Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Faster than C

Not everyday you come across an example of Java program that executes faster than its C equivalent. Although the original code is in Scala, the speed is because of the JVM and HotSpot, and not because of the language which the program was written in. This is a good illustration of JVM strength which IMO can and should be reused for other languages. (To be completely fair, gcc is not the strongest competitor among C compilers, there are optimizers that do the sort of trick that JVM did. Nevertheless, it's impressive.)

Speaking of Java versus C/C++, there's an interesting debate on LtU regarding performance of GC vs. explicit memory management. The conclusion is not very surprising - there is a cost, but it is reasonable to pay given the other benefits of GC. It reminds me of a discussion I had with a guy who used to work with Java RTS (Real-Time Java System). I admit, when he first mentioned it, I didn't know what it was and it surely sounded weird, so I went and read a few web-pages. Java with explicit memory management.... hm? Poor Java, why would you do such a thing to it? So I asked him "Why don't you just use C or C++?" The answer was - "It's proven that programmers prefer Java and they are more productive writing Java code than C++". "All well, but shouldn't it be at least partially attributed to the fact that in normal Java we (programmers) don't need to manage the memory?" "I see your point" he smiled. That said, I admit that I know practically nothing about JME platform and how it solves real-time problems with Java. So I'm not shutting the door here - maybe I'm wrong.

But I just can't help and generalize this problem, looking at where things go with JSE. I mean it's great that Java evolves, but as wonderful as Java is, it's not this one universal tool that can solve every problem in the world. If there is a need for Java-like language for real-time applications, then why can't some smart guy (at Sun or Google or wherever) create a language that does explicit memory management, but incorporates other Java advantages. Just don't call it Java, please! (Yeah, I know that marketing guys really want you to, but let's try to keep some dignity, fellow enginerds).

2 comments:

Greg said...

How is this a benefit of the JVM or hot spot compilation?

Its a static pattern ... any compiler could have this case optimized. There is no run-time information being used in the optimization its just an optimization that simplifies useless code?!

n xored to n an even number of times is 0 and odd number of times is n. I can very easily make it so it just defines that as a constant and removes the loop all together.

Yardena said...

Hi Greg,

Well, if you look at Erik's response to the thread on JVM-L, -client and -server are producing different results during run-time, so it obviously is a run-time optimization.

It appears to me that the optimization is not done by javac when compiling bytecode, but rather by JIT compiler when generating native executable from the bytecode.