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[Java][Profiling][JVM] Everybody lies, profilers too

There is an excellent presentation on YouTube called Profilers are lying hobbitses by Nitsan Wakart. I strongly recommend you to watch it. Here is another example of lie from profilers.

Profiled application

Simple class:

import java.util.ArrayList;
import java.util.List;

/** Andrei Pangin is an author of that reproduction. Details later. */
public class ArrayListGrow {
    static final int SIZE = 2048;
    static volatile List<Object> tmp;

    static void runTest() {
        List<Object> list = new ArrayList<>(SIZE);
        tmp = list;

    static void fill(List<Object> list) {
        for (int i = 0; i < SIZE; i++) {

    static void spoil() {
        for (int i = 0; i < 1000000; i++) {
            new ArrayList<>(0).add("");

    public static void main(String[] args) {

        while (true) {

Let’s run that code using Amazon Corretto 1.8.0_312, and run the Async-profiler in CPU mode.

./ -d 10 ArrayListGrow

The beginning of the output is:

Profiling for 10 seconds
--- Execution profile ---
Total samples       : 1020

--- 8199255026 ns (80.37%), 820 samples
  [ 0] java.util.Arrays.copyOf
  [ 1] java.util.ArrayList.grow
  [ 2] java.util.ArrayList.ensureExplicitCapacity
  [ 3] java.util.ArrayList.ensureCapacityInternal
  [ 4] java.util.ArrayList.add
  [ 5] ArrayListGrow.fill
  [ 6] ArrayListGrow.runTest
  [ 7] ArrayListGrow.main

That means that our ArrayList executes method grow() while adding an element. That add is invoked from ArrayListGrow.fill. But how is it possible? That list is created with new ArrayList<>(SIZE) and we are adding exactly SIZE elements. The ArrayList shouldn’t grow in that case. Let’s run it in the debugger. Let’s create a breakpoint at runTest() line to skip the spoil() part first:

alt text

Now let’s remove that one and create one in ArrayList.grow():

alt text

Let’s hit continue, so debugger could stop in the new breakpoint… and it doesn’t want to stop. So the profiler shows us a huge usage of ArrayList.grow(), and the debugger shows us no usage of that method. Who should we trust?

This time the debugger has right, but we cannot blame any profiler for that lie since this is a …

JVM bug

That bug was originally spotted by me, the original discussion over that topic is here. My reconstruction was much more complicated than Andrei’s, that’s why I prefer to show his version. The bug is registered with number JDK-8281677.

This bug hurts all profilers that use AsyncGetCallTrace or PerfMapAgent, so basically every modern profilers (Async-profiler, JProfiler in async mode, Perf + PMA, eBpf profiler + PMA, …).

This bug is not just an ArrayList issue. I encountered multiple parts of my code where profiler lied to me because of that.