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The Mu Micro Virtual MachineMacadamia

A Solid Foundation for Language Development

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We coined the concept of micro virtual machines for the development of managed languages.

"Mu" is the name of our specific micro virtual machine. This project has a specification and a reference implementation which are publicly available:


A large fraction of today’s software is written in managed languages. These languages increase software productivity by offering rich abstractions for managing memory, executing code concurrently, and hiding the complexity of modern hardware. Examples include JavaScript, PHP, Objective-C, Java, C#, Python, and Ruby. These languages are economically important. Unfortunately, most of these languages are inefficient, imposing overheads as large as a factor of fifty compared to orthodox language choices such as C.

The project will define, develop, evaluate, and refine the essential components of a new foundation layer for managed language implementation. In doing so, it will address a key source of systemic inefficiency, by pioneering micro virtual machines as an efficient high-performance substrate for managed language implementation. The relationship between a micro virtual machine and existing managed language implementations is analogous to the one between an operating system micro kernel and monolithic operating systems such as Linux. A micro virtual machine captures the insight that there exists a well-defined foundation common to most modern languages that can take responsibility for fundamental abstractions over hardware, concurrency, and memory. By isolating and exposing this substrate, a micro virtual machine embodies state-of-the-art base technology available to language implementers while isolating them from the pernicious complexities of these abstractions, freeing them to focus on all-important language-specific optimizations. This project will enable more efficient software and a distinctly sharper focus for language implementation research and development.