Moving from VVT to the L-world value types (LWVT)

John Rose john.r.rose at
Sat Jan 20 04:22:46 UTC 2018

On Jan 16, 2018, at 12:56 PM, Frederic Parain <frederic.parain at> wrote:
> Here’s an attempt to bootstrap the L-world exploration, where java.lang.Object
> is the top type of all value classes (as discussed during the November meetings
> in Burlington).

This is excellent work, Frederic; thank you.  I'm really hopeful that we
are on the right track.

> ...
> Here’s a quick summary of the changes with some consequences on the HotSpot code:
>  - all v-bytecodes are removed except vdefault and vwithfield

At some point we may want to strip the v-prefix from those survivors.  No hurry.

>  - all bytecodes operating on an object receiver are updated to support values as well,
>    except putfield and new


>  - single carrier type for both instances of object classes and instances of value classes
>  - this carrier type maps to the T_OBJECT BasicType
>  - T_VALUETYPE still exists but its usage is limited (same purpose as T_ARRAY)

T_ARRAY can be a confusing source of bugs.  I've always wondered if it was worth it.

>  - qtos TosState is removed
>  - JNI: the jobject type can be used to carry either a reference to an object or an
>           array or a value. The type jvaluetype, sub-type of jobject, is used when only
>           a value class instance is expected
> - Q…; remains the way to encode value classes in signature (fields and methods)

I'd like to move towards an ACC_VALUE bit on both fields and classes.
Again, no hurry, but (as in my previous message) I'd like to retire Q-descriptors.

> - In the constant pool, the CONSTANT_CLASS_info entry type is used to store a
>   symbolic reference to either an object class or a value class
> - the ;Q escape sequence is not used anymore in value class names
> One important point of this exercise is to ensure that the migration of Value Based Classes
> into Value Classes is possible, and doable with a reasonable complexity and costs. In addition
> to the JVMS update (and consistent with the JVMS modifications), here’s a set of proposals
> on how to deal with the VBC migration. 

I'm glad you are doing this analysis, not only because VBC migration is
a wonderful goal, but also because I think the same analysis is necessary
just to manage separate recompilation, even if we never decided to
migrate a single class.

In short, I see you are leaning hard on Q-descriptors, but I don't think
you are getting enough value out of them, and they cause serious
problems.  More comments below… 

> Migration of Value Based Classes into Value Classes:
>  - challenges:
>      - signature mismatch

Goes away when/if we retire Q-descriptors!

>      - null

Can be dealt with by assuming non-null and throwing dynamic NPEs
as needed where Q types are in play.  Also, we tolerate "polluting nulls"
along paths where the Q/R distinction is not available, even if (at some
point later on) we realize that it was a Q all along.  Eventually, the
polluting null will cause an NPE.

(In my view, the NPE should happen later than one might prefer if it were
a true coding error rather than a recompilation artifact.  Catching polluting
nulls early in the presence of recompilation requires too many heroics.)

>      - change in behavior

Yes, that's the tricky part.

>  - proposal for signature mismatch:
>       - with LWVT, value class types in signatures are using the Q…; format
>       - legacy code is using signature with L…; format (because VBC are object classes)
>       - methods will have two signatures:
>         - true signature, which could include Q…; elements 
>         - a L-ified signature where all Q…; elements are re-written with the L…; format
>         - method lookup still works by signature string comparisons
>         - the signature of the method being looked up will compared against both the
>           true and the L-ified signatures, if the looked up signature matches the L-ified
>           signature but not the true signature, it means a situation where legacy code
>           is trying to invoke migrated code has been detected, and additional work might
>           be required for the invocation (actions to be taken have to be defined)
>        - signature mismatch can also occur for fields, this is still being investigating, the
>          proposal will be updated as soon as we have a solution ready to be published

This sort of thing is, for me, a rich argument against keeping Q-descriptors.

>  - proposal for null references leaking to migrated code
>      - having a null reference for a Value Based Class variable or field is valid in legacy code
>        but it becomes invalid when the Value Based Class has been migrated to a Value Class
>      - trying to prevent all references with a value class type to get a null value would be very
>        expensive (it would require to look at the stackmap for each assignment to a local variable)

Yes.  We have to tolerate polluting nulls where the Q/R distinction is unavailable.

>     -  the proposed solution is to allow null references for local variable and expression stack slots,
>        but forbid them for fields or array elements (bytecodes operating on fields and array have to
>        be updated to throw a NPE whenever a null reference is provided instead of a value class
>        instance)

Yes, I think this is on the right track.  On paths where a Q-type is needed
we do a null check.  That's the Java way.

>     - null references are likely to be an issue for JIT optimizations like passing values in registers
>       when a method is invoked. The proposed solution is to only allow null references for value classes
>       in legacy code, by detecting them and blocking them when leaking to migrated code. The
>       detection can be done at invocation time, when a mismatch between the signature expected
>      by the caller and the real signature of the callee is detected (see signature mismatch proposal above)

At some point, a polluting null might reach code that "knows" there is a Q type
(and may even "know" that it goes in an xmm register).  That's the point where
an NPE should be thrown.  In some cases, a deopt might be appropriate, to
correctly order the NPE by executing interpreter code.

Note that this combination of techniques does not Q-descriptors.  The lack
of Q-descriptors doesn't totally destroy the Q/R distinction; it just means you
have to execute a little further before you get to code which "knows" that
the null is illegal.

>    - the null reference should also be detected and blocked when it is used as a return value and the
>      type of the value to be returned is a value class type 

Doing this requires (a) Q-descriptors in method returns, (b) Remi's
ValueTypes table, or (c) toleration of nulls in the interpreter.  (The JIT
doesn't have to tolerate nulls:  It can deopt if it hits a surprise null,
or perhaps throw an early NPE.)  So, I am arguing for (c).

> In addition to the JVMS update, here’s a chart trying to summarize the new checks that will have to
> be added to existing bytecode when moving the vbytecodes semantic in to a* bytecodes. The categories
> in the chart are not very precise, but we can use it as a starting point for our discussions. The chart
> can also help defining which experiments could be done to estimate the costs of the different additional
> checks needed to be added to existing bytecodes.

The chart is really helpful, thanks.  More comments later.


— John

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