:
     x86_64-linux-musl-gcc
    

    You should see output similar to the following:

     x86_64-linux-musl-gcc: fatal error: no input files
     compilation terminated.
    
  2. Compile the file:
     javac EnvMap.java
    
  3. Build a static native executable by running this command:
     native-image --static --libc=musl EnvMap
    

    This produces a native executable with statically linked system libraries. You can pass other arguments before a class or JAR file.

Build a Mostly-Static Native Executable #

With GraalVM Native Image you can build a mostly-static native executable that statically links everything except libc. Statically linking all your libraries except glibc ensures your application has all the libraries it needs to run on any Linux glibc-based distribution.

To build a mostly-static native executable, use this command:

native-image -H:+StaticExecutableWithDynamicLibC [other arguments] <Class>

To build a a mostly-static native executable for the above EnvMap demo, run:

native-image -H:+StaticExecutableWithDynamicLibC EnvMap

Frequently Asked Questions #

A fully static native executable gives you the most flexibility to choose a base container image - it can run on anything including a FROM scratch image. A mostly-static native executable requires a container image that provides glibc, but has no additional requirements. In both cases, choosing the base container image generally depends on your native executable’s specific requirements.

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