Plugin Developer Guide

You can write Pinpoint profiler plugins to extend profiling target coverage. It is highly advisable to look into the trace data recorded by pinpoint plugins before jumping into plugin development.

I. Trace Data

In Pinpoint, a transaction consists of a group of Spans. Each Span represents a trace of a single logical node where the transaction has gone through.

To aid in visualization, let's suppose that there is a system like below. The FrontEnd server receives requests from users, then sends request to the BackEnd server, which queries a DB. Among these nodes, let's assume only the FrontEnd and BackEnd servers are profiled by the Pinpoint Agent.

When a request arrives at the FrontEnd server, Pinpoint Agent generates a new transaction id and creates a Span with it. To handle the request, the FrontEnd server then invokes the BackEnd server. At this point, Pinpoint Agent injects the transaction id (plus a few other values for propagation) into the invocation message. When the BackEnd server receives this message, it extracts the transaction id (and the other values) from the message and creates a new Span with them. Resulting, all Spans in a single transaction share the same transaction id.

A Span records important method invocations and their related data(arguments, return value, etc) before encapsulating them as SpanEvents in a call stack like representation. The Span itself and each of its SpanEvents represents a method invocation.

Span and SpanEvent have many fields, but most of them are handled internally by Pinpoint Agent and most plugin developers won't need to worry about them. But the fields and data that must be handled by plugin developers will be listed throughout this guide.

II. Pinpoint Plugin Structure

Pinpoint plugin consists of type-provider.yml and ProfilerPlugin implementations. type-provider.yml defines the ServiceTypes and AnnotationKeys that will be provided by the plugin, and provides them to Pinpoint Agent, Web and Collector. ProfilerPlugin implementations are used by Pinpoint Agent to transform target classes to record trace data.

Plugins are deployed as jar files. These jar files are packaged under the plugin directory for the agent, while the collector and web have them deployed under WEB-INF/lib. On start up, Pinpoint Agent, Collector, and Web iterates through each of these plugins; parses type-provider.yml, and loads ProfilerPlugin implementations using ServiceLoader from the following locations:

  • META-INF/pinpoint/type-provider.yml

  • META-INF/services/com.navercorp.pinpoint.bootstrap.plugin.ProfilerPlugin

Here is a template plugin project you can use to start creating your own plugin.

1. type-provider.yml

type-provider.yml defines the ServiceTypes and AnnotationKeys that will be used by the plugin and provided to the agent, collector and web; the format of which is outlined below.

    - code: <short>
      name: <String>
      desc: <String>   # May be omitted, defaulting to the same value as name.
      property:        # May be omitted, all properties defaulting to false.
          terminal: <boolean>               # May be omitted, defaulting to false.
          queue: <boolean>                  # May be omitted, defaulting to false.
          recordStatistics: <boolean>       # May be omitted, defaulting to false.
          includeDestinationId: <boolean>   # May be omitted, defaulting to false.
          alias: <boolean>                  # May be omitted, defaulting to false.          
      matcher:         # May be omitted
          type: <String>   # Any one of 'args', 'exact', 'none'
          code: <int>      # Annotation key code - required only if type is 'exact'

    - code: <int>
      name: <String>
      property:        # May be omitted, all properties defaulting to false.
          viewInRecordSet: <boolean>

ServiceType and AnnotationKey defined here are instantiated when the agent loads, and can be obtained using ServiceTypeProvider and AnnotationKeyProvider like below.

// ServiceType
ServiceType serviceType = ServiceTypeProvider.getByCode(1000);    // by ServiceType code
ServiceType serviceType = ServiceTypeProvider.getByName("NAME");  // by ServiceType name
// AnnotationKey
AnnotationKey annotationKey = AnnotationKeyProvider.getByCode("100");

1.1 ServiceType

Every Span and SpanEvent contains a ServiceType. The ServiceType represents which library the traced method belongs to, as well as how the Span and SpanEvent should be handled.

The table below shows the ServiceType's properties.



name of the ServiceType. Must be unique


short type code value of the ServiceType. Must be unique





ServiceType code must use a value from its appropriate category. The table below shows these categories and their range of codes.


Internal Use

0 ~ 999


1000 ~ 1999

DB Client

2000 ~ 2999

Cache Client

8000 ~ 8999

RPC Client

9000 ~ 9999


5000 ~ 7999

ServiceType code must be unique. Therefore, if you are writing a plugin that will be shared publicly, you must contact Pinpoint dev. team to get a ServiceType code assigned. If your plugin is for private use, you may freely pick a value for ServiceType code from the table below.



1900 ~ 1999

DB client

2900 ~ 2999

Cache client

8900 ~ 8999

RPC client

9900 ~ 9999


7500 ~ 7999

ServiceTypes can have the following properties.



This Span or SpanEvent invokes a remote node but the target node is not traceable with Pinpoint


This Span or SpanEvent consumes/produces a message from/to a message queue.


This Span or SpanEvent records a destination id and remote server is not a traceable type.


Pinpoint Collector should collect execution time statistics of this Span or SpanEvent


The service may or may not have Pinpoint-Agent attached at the following service but regardlessly have knowledge what will follow. (Ex. Elasticsearch client)

1.2 AnnotationKey

You can annotate spans and span events with more information. An Annotation is a key-value pair where the key is an AnnotationKey type and the value is a primitive type, String or a byte[]. There are pre-defined AnnotationKeys for commonly used annotation types, but you can define your own keys in type-provider.yml if these are not enough.



Name of the AnnotationKey


int type code value of the AnnotationKey. Must be unique.



If you are writing a plugin for public use, and are looking to add a new AnnotationKey, you must contact the Pinpoint dev. team to get an AnnotationKey code assigned. If your plugin is for private use, you may pick a value between 900 to 999 safely to use as AnnotationKey code.

The table below shows the AnnotationKey properties.



Show this annotation in transaction call tree.


This property is not for plugins.


You can find type-provider.yml sample here.

You may also define and attach an AnnotationKeyMatcher with a ServiceType (matcher element in the sample type-provider code above). If you attach an AnnotationKeyMatcher this way, matching annotations will be displayed as representative annotation when the ServiceType's Span or SpanEvent is displayed in the transaction call tree.

2. ProfilerPlugin

ProfilerPlugin modifies target library classes to collect trace data.

ProfilerPlugin works in the order of following steps:

  1. Pinpoint Agent is started when the JVM starts.

  2. Pinpoint Agent loads all plugins under plugin directory.

  3. Pinpoint Agent invokes ProfilerPlugin.setup(ProfilerPluginSetupContext) for each loaded plugin.

  4. In the setup method, the plugin registers a TransformerCallback to all classes that are going to be transformed.

  5. Target application starts.

  6. Every time a class is loaded, Pinpoint Agent looks for the TransformerCallback registered to the class.

  7. If a TransformerCallback is registered, the Agent invokes it's doInTransform method.

  8. TransformerCallback modifies the target class' byte code. (e.g. add interceptors, add fields, etc.)

  9. The modified byte code is returned to the JVM, and the class is loaded with the returned byte code.

  10. Application continues running.

  11. When a modified method is invoked, the injected interceptor's before and after methods are invoked.

  12. The interceptor records the trace data.

The most important points to consider when writing a plugin are 1) figuring out which methods are interesting enough to warrant tracing, and 2) injecting interceptors to actually trace these methods. These interceptors are used to extract, store, and pass trace data around before they are sent off to the Collector. Interceptors may even cooperate with each other, sharing context between them. Plugins may also aid in tracing by adding getters or even custom fields to the target class so that the interceptors may access them during execution. Pinpoint plugin sample shows you how the TransformerCallback modifies classes and what the injected interceptors do to trace a method.

We will now describe what interceptors must do to trace different kinds of methods.

2.1 Plain method

Plain method refers to anything that is not a top-level method of a node, or is not related to remote or asynchronous invocation. Sample 2 shows you how to trace these plain methods.

2.2 Top level method of a node

Top level method of a node is a method in which its interceptor begins a new trace in a node. These methods are typically acceptors for RPCs, and the trace is recorded as a Span with ServiceType categorized as a server.

How the Span is recorded depends on whether the transaction has already begun at any previous nodes.

2.2.1 New transaction

If the current node is the first one that is recording the transaction, you must issue a new transaction id and record it. TraceContext.newTraceObject() will handle this task automatically, so you will simply need to invoke it.

2.2.2 Continue Transaction

If the request came from another node traced by a Pinpoint Agent, then the transaction will already have a transaction id issued; and you will have to record the data below to the Span. (Most of these data are sent from the previous node, usually packed in the request message)



Transaction ID


Span ID of the previous node


Application name of the previous node


Application type of the previous node


Procedure name (Optional)


Server(current node) address


Client address


Server address that the client used

Pinpoint finds caller-callee relation between nodes using acceptorHost. In most cases, acceptorHost is identical to endPoint. However, the address which client sent the request to may sometimes be different from the address the server received the request (proxy). To handle such cases, you have to record the actual address the client used to send the request to as acceptorHost. Normally, the client plugin will have added this address into the request message along with the transaction data.

Moreover, you must also use the span id issued and sent by the previous node.

Sometimes, the previous node marks the transaction to not be traced. In this case, you must not trace the transaction.

As you can see, the client plugin must be able pass trace data to the server plugin, and how to do this is protocol dependent.

You can find an example of top-level method server interceptor here.

2.3 Methods invoking a remote node

An interceptor of a method that invokes a remote node has to record the following data:



Target server address


Logical name of the target


Invoking target procedure name (optional)


Span id that will be used by next node's span (If next node is traceable by Pinpoint)

Whether or not the next node is traceable by Pinpoint affects how the interceptor is implemented. The term "traceable" here is about possibility. For example, a HTTP client's next node is a HTTP server. Pinpoint does not trace all HTTP servers, but it is possible to trace them (and there already are HTTP server plugins). In this case, the HTTP client's next node is traceable. On the other hand, MySQL JDBC's next node, a MySQL database server, is not traceable.

2.3.1 If the next node is traceable

If the next node is traceable, the interceptor must propagate the following data to the next node. How to pass them is protocol dependent, and in worst cases may be impossible to pass them at all.



Transaction ID


Application name of current node


Application type of current node


Span id of trace at current node


Span id that will be used by the next node's span (same value with nextSpanId of above table)

Pinpoint finds out caller-callee relation by matching destinationId of client trace and acceptorHost of server trace. Therefore the client plugin has to record destinationId and the server plugin has to record acceptorHost with the same value. If server cannot acquire the value by itself, client plugin has to pass it to server.

The interceptor's recorded ServiceType must be from the RPC client category.

You can find an example for these interceptors here.

2.3.2 If the next node is not traceable

If the next node is not traceable, your ServiceType must have the TERMINAL property.

If you want to record the destinationId, it must also have the INCLUDE_DESTINATION_ID property. If you record destinationId, server map will show a node per destinationId even if they have same endPoint.

Also, the ServiceType must be a DB client or Cache client category. Note that you do not need to concern yourself about the terms "DB" or "Cache", as any plugin tracing a client library with non-traceable target server may use them. The only difference between "DB" and "Cache" is the time range of the response time histogram ("Cache" having smaller intervals for the histogram).

2.4 Asynchronous task

Trace objects are bound to the thread that first created them via ThreadLocal and whenever the execution crosses a thread boundary, trace objects are lost to the new thread. Therefore, in order to trace tasks across thread boundaries, you must take care of passing the current trace context over to the new thread. This is done by injecting an AsyncContext into an object shared by both the invocation thread and the execution thread. The invocation thread creates an AsyncContext from the current trace, and injects it into an object that will be passed over to the execution thread. The execution thread then retrieves the AsyncContext from the object, creates a new trace out of it and binds it to it's own ThreadLocal. You must therefore create interceptors for two methods : i) one that initiates the task (invocation thread), and ii) the other that actually handles the task (execution thread).

The initiating method's interceptor has to issue an AsyncContext and pass it to the handling method. How to pass this value depends on the target library. In worst cases, you may not be able to pass it at all.

The handling method's interceptor must then continue the trace using the propagated AsyncContext and bind it to it's own thread. However, it is very strongly recommended that you simply extend the AsyncContextSpanEventSimpleAroundInterceptor so that you do not have to handle this manually.

Keep in mind that since the shared object must be able have AsyncContext injected into it, you have to add a field using AsyncContextAccessor during it's class transformation. You can find an example for tracing asynchronous tasks here.

2.5 Case Study: HTTP

HTTP client is an example of a method invoking a remote node (client), and HTTP server is an example of a top level method of a node (server). As mentioned before, client plugins must have a way to pass transaction data to server plugins to continue the trace. Note that the implementation is protocol dependent, and HttpMethodBaseExecuteMethodInterceptor of HttpClient3 plugin and StandardHostValveInvokeInterceptor of Tomcat plugin show a working example of this for HTTP:

  1. Pass transaction data as HTTP headers. You can find header names here

  2. Client plugin records IP:PORT of the server as destinationId.

  3. Client plugin passes destinationId value to server as Header.HTTP_HOST header.

  4. Server plugin records Header.HTTP_HOST header value as acceptorHost.

One more thing you have to remember is that all the clients and servers using the same protocol must pass the transaction data in the same way to ensure compatibility. So if you are writing a plugin of some other HTTP client or server, your plugin has to record and pass transaction data as described above.

3. Plugin Integration Test

You can run plugin integration tests (mvn integration-test) with PinointPluginTestSuite, which is a JUnit Runner. It downloads all the required dependencies from maven repositories and launches a new JVM with the Pinpoint Agent and the aforementioned dependencies. The JUnit tests are executed in this JVM.

To run the plugin integration test, it needs a complete agent distribution - which is why integration tests are in the plugin-sample-agent module and why they are run in integration-test phase.

For the actual integration test, you will want to first invoke the method you are tracing, and then use PluginTestVerifier to check if the trace data is correctly recorded.

3.1 Test Dependency

PinointPluginTestSuite doesn't use the project's dependencies (configured in pom.xml). It uses the dependencies that are listed by @Dependency annotation. This way, you may test multiple versions of the target library using the same test class.

Dependencies are declared as following. You may specify versions or version ranges for a dependency library.

@Dependency({"", ""})

PinointPluginTestSuite by default searches the local repository and maven central repository. You may also add your own repositories by using the @Repository annotation.

3.2 Jvm Version

You can specify the JVM version for a test using @JvmVersion. If @JvmVersion is not present, JVM at java.home property will be used.

3.3 Application Test

PinpointPluginTestSuite is not for applications that has to be launched by its own main class. You can extend AbstractPinpointPluginTestSuite and related types to test such applications.

4. Adding Images

If you're developing a plugin for applications, you need to add images so the server map can render the corresponding node. The plugin jar itself cannot provide these image files and for now, you will have to add the image files to the web module manually.

First, put the PNG files to following directories:

  • web/src/main/webapp/images/icons (25x25)

  • web/src/main/webapp/images/servermap (80x40)

Then, add ServiceType name and the image file name to htIcons in web/src/main/webapp/components/server-map2/jquery.ServerMap2.js.

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