# Saturday, November 30, 2002
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Interfaces & the Verifier

To my surprise to following code (Jasmin source) is verifiable and runs without throwing any exceptions (Sun's JRE 1.4.1):

.class public ifmerge3
.super java/lang/Object
.field public static r Ljava/lang/Runnable;
.method public <init>()V
   .limit locals 2
   .limit stack 8
   invokenonvirtual java/lang/Object/<init>()V
.end method
.method public static main([Ljava/lang/String;)V
   .limit stack 5
   .limit locals 4
   ldc ""
   putstatic ifmerge3/r Ljava/lang/Runnable;
.end method

The red lines are the interesting ones. It is apparantly (the vmspec doesn't really talk about this) legal to use any object reference in any place where an interface reference is expected.

This has an interesting implication for the performance of interfaces in Java. It means that whenever an interface method is invoked, the VM will always need to check if the reference does in fact implement the interface in question. This should make interface invocation slower. To test this theory, I wrote a small benchmark:

class ifperf implements Runnable {
  public void
run() {}
  public static void
main(String[] args) {
    Runnable r =
    Runnable[] ar =
i = 0; i < ar.length; i++)
      ar[i] = r;
start = System.currentTimeMillis();
i = 0; i < 1000; i++)
j = 0; j < ar.length; j++)
end = System.currentTimeMillis();
    System.out.println(end - start);

Sun's J2RE 1.4.1: 300 ms
IKVM (on .NET 1.1 beta): 150 ms

John Lam has written about the implementation of .NET's interface method dispatch here. I haven't been able to find any articles that talk about HotSpot's implementation of interface method dispatch. Let's look at the code that is generated by both JITs.

.NET 1.1 beta code (inner loop only):

07591DCC  cmp         edi,dword ptr [esi+4] 
07591DCF  jl          07591DD4
07591DD1  inc         ebx 
07591DD2  jmp         07591D91
07591DD4  cmp         edi,dword ptr [esi+4]
07591DD7  jae         07591DED
07591DD9  mov         ecx,dword ptr [esi+edi*4+0Ch]
07591DDD  mov         eax,dword ptr [ecx]
07591DDF  mov         eax,dword ptr [eax+0Ch]
07591DE2  mov         eax,dword ptr [eax+94h]
07591DE8  call        dword ptr [eax]
07591DEA  inc         edi 
07591DEB  jmp         07591DCC
07591E80  ret              

J2RE 1.4.1 HotSpot code (inner loop only):

00AC7023  mov         esi,dword ptr [ebp-18h] 
00AC7026  mov         edi,dword ptr [ebp-0Ch]
00AC7029  cmp         edi,dword ptr [esi+8]
00AC702C  jae         00AC7146
00AC7032  mov         esi,dword ptr [esi+edi*4+0Ch]
00AC7036  mov         dword ptr [esp],esi
00AC7039  mov         ecx,esi
00AC703B  cmp         eax,dword ptr [ecx]
00AC703D  mov         eax,6B68778h
00AC7042  call        00ABCE25
00AC7047  inc         dword ptr [ebp-0Ch]
00AC704A  mov         esi,dword ptr [ebp-18h]
00AC704D  mov         esi,dword ptr [esi+8]
00AC7050  mov         edi,dword ptr [ebp-0Ch]
00AC7053  es:
00AC7054  cs:
00AC7055  fs:
00AC7056  gs:
00AC7057  nop
00AC7058  cmp         edi,esi
00AC705A  jl          00AC7023
00ABCE25  mov         edx,dword ptr [eax+0Ch] 
00ABCE28  mov         ebx,dword ptr [eax+8]
00ABCE2B  cmp         edx,dword ptr [ecx+4]
00ABCE2E  jne         00ABB6C0
00ABCE34  cmp         dword ptr [ebx+38h],0
00ABCE3B  jne         00ABB8C0
00ABCE41  jmp         00A67940
00A67940  ret              

The first thing to notice, is that HotSpot (in this particular example) is not very good at optimizing register usage, compared to the .NET JIT. .NET uses EDI as the loop counter and ESI as the array reference, whereas HotSpot keeps both the counter and the array reference on the stack. This difference probably accounts for a large part of the performance difference.

The second thing to notice, is that both HotSpot and .NET do not eliminate the array bounds check (again, in this particular example).

The code at 00ABCE25 is where it gets really interesting. After running a while, HotSpot noticed that all calls to Runnable.run() at this site actually resolved to ifperf.run() and so it emitted code that takes advantage of that fact. However, since it cannot prove that this will always be true, it has generated code that checks that the reference does indeed refer to an ifperf object (the cmp instruction at 00ABCE2B does this), and if it doesn't, it jumps to some code at 00ABB6C0 to do the interface method lookup and patch the call at 00AC7042 to point to a new location that does the interface method lookup and does the profiling that started this optimization in the first place. I'm not sure what the second comparison does, but it's something similar. The final branch at 00ABCE41 jumps to the ifperf.run() implementation (bypassing any dynamic dispatch!).

Conclusions: All of this complex optimization (and on-the-fly deoptimization!) makes micro benchmarking fairly useless (as many others have previously demonstrated). As an example, storing just a single non ifperf Runnable in the array slows HotSpot down by about 10%, while in .NET this has no effect. However, interleaving two different Runnable object types in the array slows HotSpot down by about 20% whereas it slows down .NET by about 300% (and I cannot explain that).

Now, the real question is, does IK.VM.NET need to support assigning object references (that do not implement a particular interface) to references of that interface type? The current design (although the implementation isn't quite correct) is to allow the code above to be verified, but when it runs it throws an IncompatibleClassChangeError when the putstatic is executed.

Saturday, November 30, 2002 2:20:15 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [2] Tracked by:
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Wednesday, December 11, 2002 3:02:28 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)

How did you capture the generated machine code? Using the respective profiling interfaces for the two platforms?
Taras Tielkes
Thursday, December 19, 2002 12:11:13 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)

Put the code in an infinite loop, run, attach debugger and break. That way your certain that the code wasn't JITted for debugging.
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