Kicking Spring Native's Tires

Kicking Spring Native's Tires

Let's take a look under Spring Native's hood and learn how to Kicking Spring Native's Tires.

GraalVM provides many different features. Among them, the component known as Substrate VM allows to AOT-compile regular bytecode to a native executable. The process "walks" the application starting from the main method at build time. Substrate VM leaves out the code that it doesn't follow out from the resulting binary.

For Spring applications, that's a big issue. The framework does a lot of work at runtime e.g., classpath scanning and reflection.

The usual way to cope with this limitation is to record all interactions with the application running on a JVM via a Java agent provided by Graal VM. At the end of the run, the agent dumps out all recorded interactions into dedicated configuration files:

  • Reflective access
  • Serialized classes
  • Proxied interfaces
  • Resources and resource bundles
  • JNI

This option is compelling and allows one to create native images out of nearly every possible Java application. It comes with a couple of downsides, though, as you need:

  1. A complete GraalVM distribution that provides the agent
  2. A test suite that tests every nook and cranny of the application
  3. A process that executes the suite and creates the configuration files with every new release

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