Java™ Platform
Standard Ed. 6

Package java.lang.instrument

Provides services that allow Java programming language agents to instrument programs running on the JVM.

See:
          Description

Interface Summary
ClassFileTransformer An agent provides an implementation of this interface in order to transform class files.
Instrumentation This class provides services needed to instrument Java programming language code.
 

Class Summary
ClassDefinition This class serves as a parameter block to the Instrumentation.redefineClasses method.
 

Exception Summary
IllegalClassFormatException Thrown by an implementation of ClassFileTransformer.transform when its input parameters are invalid.
UnmodifiableClassException Thrown by an implementation of Instrumentation.redefineClasses when one of the specified classes cannot be modified.
 

Package java.lang.instrument Description

Provides services that allow Java programming language agents to instrument programs running on the JVM. The mechanism for instrumentation is modification of the byte-codes of methods.

Package Specification

An agent is deployed as a JAR file. An attribute in the JAR file manifest specifies the agent class which will be loaded to start the agent. For implementations that support a command-line interface, an agent is started by specifying an option on the command-line. Implementations may also support a mechanism to start agents some time after the VM has started. For example, an implementation may provide a mechanism that allows a tool to attach to a running application, and initiate the loading of the tool's agent into the running application. The details as to how the load is initiated, is implementation dependent.

Command-Line Interface

On implementations with a command-line interface, an agent is started by adding this option to the command-line:

-javaagent:jarpath[=options]
jarpath is the path to the agent JAR file. options is the agent options. This switch may be used multiple times on the same command-line, thus creating multiple agents. More than one agent may use the same jarpath. An agent JAR file must conform to the JAR file specification.

The manifest of the agent JAR file must contain the attribute Premain-Class. The value of this attribute is the name of the agent class. The agent class must implement a public static premain method similar in principle to the main application entry point. After the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) has initialized, each premain method will be called in the order the agents were specified, then the real application main method will be called. Each premain method must return in order for the startup sequence to proceed.

The premain method has one of two possible signatures. The JVM first attempts to invoke the following method on the agent class:

public static void premain(String agentArgs, Instrumentation inst);

If the agent class does not implement this method then the JVM will attempt to invoke:

public static void premain(String agentArgs);

The agent class may also have an agentmain method for use when the agent is started after VM startup. When the agent is started using a command-line option, the agentmain method is not invoked.

The agent class will be loaded by the system class loader (see ClassLoader.getSystemClassLoader). This is the class loader which typically loads the class containing the application main method. The premain methods will be run under the same security and classloader rules as the application main method. There are no modeling restrictions on what the agent premain method may do. Anything application main can do, including creating threads, is legal from premain.

Each agent is passed its agent options via the agentArgs parameter. The agent options are passed as a single string, any additional parsing should be performed by the agent itself.

If the agent cannot be resolved (for example, because the agent class cannot be loaded, or because the agent class does not have an appropriate premain method), the JVM will abort. If a premain method throws an uncaught exception, the JVM will abort.

Starting Agents After VM Startup

An implementation may provide a mechanism to start agents sometime after the the VM has started. The details as to how this is initiated are implementation specific but typically the application has already started and its main method has already been invoked. In cases where an implementation supports the starting of agents after the VM has started the following applies:

  1. The manifest of the agent JAR must contain the attribute Agent-Class. The value of this attribute is the name of the agent class.

  2. The agent class must implement a public static agentmain method.

  3. The system class loader ( ClassLoader.getSystemClassLoader) must support a mechanism to add an agent JAR file to the system class path.

The agent JAR is appended to the system class path. This is the class loader that typically loads the class containing the application main method. The agent class is loaded and the JVM attempts to invoke the agentmain method. The JVM first attempts to invoke the following method on the agent class:

public static void agentmain(String agentArgs, Instrumentation inst);

If the agent class does not implement this method then the JVM will attempt to invoke:

public static void agentmain(String agentArgs);

The agent class may also have an premain method for use when the agent is started using a command-line option. When the agent is started after VM startup the premain method is not invoked.

The agent is passed its agent options via the agentArgs parameter. The agent options are passed as a single string, any additional parsing should be performed by the agent itself.

The agentmain method should do any necessary initialization required to start the agent. When startup is complete the method should return. If the agent cannot be started (for example, because the agent class cannot be loaded, or because the agent class does not have a conformant agentmain method), the JVM will not abort. If the agentmain method throws an uncaught exception it will be ignored.

Manifest Attributes

The following manifest attributes are defined for an agent JAR file:
Premain-Class
When an agent is specified at JVM launch time this attribute specifies the agent class. That is, the class containing the premain method. When an agent is specified at JVM launch time this attribute is required. If the attribute is not present the JVM will abort. Note: this is a class name, not a file name or path.
Agent-Class
If an implementation supports a mechanism to start agents sometime after the VM has started then this attribute specifies the agent class. That is, the class containing the agentmain method. This attribute is required, if it is not present the agent will not be started. Note: this is a class name, not a file name or path.
Boot-Class-Path
A list of paths to be searched by the bootstrap class loader. Paths represent directories or libraries (commonly referred to as JAR or zip libraries on many platforms). These paths are searched by the bootstrap class loader after the platform specific mechanisms of locating a class have failed. Paths are searched in the order listed. Paths in the list are separated by one or more spaces. A path takes the syntax of the path component of a hierarchical URI. The path is absolute if it begins with a slash character ('/'), otherwise it is relative. A relative path is resolved against the absolute path of the agent JAR file. Malformed and non-existent paths are ignored. When an agent is started sometime after the VM has started then paths that do not represent a JAR file are ignored. This attribute is optional.
Can-Redefine-Classes
Boolean (true or false, case irrelevant). Is the ability to redefine classes needed by this agent. Values other than true are considered false. This attribute is optional, the default is false.
Can-Retransform-Classes
Boolean (true or false, case irrelevant). Is the ability to retransform classes needed by this agent. Values other than true are considered false. This attribute is optional, the default is false.
Can-Set-Native-Method-Prefix
Boolean (true or false, case irrelevant). Is the ability to set native method prefix needed by this agent. Values other than true are considered false. This attribute is optional, the default is false.

An agent JAR file may have both the Premain-Class and Agent-Class attributes present in the manifest. When the agent is started on the command-line using the -javaagent option then the Premain-Class attribute specifies the name of the agent class and the Agent-Class attribute is ignored. Similarly, if the agent is started sometime after the VM has started, then the Agent-Class attribute specifies the name of the agent class (the value of Premain-Class attribute is ignored).

Related Documentation

For tool documentation, please see:

Since:
JDK1.5

Java™ Platform
Standard Ed. 6

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For further API reference and developer documentation, see Java SE Developer Documentation. That documentation contains more detailed, developer-targeted descriptions, with conceptual overviews, definitions of terms, workarounds, and working code examples.

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