Garbage collection in V8, an illustrated guide
Ok, so let’s get started.
What is garbage collection?
The essential point of garbage collection is the ability to manage memory usage by a specific program. Languages such as C are generally able to hook into program’s memory management and allocate and free object within the context of the program. ECMAScript, on the other hand, lacks that particular interface to access memory management (yes, that means no API). Which basically means all memory management rights™ in a program get passed over to V8.
Since we don’t have access to infinite amount of memory, garbage collector’s job is to go through objects that are allocated in memory and determine whether they are dead or alive. Those that are alive get to stay in memory, those that are dead get removed, and memory gets allocated back to the heap.
What’s a heap though? A heap is an unstructured region, where the objects get allocated memory. This kind of allocation is dynamic, since the size / lifetime / quantity of objects is unknown, so it needs to be allocated and deallocated at runtime.
So if we look at the concurrency model, heap works directly with the call stack, as the objects showing up in the stack require memory allocation. It would look something like this:
Dead or alive?
The basic check for when an object is dead or alive, is whether or not the client, or the program that executes the code, can reach it. The most reachable object you can think of, is probably an object defined in root scope.
Some C++ bindings (or web APIs on the client) are also part of the root, so you can access things like
Reachability could also be thought of as whether or not another object or root can get a hold of it, if it can, the memory required by that object gets kept.
So how do we get to garbage collection even? (tell me! tell me!)
For purposes of garbage collection, V8 divides the heap into two parts: yung space and old space. When you perform an operations that requires V8 to allocate memory, V8 allocates space in the first portion. As you keep adding things to the heap, you eventually run out memory, so V8 will have to run a collection to clean up. Newly created objects are allocated super quickly and get scavenged (a shorter and quicker collection) on regular bases to remove already dead objects. Once the objects ‘survive’ a few(two to be exact) scavenges, they get promoted to old space, which gets garbage collected in a separate cycle when full.
Older objects are the ones that survived more than one garbage sweep, meaning they keep being referenced by other objects and still need that memory allocation. They normally don’t reference younger objects, but do reference older ones. The lack of intergenerational intermingling makes for a cleaner sweep with each collection.
- memory management; i like reading through the glossary section, cause you discover a bunch of neat stuff.
- this is a really good and v detailed repo on v8’s perf.
- you can look into v8 repo’s wiki for more internal information and how to work with v8 to debug your projects.
- on frame rates from firefox dev tools
- another good guide on V8 && garbage collection
This guide is crossposted from lrlna’s sketchin guide on githubz ✨ 🐱.