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James Gosling on Java, May 1999
A Converstion with Java's Creator, James Gosling
by Bill Venners
First Published in JavaWorld, June 1999

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Performance and the Java Language

Bill Venners: Now that the Java HotSpot performance engine is released, to what extent is performance solved? Are there areas in which performance still can be improved? What future plans might you have for performance improvements?

James Gosling: Performance is one of those things that you're never done with. There is no system on the planet that is ever finished with performance. But our performance is getting pretty good. Lots of people do benchmarks of server applications, and compared to C and C++, we're basically right in the same ball park.

There is room for performance improvement in the new 2D graphics libraries in the Java 2 platform; these certainly need some tuning. One of the persistent performance problems we've had that has been pretty hard to grapple with involves the demand for features: people keep asking us to put this in and put that in. Look at "Project Swing," for example. "Project Swing" is this UI toolkit that is industrial-strength. It's got everything in there, and that makes it kind of big. And big always turns into a performance problem. So we're working on ways to try to make "Project Swing" faster, trim it down, and give it fewer interdependencies, so that it is fast and nimble.

It's this difficult paradox -- that the more there is, the more there is. In terms of the Java HotSpot performance engine, we've put out the first release of it, but there are more interesting optimization techniques that we would like to try which are not there yet. There are many more tricks in that particular bag, and there's a lot of room for it to grow.

Bill Venners: Can you be more specific?

James Gosling: One of the things that made HotSpot rather difficult is that it's a collection from some fairly large number of PhD theses -- a long esoteric list of dynamic compilation tricks. There were a bunch of things that have an awful lot of value that we decided not to do just to get Hotspot out there.

We do an awful lot of dynamic compilation tricks in the Java HotSpot performance technology now, but there's room to add more. Right now [performance-wise] we are as good as C or C++, often beating them, and it's pretty clear that we can get greater improvement out of it.

Another thing is that when you talk about optimizing something, it's often optimizing with respect to a particular situation. The current Java HotSpot technology release is targeted toward making server applications really fast. The kinds of tuning you do in server applications tend to be different than what you do in other places.

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