Which Problems Does a Multi-Language Virtual Machine Need to Solve in the Multicore/Manycore Era?

As preparation for SPLASH’11, here my paper for the VMIL workshop. It is a position paper discussing in which direction virtual machines should evolve in the future with regard to the challenges manycore architectures and concurrent programming bring.

As I said, this is a position paper, which hopefully provokes discussion. Feedback of any kind is welcome, and I am happy to adapt my presentation accordingly.


While parallel programming for very regular problems has been used in the scientific community by non-computer-scientists successfully for a few decades now, concurrent programming and solving irregular problems remains hard. Furthermore, we shift from few expert system programmers mastering concurrency for a constrained set of problems to mainstream application developers being required to master concurrency for a wide variety of problems.

Consequently, high-level language virtual machine (VM) research faces interesting questions. What are processor design changes that have an impact on the abstractions provided by VMs to provide platform independence? How can application programmers’ diverse needs be facilitated to solve concurrent programming problems?

We argue that VMs will need to be ready for a wide range of different concurrency models that allow solving concurrency problems with appropriate abstractions. Furthermore, they need to abstract from heterogeneous processor architectures, varying performance characteristics, need to account for memory access cost and inter-core communication mechanisms but should only expose the minimal useful set of notions like locality, explicit communication, and adaptable scheduling to maintain their abstracting nature.

Eventually, language designers need to be enabled to guarantee properties like encapsulation, scheduling guarantees, and immutability also when an interaction between different problem-specific concurrency abstractions is required.

  • Which Problems Does a Multi-Language Virtual Machine Need to Solve in the Multicore/Manycore Era?, Stefan Marr, Mattias De Wael, Michael Haupt, Theo D’Hondt, Proceedings of the 5th Workshop on Virtual Machines and Intermediate Languages, USA, ACM (2011), to appear.
  • Paper: PDF
    ©ACM, 2011. This is the author’s version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. To appear.
  • BibTex: BibSonomy


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