School of Computing

GCspy: An adaptable heap visualisation framework

Tony Printezis and Richard Jones

In Proceedings of OOPSLA'02 ACM Conference on Object-Oriented Systems, Languages and Applications, SIGPLAN Notices, pages 182-196, Seattle, WA., November 2002. ACM Press.


GCspy is an architectural framework for the collection, transmission, storage and replay of memory management behaviour. It makes new contributions to the understanding of the dynamic memory behaviour of programming languages (and especially object-oriented languages that make heavy demands on the performance of memory managers). GCspy's architecture allows easy incorporation into any memory management system: it is not limited to garbage-collected languages. It requires only small changes to the system in which it is incorporated but provides a simple to use yet powerful data-gathering API. GCspy scales to allow very large heaps to be visualised effectively and efficiently. It allows already-running, local or remote systems to be visualised and those systems to run at full speed outside the points at which data is gathered. GCspy's visualisation tool presents this information in a number of novel ways. Deep understanding of program behaviour is essential to the design of the next generation of garbage collectors and explicit allocators. Until now, no satisfactory tools have been available to assist the implementer in gaining an understanding of heap behaviour. GCspy has been demonstrated to be a practical solution to this dilemma. It has been used to analyse production Java virtual machines running applications of realistic sizes. Its use has revealed important insights into the interaction between application program and JVM and has led to the development of better garbage collectors. Download publication 1177 kbytes (PostScript)

Bibtex Record

author = {Tony Printezis and Richard Jones},
title = {{GC}spy: AN Adaptable Heap Visualisation Framework},
month = {November},
year = {2002},
pages = {182-196},
keywords = {determinacy analysis, Craig interpolants},
note = {},
doi = {},
url = {},
    publication_type = {inproceedings},
    submission_id = {12355_1028494217},
    booktitle = {Proceedings of OOPSLA'02 ACM Conference on Object-Oriented Systems, Languages and  Applications},
    series = {SIGPLAN Notices},
    address = {Seattle, WA.},
    publisher = {ACM Press},
    refereed = {yes},
    ISBN = {1-58112-471-1},

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