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Announcing GraalVM: Run Programs Faster Anywhere

Current production virtual machines (VMs) provide high performance execution of programs only for a specific language or a very small set of languages. Compilation, memory management, and tooling are maintained separately for different languages, violating the ‘don’t repeat yourself’ (DRY) principle. This leads not only to a larger burden for the VM implementers, but also for developers due to inconsistent performance characteristics, tooling, and configuration. Furthermore, communication between programs written in different languages requires costly serialization and deserialization logic. Finally, high performance VMs are heavyweight processes with high memory footprint and difficult to embed.

Several years ago, to address these shortcomings, Oracle Labs started a new research project for exploring a novel architecture for virtual machines. Our vision was to create a single VM that would provide high performance for all programming languages, therefore facilitating communication between programs. This architecture would support unified language-agnostic tooling for better maintainability and its embeddability would make the VM ubiquitous across the stack.

To meet this goal, we have invented a new approach for building such a VM. After years of extensive research and development, we are now ready to present the first production-ready release.

Introducing GraalVM

Today, we are pleased to announce the 1.0 release of GraalVM, a universal virtual machine designed for a polyglot world.

GraalVM provides high performance for individual languages and interoperability with zero performance overhead for creating polyglot applications. Instead of converting data structures at language boundaries, GraalVM allows objects and arrays to be used directly by foreign languages.

Example scenarios include accessing functionality of a Java library from Node.js code, calling a Python statistical routine from Java, or using R to create a complex SVG plot from data managed by another language. With GraalVM, programmers are free to use whatever language they think is most productive to solve the current task.

GraalVM 1.0 allows you to run:

- JVM-based languages like Java, Scala, Groovy, or Kotlin
- JavaScript (including Node.js)
- LLVM bitcode (created from programs written in e.g. C, C++, or Rust)
- Experimental versions of Ruby, R, and Python

GraalVM can either run standalone, embedded as part of platforms like OpenJDK or Node.js, or even embedded inside databases such as MySQL or the Oracle RDBMS. Applications can be deployed flexibly across the stack via the standardized GraalVM execution environments. In the case of data processing engines, GraalVM directly exposes the data stored in custom formats to the running program without any conversion overhead.

For JVM-based languages, GraalVM offers a mechanism to create precompiled native images with instant start up and low memory footprint. The image generation process runs a static analysis to find any code reachable from the main Java method and then performs a full ahead-of-time (AOT) compilation. The resulting native binary contains the whole program in machine code form for immediate execution. It can be linked with other native programs and can optionally include the GraalVM compiler for complementary just-in-time (JIT) compilation support to run any GraalVM-based language with high performance.

A major advantage of the GraalVM ecosystem is language-agnostic tooling that is applicable in all GraalVM deployments. The core GraalVM installation provides a language-agnostic debugger, profiler, and heap viewer. We invite third-party tool developers and language developers to enrich the GraalVM ecosystem using the instrumentation API or the language-implementation API. We envision GraalVM as a language-level virtualization layer that allows leveraging tools and embeddings across all languages.

GraalVM in Production

Twitter is one of the companies deploying GraalVM in production already today for executing their Scala-based microservices. The aggressive optimizations of the GraalVM compiler reduces object allocations and improves overall execution speed. This results in fewer garbage collection pauses and less computing power necessary for running the platform. See this presentation from a Twitter JVM Engineer describing their experiences in detail and how they are using the GraalVM compiler to save money. In the current 1.0 release, we recommend JVM-based languages and JavaScript (including Node.js) for production use while R, Ruby, Python and LLVM-based languages are still experimental.

Getting Started

The binary of the GraalVM v1.0 (release candidate) Community Edition (CE) built from the GraalVM open source repository on GitHub is available here.

We are looking for feedback from the community for this release candidate. We welcome feedback in the form of GitHub issues or GitHub pull requests.

In addition to the GraalVM CE, we also provide the GraalVM v1.0 (release candidate) Enterprise Edition (EE) for better security, scalability and performance in production environments. GraalVM EE is available on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and can be downloaded from the Oracle Technology Network for evaluation. For production use of GraalVM EE, please contact graalvm-enterprise_grp_ww@oracle.com.

Stay Connected

The latest up-to-date downloads and documentation can be found at www.graalvm.org. Follow our daily development, request enhancements, or report issues via our GitHub repository at www.github.com/oracle/graal. We encourage you to subscribe to these GraalVM mailing lists:

- graalvm-announce@oss.oracle.com
- graalvm-users@oss.oracle.com
- graalvm-dev@oss.oracle.com

We communicate via the @graalvm alias on Twitter and watch for any tweet or Stack Overflow question with the #GraalVM hash tag.

Future

This first release is only the beginning. We are working on improving all aspects of GraalVM; in particular the support for Python, R and Ruby.

GraalVM is an open ecosystem and we encourage building your own languages or tools on top of it. We want to make GraalVM a collaborative project enabling standardized language execution and a rich set of language-agnostic tooling. Please find more at www.graalvm.org on how to:

- allow your own language to run on GraalVM
- build language-agnostic tools for GraalVM
- embed GraalVM in your own application

We look forward to building this next generation technology for a polyglot world together with you!

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