Better Software Development with Replay Debugging

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Goodbye, Replay Debugging…

Note: I'm speaking for myself on this blog, not my employer.

You may have noticed that there hasn't been much action at replaydebugging.com recently. Well, there's a reason. As of VMware Workstation 8 (released September 14, 2011), replay debugging no longer exists. Both the Windows and Linux flavors of replay debugging are no more. But I should point out that live debugging, assisted via the VMware Visual Studio add-on, continues to work as it always has.

The Workstation management team has decided to focus on features that reach a wider audience, including developers. After the Workstation 7.1 release, we identified the next set of improvements that needed to be made to Replay Debugging to evolve it into the system we wanted it to be. We wanted to include multi-processor VM support, support additional high-level languages, support debugging of system code, and continue to improve performance and usability. Our effort estimate turned out to be rather significant (not surprising given the epic scope of the problem that we tackled in the first place). The Workstation management team concluded that not enough people had demonstrated the need or invested the time necessary to configure and use the feature, so they decided to dedicate our engineers to features that would be used by more developers and other customers. I'm disappointed, but I understand and respect their decision.

I'm grateful for the opportunity given to our team to build our replay debugging system, and I'm proud of what we've produced. We have some truly heroic developers on our team that helped us achieve what at first blush appeared to be impossible. It has been extremely gratifying working with customers who have derived benefit from our little project. And it's been great hearing your stories and feedback and successes.

To those of you who have come to rely on replay debugging, I offer my apologies. But I think we've proven the practicality and utility of replay debugging systems, and I suspect others will build similar great products to help you solve your most challenging development puzzles.

Happy hacking.

18 Comments:

  • I can't believe it. This was a very, very promising feature. The only reason it has not been used widely is that it was not ready for prime time. There where still too many problems, but had they been resolved, it would have been a really great, an indispensible tool.
    Problems where: not enough breakpoints available, setup too difficult, no multicore debugging.

    I really, really hope that someday replay debugging will be back.

    I will NOT upgrade to Workstation 8 and will NOT recommend an upgrade to my client.

    Please get replay debugging back!!

    By Blogger Hajo Kirchhoff of Lit Window Productions, At September 14, 2011 at 12:07 PM  

  • @Hajo, agreed 100%

    By Blogger Dmitry Grinberg, At September 14, 2011 at 2:56 PM  

  • Hi, Hajo and Dmitry. I'll make sure leadership reads your comments.

    By Blogger ECL, At September 15, 2011 at 7:30 AM  

  • This is a very very sad fact. I already upgraded to VMware Workstation 8 and noticed only after the upgrade.

    This was apparently rather silently removed and I'm honestly thinking of downgrading.

    Of course the "list of improvements" did not mention this little fact.

    Annoying.

    Side-note: multicore debugging would not have been a killer feature for me. But I agree that the setup was rather complicated. Which is likely one reason it was not as widely used as it could/should have been.

    By OpenID oliver, At September 16, 2011 at 2:51 AM  

  • After removed this feature, vmware become closer with other vm product rather than a leader in industry.

    By Blogger nbo0k, At September 18, 2011 at 9:04 AM  

  • Folks, I suggest we take a formal approach here. I sent a support request after I found out here that the feature was gone. I had already upgraded to version 8 by then. Of course the removal was not as much advertised as the new and improved features (not to say: not at all! ;)).

    The support engineers told me to file a feature request here: http://www.vmware.com/contact/contactus.html?department=prod_request

    If you can, file a request there as well!

    http://blog.assarbad.net/20110920/re-the-catch-when-upgrading-to-vmware-workstation-8/

    Which I did. Perhaps an online petition might also help?

    By OpenID oliver, At September 25, 2011 at 11:35 PM  

  • @oliver: I too didn't discover this until after upgrading. ("That's funny, where'd the Record button go?") My feature request has already been submitted.

    Now I just have to hope I can find my WS7 license key again!

    By Blogger Benjamin, At September 29, 2011 at 2:00 PM  

  • @Benjamin: you can downgrade in the same place where you can display the license key(s) and split or merge them.

    By OpenID oliver, At September 30, 2011 at 9:42 AM  

  • The only reason I did not use replay debug is because I use Delphi. Multicore support would not have been a big deal. It just matters if the bug still occurs under single core.

    By Blogger William Egge, At December 16, 2011 at 9:00 AM  

  • VMware never understood what they had with this product. Every game developer in the world should have paid $1000 to own a license for replay debugging.

    Problem was, replay debugging never worked exactly as it was described. It was crashy, it was unstable, it tended to lock up on large projects, etc.

    Some other developer will figure out this tech and also figure out how to sell it correctly, and that developer is gonna eat VMware's lunch.

    By Blogger John Byrd, At January 14, 2012 at 12:52 PM  

  • Has anyone found any replacement for replay debugging? I stumbled onto this blog hoping to find a way to enable replay debugging in Fusion, but am quite disappointed. My use of the feature has been somewhat limited due to the fact that I seldom use Workstation. However, it was an awesome feature - probably the most exciting technology I've recently seen (as someone who spends a lot of time in a debugger).

    By Blogger mjw, At February 19, 2012 at 8:55 PM  

  • If you develop on Linux, you can use UndoDB: http://undo-software.com/

    If you use Windows, Visual Studio's historical debugging offers something similar (though not quite as complete).

    By Blogger Unknown, At June 18, 2012 at 5:22 AM  

  • By now we have VMware Workstation 11 and we can surmise that all attempts at getting this feature back in should be considered failed.

    It's sad and upsetting, but I guess I can understand the economical side of it. After all developers are probably just a part of the VMware Workstation user base. Also, perhaps the feature interfered in some way with their server products or cross-product compatibility?

    Anyway, to me that chapter is closed.

    To add to the comment above: if the processor allows for it, GDB 7.x has introduced something like replay debugging (requires CPU support): https://sourceware.org/gdb/onlinedocs/gdb/Process-Record-and-Replay.html

    By OpenID oliver, At July 6, 2015 at 3:35 AM  

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