Graal project seeks superior Java compiler

SAN FRANCISCO — Momentum is building for the Graal project, an implementation of a dynamic compiler in Java to produce excellent code quality without compromising compile time and memory usage in the Java Virtual Machine.

Participants in the OpenJDK email-based discussion group, including representatives from Oracle, have been advocating for the Graal project. The effort would explore implementing a dynamic compiler that can be used in a native JVM such as HotSpot or a metacircular JVM such as Maxine. On its project site, Oracle describes the Maxine VM as a next-generation platform written in Java, compatible with modern Java IDEs and the standard Java Development Kit, and featuring a modular architecture. The Graal compiler from the Maxine code base would serve as the starting point of the dynamic compiler project.

“What is clear here is that Graal is about getting improved compiled performance from Java,” said analyst Al Hilwa of IDC. “There is a back-to-native movement, in many ways stimulated by Apple’s iOS development tools, which revolves around a native-compiled model for Objective-C. For a long time the pendulum swung toward virtual machine languages like Java. But the success of iOS devices has begun to shift it back. In this light Java has to up its game in terms of performance that is comparable to what is possible with native compilers and also in terms of integrating with native code.”

A Java architect lauded Oracle’s Graal compiler and JVM efforts, as well as their potential impact on Java coding. “Think about coding in Java, compiling it using a compiler written in Java, and running it in JVM, which is again written in Java — it’s Java all the way and imagine the seamless integration between application and VM,” said Hari Gottipati, principal architect at Apollo Group, parent company of the University of Phoenix. “I am sure the entire Java community is going to be excited about it.” He also is a board member of the Phoenix Java User’s Group.

Graal was the subject of a presentation scheduled for Oracle’s JVM Language Summit last July, entitled “Graal — Bytecode Agnostic Compiler for the JVM,” by Thomas Wuerthinger of Oracle Labs. In addition to pondering Graal, Oracle has been working to converge the JRockit JVM with HotSpot, which was acquired when Oracle bought Sun in early 2010. That effort is expected to be completed with the release of JDK 8 in 2013.

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