computer talk by a systems hacker and ruby-core developer

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Ruby 2.1: objspace.so

ObjectSpace in ruby contains many useful heap debugging utilities.

Since 1.9 ruby has included objspace.so which adds even more methods to the ObjectSpace module:

ObjectSpace.each_object{ |o| ... }
ObjectSpace.count_objects #=> {:TOTAL=>55298, :FREE=>10289, :T_OBJECT=>3371, ...}
ObjectSpace.each_object.inject(Hash.new 0){ |h,o| h[o.class]+=1; h } #=> {Class=>416, ...}

require 'objspace'
ObjectSpace.memsize_of(o) #=> 0 /* additional bytes allocated by object */
ObjectSpace.count_tdata_objects #=> {Encoding=>100, Time=>87, RubyVM::Env=>17, ...}
ObjectSpace.count_nodes #=> {:NODE_SCOPE=>2, :NODE_BLOCK=>688, :NODE_IF=>9, ...}
ObjectSpace.reachable_objects_from(o) #=> [referenced, objects, ...]
ObjectSpace.reachable_objects_from_root #=> {"symbols"=>..., "global_tbl"=>...} /* in 2.1 */

In 2.1, we've added a two big new features: an allocation tracer and a heap dumper.

Allocation Tracing

Tracking down memory growth and object reference leaks is tricky when you don't know where the objects are coming from.

With 2.1, you can enable allocation tracing to collect metadata about every new object:

require 'objspace'

class MyApp
  def perform

o = MyApp.new.perform
ObjectSpace.allocation_sourcefile(o) #=> "example.rb"
ObjectSpace.allocation_sourceline(o) #=> 6
ObjectSpace.allocation_generation(o) #=> 1
ObjectSpace.allocation_class_path(o) #=> "MyApp"
ObjectSpace.allocation_method_id(o)  #=> :perform

A block version of the tracer is also available.

Under the hood, this feature is built on NEWOBJ and FREEOBJ tracepoints included in 2.1. These events are only available from C, via rb_tracepoint_new().

Heap Dumping

To further help debug object reference leaks, you can dump an object (or the entire heap) for offline analysis.

require 'objspace'

# enable tracing for file/line/generation data in dumps

# dump single object as json string
ObjectSpace.dump("abc".freeze) #=> "{...}"

# dump out all live objects to a json file
ObjectSpace.dump_all(output: File.open('heap.json','w'))

Objects are serialized as simple json, and include all relevant details about the object, its source (if allocating tracing was enabled), and outbound references:


The heap dump produced by ObjectSpace.dump_all can be processed by the tool of your choice. You might try a json processor like jq or a json database. Since the dump contains outbound references for each object, a full object graph can be re-created for deep analysis.

For example, here's a simple ruby/shell script to see which gems/libraries create the most long-lived objects of different types:

$ cat heap.json |
    ruby -rjson -ne ' puts JSON.parse($_).values_at("file","line","type").join(":") ' |
    sort        |
    uniq -c     |
    sort -n     |
    tail -4

26289 lib/active_support/dependencies.rb:184:NODE
29972 lib/active_support/dependencies.rb:184:DATA
43100 lib/psych/visitors/to_ruby.rb:324:STRING
47096 lib/active_support/dependencies.rb:184:STRING

If you have a ruby application that feels large or bloated, give these new ObjectSpace features a try. And if you end up writing a heap analysis tool or visualization for these json files, do let me know on twitter.