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The Hotspot Virtual Machine
How Hotspot Can Improve Java Program Performance and Designs
by Bill Venners
First Published in, May 1998

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The Hotspot Java virtual machine promises to bring Java program performance on par with that of natively compiled C++. In fact, because Hotspot's optimizer can use run-time information not available to static compilers, it could eventually push Java performance past that of statically compiled C++. In this world, the performance cost of delivering a Java program in bytecodes go away, as does any performance penalty of doing good, object-oriented designs. This is indeed a rosy picture.

It is important to note, however, that the key word here is "promise." Sun says Hotspot will be released by the end of 1998. Although the combination of techniques that Sun is assembling under the name "Hotspot" sound very promising, until the VM is released to the general public, we won't know how fast it really is.

For the time being, however, we can all brandish the promise of Hotspot as a weapon in the fight against the cold-blooded sacrificing of good object-oriented designs in the name of performance. Resist the temptation: Don't do premature optimization!

A request for reader participation
I encourage your comments, criticisms, suggestions, flames -- all kinds of feedback -- about the material presented in this column. If you disagree with something, or have something to add, please let me know.

You can either participate in a discussion forum devoted to this material or e-mail me directly at


About the author
Bill Venners has been writing software professionally for 12 years. Based in Silicon Valley, he provides software consulting and training services under the name Artima Software Company. Over the years he has developed software for the consumer electronics, education, semiconductor, and life insurance industries. He has programmed in many languages on many platforms: assembly language on various microprocessors, C on Unix, C++ on Windows, Java on the Web. He is author of the book: Inside the Java Virtual Machine, published by McGraw-Hill. Reach Bill at

This article was first published under the name The Hotspot Virtual machine in, May 1998.

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