Supporting Concurrency Abstractions in High-level Language Virtual Machines

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


During the past decade, software developers widely adopted JVM and CLI as multi-language virtual machines (VMs). At the same time, the multicore revolution burdened developers with increasing complexity. Language im- plementers devised a wide range of concurrent and parallel programming concepts to address this complexity but struggle to build these concepts on top of common multi-language VMs. Missing support in these VMs leads to tradeoffs between implementation simplicity, correctly implemented language semantics, and performance guarantees.

Departing from the traditional distinction between concurrency and paral- lelism, this dissertation finds that parallel programming concepts benefit from performance-related VM support, while concurrent programming concepts benefit from VM support that guarantees correct semantics in the presence of reflection, mutable state, and interaction with other languages and libraries.
Focusing on these concurrent programming concepts, this dissertation finds that a VM needs to provide mechanisms for managed state, managed execution, ownership, and controlled enforcement. Based on these requirements, this disser- tation proposes an ownership-based metaobject protocol (OMOP) to build novel multi-language VMs with proper concurrent programming support.

This dissertation demonstrates the OMOP's benefits by building concur- rent programming concepts such as agents, software transactional memory, actors, active objects, and communicating sequential processes on top of the OMOP. The performance evaluation shows that OMOP-based implementa- tions of concurrent programming concepts can reach performance on par with that of their conventionally implemented counterparts if the OMOP is supported by the VM.

To conclude, the OMOP proposed in this dissertation provides a unifying and minimal substrate to support concurrent programming on top of multi- language VMs. The OMOP enables language implementers to correctly im- plement language semantics, while simultaneously enabling VMs to provide efficient implementations.
Date of Award18 Jan 2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTheo D'Hondt (Promotor), Tom Van Cutsem (Jury), Wolfgang De Meuter (Jury), Jacques Tiberghien (Jury), David Ungar (Jury), Shigeru Chiba (Jury) & Michael Haupt (Co-promotor)


  • virtual machines
  • concurrency

Cite this