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January 20, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:37pm


By CBR Staff Writer

Emulation house Insignia Solutions Inc has ten or more engineers quietly beavering away on a hybrid Java virtual machine that could make JIT Just In Time compilers a thing of the past. The unnamed project is said to have passed the initial proof-of- concept hurdles and is already running smallish Java applets. Provided the technology can handle large applets such as Corel Corp’s Office for Java, sources say Insignia expects to deliver a finished product to market this summer. It will be made available to OEM customers first, then to end users. Insignia is basing its virtual machine on technology it developed for SoftWindows, the software that allows Unix machines to run Windows applications. Its approach provides for what is called dynamic incremental compilation. In other words, only what is needed, when it’s needed, is compiled. Not compiling the entire program saves time booting an applet and supposedly heightens its performance. Traditional compilers compile programs long before they get to market; JIT compilers compile whole programs on the fly. Insignia is said to be experimenting with notions that its virtual machine compiler technology could learn each time it compiles the same program so it wouldn’t have to recompile the pieces it uses again, but that idea is still very much at the research and development stage. The singular advantage Insignia’s approach is said to have over conventional JIT compilers – if that expression can be applied to so new a concept – is that it will fit in 4Mb of memory, making it a natural for network computers. A typical JIT compiler apparently takes 16Mb to work well, and has trouble with only 8Mb. Sources say Insignia initially thought it could do a standalone compiler but found that the compiler technology had to be integrated with the virtual machine. The project is said to be on schedule and is being developed on Unix machines though the intention is to make it portable. Sources say Insignia will abandon it unless the project goals are demonstrable and validated by JavaMark benchmarks. Performance improvements depend on the size and complexity of the applet.

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