Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2016

Author's Department

Computer Science & Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Programming languages with automatic memory management are continuing to grow in popularity due to ease of programming. However, these languages tend to allocate objects excessively, leading to inefficient use of memory and large garbage collection and allocation overheads.

The weak generational hypothesis notes that objects tend to die young in languages with automatic dynamic memory management. Much work has been done to optimize allocation and garbage collection algorithms based on this observation. Previous work has largely focused on developing efficient software algorithms for allocation and collection. However, much less work has studied architectural solutions. In this work, we propose and evaluate architectural support for assisting allocation and garbage collection.

We first study the effects of languages with automatic memory management on the memory system. As objects often die young, it is likely many objects die while in the processor's caches. Writes of dead data back to main memory are unnecessary, as the data will never be used again. To study this, we develop and present architecture support to identify dead objects while they remain resident in cache and eliminate any unnecessary writes. We show that many writes out of the caches are unnecessary, and can be avoided using our hardware additions.

Next, we study the effects of using dead data in cache to assist with allocation and garbage collection. Logic is developed and presented to allow for reuse of cache space found dead to satisfy future allocation requests. We show that dead cache space can be recycled at a high rate, reducing pressure on the allocator and reducing cache miss rates. However, a full implementation of our initial approach is shown to be unscalable. We propose and study limitations to our approach, trading object coverage for scalability.

Third, we present a new approach for identifying objects that die young based on a limitation of our previous approach. We show this approach has much lower storage and logic requirements and is scalable, while only slightly decreasing overall object coverage.


English (en)


Ron K. Cytron

Committee Members

Roger Chamberlain, Patrick Crowley, Viktor Gruev, Krishna Kavi,


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