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Fully Reflective Execution Environments: Virtual Machines for More Flexible Software

Chari, Guido, Garbervetsky, Diego, Marr, Stefan, Ducasse, Stéphane (2018) Fully Reflective Execution Environments: Virtual Machines for More Flexible Software. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 45 (9). pp. 858-876. ISSN 0098-5589. E-ISSN 1939-3520. (doi:10.1109/TSE.2018.2812715) (KAR id:66604)

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VMs are complex pieces of software that implement programming language semantics in an efficient, portable, and secure way. Unfortunately, mainstream VMs provide applications with few mechanisms to alter execution semantics or memory management at run time. We argue that this limits the evolvability and maintainability of running systems for both, the application domain, e.g., to support unforeseen requirements, and the VM domain, e.g., to modify the organization of objects in memory. This work explores the idea of incorporating reflective capabilities into the VM domain and analyzes its impact in the context of software adaptation tasks. We characterize the notion of a fully reflective VM, a kind of VM that provides means for its own observability and modifiability at run time. This enables programming languages to adapt the underlying VM to changing requirements. We propose a reference architecture for such VMs and present TruffleMATE as a prototype for this architecture. We evaluate the mechanisms TruffleMATE provides to deal with unanticipated dynamic adaptation scenarios for security, optimization, and profiling aspects. In contrast to existing alternatives, we observe that TruffleMATE is able to handle all scenarios, using less than 50 lines of code for each, and without interfering with the application's logic.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1109/TSE.2018.2812715
Uncontrolled keywords: Reflection, Virtual machines, Metaobject protocols, Dynamic adaptation
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences > School of Computing
Depositing User: Stefan Marr
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2018 12:11 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:53 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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