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Cross-Component Garbage Collection

Ulan Degenbaev
Proceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages, vol. 2 Issue OOPSLA (2018), 151:1-151:24


Embedding a modern language runtime as a component in a larger software system is popular these days. Communication between these systems often requires keeping references to each others' objects. In this paper we present and discuss the problem of cross-component memory management where reference cycles across component boundaries may lead to memory leaks and premature reclamation of objects may lead to dangling cross-component references. We provide a generic algorithm for effective, efficient, and safe garbage collection over component boundaries, which we call cross-component tracing. We designed and implemented cross-component tracing in the Chrome web browser where the JavaScript virtual machine V8 is embedded into the rendering engine Blink. Cross-component tracing from V8's JavaScript heap to Blink's C++ heap improves garbage collection latency and eliminates long-standing memory leaks for real websites in Chrome. We show how cross-component tracing can help web developers to reason about reachability and retainment of objects spanning both V8 and Blink components based on Chrome's heap snapshot memory tool. Cross-component tracing was enabled by default for all websites in Chrome version 57 and is also deployed in other widely used software systems such as Opera, Cobalt, and Electron.

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