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2000 Technical Reports

Controlling Garbage Collection and Heap Growth to Reduce the Execution Time of Java Applications

Tim Brecht, Eshrat Arjomandi, Chang Li and Hang Pham

Technical Report CS-2000-04

York University

October 2000


In systems that support garbage collection a tension exists between collecting garbage too frequently and not collecting garbage frequently enough. Garbage collection that occurs too frequently may introduce unnecessary overheads at the risk of not collecting much garbage during each cycle. On the other hand, collecting garbage too infrequently can result in applications that execute with a large amount of virtual memory (i.e., with a large footprint) and suffer from increased execution times due to paging.

In this paper we use a large collection of Java applications and the highly tuned and widely used Boehm-Demers-Weiser conservative garbage collector to experimentally examine the extent to which the frequency of garbage collection impacts an application's execution time, footprint, and pause times. We use these results to devise some guidelines for controlling garbage collection and heap growth in a conservative garbage collector in order to minimize application execution times. Then we describe new strategies for controlling garbage collection and heap growth that impact not only the frequency with which garbage collection occurs but also the points at which garbage collection occurs. Experimental results demonstrate that when compared with the existing approach our new strategy can significantly reduce application execution times.

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