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In today's software, which increasingly utilizes dynamic class loading, shared libraries, and interconnected components, the power and reach of static compiler optimization is diminishing. An exciting new paradigm of transparent dynamic binary optimization is emerging, aimed at improving the performance of a program while it executes. Recently, several dynamic binary optimization systems have appeared in the literature. They all share a fundamental property: the ability to observe and modify instructions of the executing program immediately before they run. Importantly, recent advances allow this capability to be offered without having to pay the price of performance degradation. This paper describes the intricacies of a dynamic binary optimizer and how to build the core functionalities of observing and modifying executing instructions. We illustrate the major design decisions and tradeoffs and point to the important engineering challenges.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2005