GraalVM demos: Native images for faster startup

This is a sample application to demonstrate GraalVM capabilities for creating native images.

Prerequisites

Preparation

  1. Download or clone the repository and navigate into the native-list-dir directory:
    git clone https://github.com/graalvm/graalvm-demos
    cd graalvm-demos/native-list-dir
    

    There are two Java classes, but we will start by building ListDir.java for the purposes of this demo. You can manually execute javac ListDir.java, there is also a build.sh 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 and not to depend on another JDK installed.

  2. Having downloaded and unzipped GraalVM CE or EE archive, export the GraalVM home directory as the $GRAALVM_HOME and add $GRAALVM_HOME/bin to the path, using a command-line shell for Linux:
    export GRAALVM_HOME=/home/${current_user}/path/to/graalvm
    

    and for macOS:

    export GRAALVM_HOME=/Users/${current_user}/path/to/graalvm/Contents/Home
    

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

  3. Make sure the native-image utility is available. Starting from GraalVM 19.0, Native Image was extracted from the base distribution. This functionality can be added to the core installation with GraalVM Updater tool by running: gu install native-image.

  4. Then execute:
    ./build.sh
    

The build.sh script creates a native image from the Java class.

Let us look at it in more detail:

$GRAALVM_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, an 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 image prepared, run that directly.

The run.sh 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: ./run.sh .. (.. - is the parent of the current directory, the one containing all the demos).

Approximately, the following output should be produced:

+ 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 uses Java/JavaScript polyglot capabilities.

To compile that class you need to add graal-sdk.jar on the classpath:

$GRAALVM_HOME/bin/javac -cp $GRAALVM_HOME/jre/lib/boot/graal-sdk.jar ExtListDir.java

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

$GRAALVM_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 Optimizaitons for High Throughput

GraalVM Enterprise Edition offers extra benefits for building a native image. These are profile-guided optimisations (PGO). As an example we will use a small application demonstrating Java streams.

First, we run the application with java to see the output:

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

To enable PGO we need to build an instrumented image and run it to collect profiles:

+ $GRAALVM_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 we run the profiling with a much smaller data size.

Now we can use these profiles to make an optimized image:

+ $GRAALVM_HOME/bin/native-image --pgo Streams

When we run the PGO image with

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

we will see more than 2x improvements in performance.