Maxine: An approachable virtual machine for, and in, Java (2013)

A highly productive platform accelerates the production of research results. The design of a virtual machine (VM) written in the Java programming language can be simplified through exploitation of interfaces, type and memory safety, automated memory management (garbage collection), exception handling, and reflection. Moreover, modern Java IDEs offer time-saving features such as refactoring, auto-completion, and code navigation. Finally, Java annotations enable compiler extensions for low-level "systems programming" while retaining IDE compatibility. These techniques collectively make complex system software more "approachable" than has been typical in the past.

The Maxine VM, a metacircular Java VM implementation, has aggressively used these features since its inception. A co-designed companion tool, the Maxine Inspector, offers integrated debugging and visualization of all aspects of the VM's run-time state. The Inspector's implementation exploits advanced Java language features, embodies intimate knowledge of the VM's design, and even reuses a significant amount of VM code directly. These characteristics make Maxine a highly approachable VM research platform and a productive basis for research and teaching.

Christian Wimmer, Michael Haupt, Michael L. Van De Vanter, Mick Jordan, Laurent Daynès, and Douglas Simon. 2013. Maxine: An approachable virtual machine for, and in, Java. ACM Transactions on Architecture and Code Optimization 9 , 4, Article 30 (January 2013), 24 pages. doi:10.1145/2400682.2400689 (PDF)