Journal article

Run-time Support for Distributed Object Sharing in Safe Programming Languages

We present a new run-time system that supports object sharing in a distributed system. The key insight in this system is that a handle-based implementation of such a system enables effcient and transparent sharing of data with both fine-grained and coarse-grained access patterns. In addition, it supports effcient execution of garbage-collected programs. In contrast, conventional distributed shared memory (DSM) systems are limited to providing only one granularity with good performance, and have experienced diffculty in effciently supporting garbage collection. A safe language, in which no pointer arithmetic is allowed, can transparently be compiled into a handle-based system and constitutes its preferred mode of use. A programmer can also directly use a handle-based programming model that avoids pointer arithmetic on the handles, and achieve the same performance but without the programming benefits of a safe programming language. This new run-time system, DOSA (Distributed Object Sharing Architecture), provides a shared object space abstraction rather than a shared address space abstraction. The key to its effciency is the observation that a handle-based distributed implementation permits VM-based access and modification detection without suffering false sharing for fine-grained access patterns. We compare DOSA to TreadMarks, a conventional DSM system that is effcient at handling coarse-grained sharing. The performance of fine-grained applications and garbage-collected applications is considerably better than in TreadMarks. The performance of coarse-grained applications is nearly as good as in TreadMarks. Since the performance of such applications is already good in TreadMarks, we consider this an acceptable performance penalty.

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