Introduction to GraalVM

GraalVM is a high-performance runtime that provides significant improvements in application performance and efficiency which is ideal for microservices. It is designed for applications written in Java, JavaScript, LLVM-based languages such as C and C++, and other dynamic languages. It removes the isolation between programming languages and enables interoperability in a shared runtime.

GraalVM system diagram

The preceding diagram illustrates the architecture of GraalVM as an open ecosystem.

The virtualization layer represents programming languages, provided by GraalVM. The execution of guest programming languages, namely JavaScript, Ruby, R, Python and LLVM bitcode, in the same runtime as the host JVM-based application is now down-to-earth. The host language and guest languages can directly interoperate with each other and pass data back and forth in the same memory space.

The bottom part demonstrates the applicability range. GraalVM can either run standalone, be embedded as part of the OpenJDK or Node.js platforms, or even execute inside Oracle Database.

GraalVM Distributions #

GraalVM is distributed as the Community Edition and the Enterprise Edition bundled for Linux, macOS and Windows platforms on x86 64-bit systems. GraalVM builds are based on JDK 8 and on JDK 11. GraalVM builds based on JDK 11 become available as of version 19.3.0. The GraalVM distribution for AArch64, graalvm-ce-java11-linux-aarch64-20.2.0, is currently under development and is provided for evaluation and testing use on GitHub.

Distribution Components List #

GraalVM consists of core and optional components, and is distributed as an archive. That archive enables using GraalVM as a runtime platform for high-performance embeddable polyglot applications and includes the following:

  • Runtimes
    • Java HotSpot VM runtime with the GraalVM compiler enabled as the top tier JIT compiler for JVM-based languages and supported guest programming languages.
    • Node.js runtime with the GraalVM JavaScript interpreter enabled as the JavaScript engine.
  • Libraries (jar files)
    • GraalVM Compiler – a dynamic just-in-time (JIT) compiler that improves efficiency and speed of applications through unique approaches to code analysis and optimization.
    • JavaScript interpreter – an ECMAScript compliant JavaScript engine.
    • LLVM bitcode interpreter – an implementation of the lli tool to directly execute programs from LLVM bitcode.
    • GraalVM Polyglot API – the APIs for combining programming languages in a shared runtime. These APIs allow you to match programming languages to your needs and gives you better performance using fewer resources.
  • Utilities
    • JavaScript REPL with the GraalVM JavaScript interpreter
    • LLVM bitcode interpreter command line utility
    • GraalVM Updater utility to install and manage additional components

GraalVM base installation can be extended with the optional components:

  • GraalVM Native Image functionality which allows scripted applications to be compiled ahead-of-time into a native machine-code binary. In GraalVM Community Native Image is distributed under the GPL 2 with Classpath Exception license.
  • LLVM toolchain – a set of tools and APIs for compiling native programs to bitcode that can be executed with the GraalVM LLVM runtime.
  • Python interpreter – a Python 3.8.2 compliant implementation.
  • Ruby interpreter – an implementation of the Ruby 2.6.6 programming language.
  • R interpreter – a GNU R 3.6.1 compatible implementation of the R programming language.
  • GraalWasm – the WebAssembly (Wasm) language interpreter to run Wasm programs in the binary format.

Note that Python, R, Ruby and Wasm are experimental and not recommended for production use at this time.

GraalVM Features #

GraalVM lets you:

GraalVM Documentation #

Whether you are here to try running an application with GraalVM for the first time or ready to start coding with the GraalVM Polyglot APIs, check out our documentation to help you on your way.

Alternatively you can have a look at GraalVM SDK Java API Reference and GraalVM Truffle Java API Reference. For example:

  • The Polyglot Package allows you to configure and run polyglot applications.
  • The Proxy Package allows you to mimic the guest language objects using proxies.
  • The IO Package allows you to customize the file system access of languages.
  • The Truffle API allows to implement your own Truffle based language.

If you cannot find the answer you need or have a troubleshooting query, get in touch with us.