Re: Do you use a garbage collector (java vs c++ difference in "new")

Razii <>
Sat, 12 Apr 2008 20:57:53 -0500
On Sat, 12 Apr 2008 07:39:11 -0700, "Chris Thomasson"
<> wrote:

That is if the JVM happens to use counter(s) off a base to implement their

from IBM site...

In HotSpot JVMs (Sun JDK 1.2 and later), things got a lot better --
the Sun JDKs moved to a generational collector. Because a copying
collector is used for the young generation, the free space in the heap
is always contiguous so that allocation of a new object from the heap
can be done through a simple pointer addition, as shown in Listing 1.
This makes object allocation in Java applications significantly
cheaper than it is in C, a possibility that many developers at first
have difficulty imagining. Similarly, because copying collectors do
not visit dead objects, a heap with a large number of temporary
objects, which is a common situation in Java applications, costs very
little to collect; simply trace and copy the live objects to a
survivor space and reclaim the entire heap in one fell swoop. No free
lists, no block coalescing, no compacting -- just wipe the heap clean
and start over. So both allocation and deallocation costs per object
went way down in JDK 1.2.

Listing 1. Fast allocation in a contiguous heap
void *malloc(int n) {
  synchronized (heapLock) {
    if (heapTop - heapStart > n)

    void *wasStart = heapStart;
    heapStart += n;
    return wasStart;
Performance advice often has a short shelf life; while it was once
true that allocation was expensive, it is now no longer the case. In
fact, it is downright cheap, and with a few very compute-intensive
exceptions, performance considerations are generally no longer a good
reason to avoid allocation. Sun estimates allocation costs at
approximately ten machine instructions. That's pretty much free --
certainly no reason to complicate the structure of your program or
incur additional maintenance risks for the sake of eliminating a few
object creations.

Of course, allocation is only half the story -- most objects that are
allocated are eventually garbage collected, which also has costs. But
there's good news there, too. The vast majority of objects in most
Java applications become garbage before the next collection. The cost
of a minor garbage collection is proportional to the number of live
objects in the young generation, not the number of objects allocated
since the last collection. Because so few young generation objects
survive to the next collection, the amortized cost of collection per
allocation is fairly small (and can be made even smaller by simply
increasing the heap size, subject to the availability of enough

But wait, it gets better

The JIT compiler can perform additional optimizations that can reduce
the cost of object allocation to zero. Consider the code in Listing 2,
where the getPosition() method creates a temporary object to hold the
coordinates of a point, and the calling method uses the Point object
briefly and then discards it. The JIT will likely inline the call to
getPosition() and, using a technique called escape analysis, can
recognize that no reference to the Point object leaves the
doSomething() method. Knowing this, the JIT can then allocate the
object on the stack instead of the heap or, even better, optimize the
allocation away completely and simply hoist the fields of the Point
into registers. While the current Sun JVMs do not yet perform this
optimization, future JVMs probably will. The fact that allocation can
get even cheaper in the future, with no changes to your code, is just
one more reason not to compromise the correctness or maintainability
of your program for the sake of avoiding a few extra allocations.

Listing 2. Escape analysis can eliminate many temporary allocations

void doSomething() {
  Point p = someObject.getPosition();
  System.out.println("Object is at (" + p.x, + ", " + p.y + ")");


Point getPosition() {
  return new Point(myX, myY);

Isn't the allocator a scalability bottleneck?

Listing 1 shows that while allocation itself is fast, access to the
heap structure must be synchronized across threads. So doesn't that
make the allocator a scalability hazard? There are several clever
tricks JVMs use to reduce this cost significantly. IBM JVMs use a
technique called thread-local heaps, by which each thread requests a
small block of memory (on the order of 1K) from the allocator, and
small object allocations are satisfied out of that block. If the
program requests a larger block than can be satisfied using the small
thread-local heap, then the global allocator is used to either satisfy
the request directly or to allocate a new thread-local heap. By this
technique, a large percentage of allocations can be satisfied without
contending for the shared heap lock. (Sun JVMs use a similar
technique, instead using the term "Local Allocation Blocks.")

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