Posted by:Monica Samuel February 14th, 2012

The Java community is buzzing about Graal – a compiler for Java code, written in Java, and that works with multiple VMs. The ‘Graal project’ has been gathering steam lately under the stewardship of Oracle, with the full support of the Java HotSpot team of Oracle (formerly Sun Microsystems) and the Maxine group of Oracle Labs (formerly Sun Labs) to enhance the performance of the HotSpot client compiler, HotSpot JVM, and Maxine JVM.

Graal is a just-in-time compiler that’s written in Java and works with native HotSpot VM and the meta-circular Maxine VM. The Graal compiler is part of the Maxine code base which is the starting point. Maxine VM is being endorsed as the next generation Java platform that’s compatible with latest Java IDEs and standard JDK, and features a modular architecture.

Graal uses a clearly defined interface for interacting with the runtime of the JVM. It leverages native java features that make it highly extensible as in guiding a certain optimization phase, adding extra intermediate representation (IR) nodes or transformations, providing special knowledge to a library method for the compiler to immediately recognize special properties and replace the call to library method with a node in the compiler.

Graal is also customizable from Java application code; this is sure to excite Java developers. It features a new internal program representation that allows more aggressive optimizations. Goals for the future include improvements in the peak performance of the compiler with a focus on vectorization (using the latest Intel vector instruction set) and aggressive memory optimizations.

The Graal compiler is being advocated for its support in producing high quality code without increasing compile time or memory usage in the JVM. According to analyst Al Hilwa of IDC, the push behind Graal comes from increased competition from Apple’s hugely successful and productive iOS development tools that work with a native-compiled model for Objective-C. His words: ‘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.’

Oracle’s Graal compiler and JVM efforts are seeing wide support from Java developers all around. The synchronous flow of Java code compiled by a compiler written in Java and deployed in a JVM will lead to a seamless integration between IDEs, frameworks, application and VM.

Graal is expected to release with the Java 8 SDK, scheduled for release in 2013. Get more details from the Graal – A Bytecode Agnostic Compiler for the JVM slideshow at Oracle’s Media Network.

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