Dr. Christian Wimmer

Truffle: Maxine: An Approachable Virtual Machine For, and In, Java

Christian Wimmer, Michael Haupt, Michael L. Van De Vanter, Mick Jordan, Laurent Daynès, Douglas Simon: Maxine: An Approachable Virtual Machine For, and In, Java. In ACM Transactions on Architecture and Code Optimization, volume 9, issue 4, article 30. ACM Press, 2013. doi:10.1145/2400682.2400689

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A highly productive platform accelerates the production of research results. The design of a virtual machine (VM) written in the Java™ programming language can be simplified through exploitation of interfaces, type and memory safety, automated memory management (garbage collection), exception handling, and reflection. Moreover, modern Java IDEs offer time-saving features such as refactoring, auto-completion, and code navigation. Finally, Java annotations enable compiler extensions for low-level "systems programming" while retaining IDE compatibility. These techniques collectively make complex system software more "approachable" than has been typical in the past.

The Maxine VM, a metacircular Java VM implementation, has aggressively used these features since its inception. A co-designed companion tool, the Maxine Inspector, offers integrated debugging and visualization of all aspects of the VM's run-time state. The Inspector's implementation exploits advanced Java language features, embodies intimate knowledge of the VM's design, and even reuses a significant amount of VM code directly. These characteristics make Maxine a highly approachable VM research platform and a productive basis for research and teaching.