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This pages covers the various mechanisms currently available for debugging Graal.

IDE Support

All the parts of Graal written in Java can be debugged with a standard Java debugger. While debugging with Eclipse is described here, it should not be too hard to adapt these instructions for another debugger.

The mx eclipseinit command not only creates Eclipse project configurations but also creates an Eclipse launch configuration (in mx.compiler/eclipse-launches/compiler-attach-localhost-8000.launch) that can be used to debug all Graal code running in the VM. This launch configuration requires you to start the VM with the -d global option which puts the VM into a state waiting for a remote debugger to attach to port 8000:

mx -d vm -XX:+UseJVMCICompiler -version
Listening for transport dt_socket at address: 8000

Note that the -d option applies to any command that runs the VM, such as the mx unittest command:

mx -d vm unittest
Listening for transport dt_socket at address: 8000

Once you see the message above, you then run the Eclipse launch configuration:

  1. From the main menu bar, select Run > Debug Configurations... to open the Debug Configurations dialogue.
  2. In the tree of configurations, select the Remote Java Application > compiler-attach-localhost-8000 entry.
  3. Click the Debug button to start debugging.

At this point you can set breakpoints and perform all other normal Java debugging actions.


In addition to IDE debugging, Graal includes support for printf style debugging. The simplest is to place temporary usages of System.out where ever you need them.

For more permanent logging statements, use the log(...) methods in DebugContext. A (nestable) debug scope is entered via one of the scope(...) methods in that class. For example:

DebugContext debug = ...;
InstalledCode code = null;
try (Scope s = debug.scope("CodeInstall", method)) {
    code = ...
    debug.log("installed code for %s", method);
} catch (Throwable e) {
    throw debug.handle(e);

The debug.log statement will send output to the console if CodeInstall is matched by the -Dgraal.Log option. The matching logic for this option is implemented in DebugFilter and documented in the Dump help message. As mentioned in the javadoc, the same matching logic also applies to the -Dgraal.Dump, -Dgraal.Time, -Dgraal.Count and -Dgraal.TrackMemUse options.

Since DebugContext objects are thread local, they need to be passed around as parameters. For convenience, they may be available from objects such as a Graph or a Node but care needs to be taken when such objects can be exposed to multiple threads. There are assertions in DebugContext guarding against use in a thread different from the one in which it was instantiated.

JVMCI and Graal specific options

JVMCI and Graal options are specified by the jvmci.* and graal.* system properties respectively. These must be specified on the JVM command line. Modifications to these properties by application code are not seen by JVMCI and Graal. A listing of all supported properties can be obtained with -XX:+JVMCIPrintProperties.


Graal supports metrics in the form of counters, timers and memory trackers. Each metric has a unique name. Metrics are collected per-compilation. At shutdown, they are aggregated across all compilations and reported to the console. This ouput can be redirected to a file via the -Dgraal.AggregatedMetricsFile option.

To list the per-compilation metrics, use the -Dgraal.MetricsFile option. If not specified, per-compilation metrics are not reported.

Metrics are represented in the code via fields or variables of type CounterKey, TimerKey or MemUseTrackerKey. As implied by the Key suffix, these objects do not store the value of a metric. The value is stored in a DebugContext object. How to use each of these metrics is described below.

  • A CounterKey counts some quantity. For example:
// declaration
private static final CounterKey ByteCodesCompiled = DebugContext.counter("ByteCodesCompiled");
// usage
DebugContext debug = ...;
long compiled = ... ;
ByteCodesCompiled.add(debug, compiled);
  • A TimerKey records the time spent in a scope. For example:
// declaration
private static final TimerKey CompilationTime = DebugContext.timer("CompilationTime");
// usage
DebgContext debug = ...;
try (DebugCloseable scope = CompilationTime.start(debug)) {
// time spent in the above scope will be added to the `CompilationTime` value in `debug`

When reporting a timer, two values are reported. The accumulated time represents the real time spent in the scope. The flat time is the amount of time spent within the scope minus the time spent in any nested timer scopes. For example:

CompilationTime_Accm=100.0 ms
CompilationTime_Flat=10.0 ms
  • A MemUseTrackerKey tracks the memory allocation in a scope. For example:
// declaration
private static final MemUseTrackerKey CompilationMemory = DebugContext.memUseTracker("CompilationMemory");
// usage
DebgContext debug = ...;
try (DebugCloseable a = CompilationMemory.start(debug)) {
 // the bytes allocated in the above scope will be added to the `CompilationMemory` value in `debug`

Like TimerKey, an accumulated and flat value is reported for memory usage tracker. For example:

CompilationMemory_Accm=100000 bytes
CompilationMemory_Flat=1000 bytes

For both the -Dgraal.AggregatedMetricsFile and the -Dgraal.MetricsFile option, the output format is determined by the file name suffix. A .csv suffix produces a semi-colon separated format that is amenable to automatic data processing.

The columns in the -Dgraal.MetricsFile CSV output are:

  • compilable: A textual label such as the fully qualified name of the method being compiled. For Truffle compilations, this will be a name describing the guest language function/method being compiled.
  • compilable_identity: The identity hash code of the compilable. This is useful when the label may not uniquely identify the compilation input. For example, when a Java method is in a class loaded multiple times by different class loaders or is redefined via JVMTI, its label may not change but its identity will.
  • compilation_nr: The number of times metrics have been dumped for a compilation of compilable_identity. This is guaranteed to be asymptotically increasing since dumping of per-compilation metrics is serialized on a global lock.
  • compilation_id: An identifier for the compilation that is highly likely (but not guaranteed) to be unique. Note that it may not be purely numeric.
  • metric_name: The name of the metric being reported.
  • metric_value: The metric value being reported.
  • metric_unit: The unit of measurement for the value being reported. This will be the empty string for a counter.

Example -Dgraal.MetricsFile output:


The columns in the -Dgraal.AggregatedMetricsFile CSV output are:

  • metric_name: The name of the metric being reported.
  • metric_value: The metric value being reported.
  • metric_unit: The unit of measurement for the value being reported. This will be the empty string for a counter.

Example -Dgraal.AggregatedMetricsFile output:


Note that -Dgraal.MetricsFile produces per-compilation output, not per-method output. If a method is compiled multiple times, post-processing of the CSV output will be required to obtain per-method metric values.

Method filtering

Specifying one of the debug scope options (i.e., -Dgraal.Log, -Dgraal.Dump, -Dgraal.Count, -Dgraal.Time, or -Dgraal.TrackMemUse) can generate a lot of output. Typically, you are only interesting in compiler output related to a single or few methods. In this case, use the -Dgraal.MethodFilter option to specify a method filter. The matching logic for this option is described in MethodFilter and documented in the MethodFilter help message.

Metric filtering

Alternatively, you may only want to see certain metrics. The -Dgraal.Timers, -Dgraal.Counters and -Dgraal.MemUseTrackers exist for this purpose. These options take a comma separated list of metrics names. Only the named metrics will be activated and reported. To see the available metric names, specify -Dgraal.ListMetrics=true. At VM shutdown this option lists all the metrics that were encountered during the VM execution. It does not list metrics registered on non-executed paths since metric registration is lazy. For example, to see all the metrics available in a boot strap: mx vm -XX:+UseJVMCICompiler -XX:+BootstrapJVMCI -Dgraal.ListMetrics=true -version


In addition to logging, Graal provides support for generating (or dumping) more detailed visualizations of certain compiler data structures. Currently, there is support for dumping:

Dumping is enabled via the -Dgraal.Dump option. The dump handler for generating C1Visualizer output will also generate output for HIR graphs if the -Dgraal.PrintCFG=true option is specified (in addition to the -Dgraal.Dump option).

By default, -Dgraal.Dump output is sent to the IGV over a network socket (localhost:4445). If the IGV cannot be connected to, the output will be sent to a file.

C1Visualizer output is written to *.cfg files. These can be opened via File -> Open Compiled Methods... in C1Visualizer.

The IGV can be launched with mx igv and the C1Visualizer can be launched via mx c1visualizer.

Tracing VM activity related to compilation

Various other VM options are of interest to see activity related to compilation:

  • -XX:+PrintCompilation or -Dgraal.PrintCompilation=true for notification and brief info about each compilation
  • -XX:+TraceDeoptimization can be useful to see if excessive compilation is occurring


Inspecting the compilation of a single method

To see the compiler data structures used while compiling Node.updateUsages, use the following command:

> mx vm -XX:+UseJVMCICompiler -XX:+BootstrapJVMCI -XX:-TieredCompilation -Dgraal.Dump= -Dgraal.MethodFilter=Node.updateUsages -version
Bootstrapping JVMCI....Dumping debug output in /Users/dsimon/graal/graal/compiler/dumps/1497910458736
................................................ in 38177 ms (compiled 5206 methods)
java version "1.8.0_121"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.8.0_121-b13)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 25.71-b01-internal-jvmci-0.26, mixed mode)
> find dumps/1497910458736 -type f
dumps/1497910458736/HotSpotCompilation-539[org.graalvm.compiler.graph.Node.updateUsages(Node, Node)].bgv
dumps/1497910458736/HotSpotCompilation-539[org.graalvm.compiler.graph.Node.updateUsages(Node, Node)].cfg

As you become familiar with the scope names used in Graal, you can refine the -Dgraal.Dump option to limit the amount of dump output generated. For example, the "CodeGen" and "CodeInstall" scopes are active during code generation and installation respectively. To see the machine code (in the C1Visualizer) produced during these scopes: mx vm -Dgraal.Dump=CodeGen,CodeInstall -Dgraal.MethodFilter=NodeClass.get -version You will notice that no IGV output is generated by this command.

Alternatively, you can see the machine code using HotSpot's PrintAssembly support:

mx hsdis
mx vm -XX:+UseJVMCICompiler -XX:+BootstrapJVMCI -XX:-TieredCompilation -XX:CompileCommand='print,*Node.updateUsages' -version

The first step above installs the hsdis disassembler and only needs to be performed once.