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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Annotating the Java bytecodes in support of optimization


The efficient execution of Java programs presents a challenge to hardware and software designers alike. The difficulty however lies with the Java bytecodes. Their model of a simplistic, platform-independent stack machine is well-suited for portability, though at the expense of execution speed. Various approaches are being proposed to increase the speed of Java bytecode programs, including: (1) on-the-fly compilation to native code (also known as JIT or "just-in-time" compilation); (2) traditional ("ahead-of-time") compilation of bytecodes to some higher-level intermediate form and then to native code; and (3) translation of bytecodes to a higher-level language and then use of an existing compiler to produce native code. Speedups on the order of 50 over standard bytecode interpretation have been claimed.

All of these approaches rely upon bytecode analysis (of varying sophistication) to extract information about the program, which is then used to optimize the native code during the translation process. However, extracting information from a bytecode representation is expensive, and in general does not collect all the information originally available at the source-level.

In this paper we propose an optimization approach based on bytecode annotations. The bytecodes are annotated during the original source code to bytecode translation, allowing both traditional interpretation by a JVM and aggressive optimization by an annotation-aware bytecode compiler. Annotations do not hinder portability nor compatibility, while preserving optimization information that is (1) expensive to recompute and (2) sometimes impossible to recompute. Preliminary results yield bytecode with C-like performance using JIT technology.

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