The JVM Architecture Explained

Source:The JVM Architecture Explained - DZone Java

I think the most interesting is the zoning diagram of the JVM。

Warn:All content versions discussed in this article are under JDK1.6

Introduce JVM

JRE is the implementation of Java Virtual Machine (JVM),which analyzes the bytecode, interprets the code, and executes it, It is very important as a developer, that we know the architecture of the JVM, as it enables us to write code more efficiently.

What Is the JVM?

Virtual Machine is a software implementation of a physical machine. Java was developed with the concept of WORA (Write Once Run Anywhere), The compiler compiles the Java file into a Java .class file, then that .class file is input into the JVM, which loads and executes the class file. Below is a diagram of the Architecture of the JVM.

How Does the JVM Work?

the JVM is divided into three main subsystems:

  1. ClassLoader Subsystem
  2. Runtime Data Area
  3. Execution Engine

1. ClassLoader Subsystem

Java's dynamic class loading functionality is handled by the ClassLoader subsystem.


Classes will be loaded by this component.

  1. BootStrap ClassLoader – Responsible for loading classes from the bootstrap classpath, nothing but rt.jar. Highest priority will be given to this loader.
  2. Extension ClassLoader – Responsible for loading classes which are inside the ext folder (jre\lib).
  3. Application ClassLoader –Responsible for loading Application Level Classpath, path mentioned Environment Variable, etc.

The above ClassLoaders will follow Delegation Hierarchy Algorithm while loading the class files.


  1. Verify – Bytecode verifier will verify whether the generated bytecode is proper or not if verification fails we will get the verification error.
  2. Prepare – For all static variables memory will be allocated and assigned with default values.
  3. Resolve – All symbolic memory references are replaced with the original references from Method Area.


This is the final phase of ClassLoading; here, all static variables will be assigned with the original values, and the static block will be executed

2. Runtime Data Area

The Runtime Data Area is divided into five major components:

  1. Method Area – All the class-level data will be stored here, including static variables. There is only one method area per JVM, and it is a shared resource.
  2. Heap Area – All the Objects and their corresponding instance variables and arrays will be stored here. , the data stored is not thread-safe.
  3. Stack Area – All local variables will be created in the stack memory. The stack area is thread-safe since it is not a shared resource. The Stack Frame is divided into three subentities:
    1. Local Variable Array – Related to the method how many local variables are involved and the corresponding values will be stored here.
    2. Operand stack – If any intermediate operation is required to perform, operand stack acts as runtime workspace to perform the operation.
    3. Frame data – All symbols corresponding to the method is stored here. In the case of any exception, the catch block information will be maintained in the frame data.
  4. PC Registers – Each thread will have separate PC Registers, to hold the address of current executing instruction once the instruction is executed the PC register will be updated with the next instruction.
  5. Native Method stacks – Native Method Stack holds native method information. For every thread, a separate native method stack will be created.

3. Execution Engine

The bytecode, which is assigned to the Runtime Data Area, will be executed by the Execution Engine. The Execution Engine reads the bytecode and executes it piece by piece.

  1. Interpreter – The interpreter interprets the bytecode faster but executes slowly. The disadvantage of the interpreter is that when one method is called multiple times, every time a new interpretation is required.
  2. JIT Compiler – The JIT Compiler neutralizes the disadvantage of the interpreter. The Execution Engine will be using the help of the interpreter in converting byte code, but when it finds repeated code it uses the JIT compiler, which compiles the entire bytecode and changes it to native code. This native code will be used directly for repeated method calls, which improve the performance of the system.
    1. Intermediate Code Generator – Produces intermediate code
    2. Code Optimizer – Responsible for optimizing the intermediate code generated above
    3. Target Code Generator – Responsible for Generating Machine Code or Native Code
    4. Profiler – A special component, responsible for finding hotspots, i.e. whether the method is called multiple times or not.
  3. Garbage Collector: Collects and removes unreferenced objects. Garbage Collection can be triggered by calling System.gc(), but the execution is not guaranteed. Garbage collection of the JVM collects the objects that are created.

4. Other

Java Native Interface (JNI): JNI will be interacting with the Native Method Libraries and provides the Native Libraries required for the Execution Engine.

Native Method Libraries: Native Libraries, which is required for the Execution Engine.


How to understander Delegation Hierarchy

Class Loaders : Delegation Hierarchy Algorithm

  1. As Object is the Parent of all the Classes in Java which resides in "java.lang" package & this package resides in "rt.jar" hence priority might be given to "Bootstrap Class Loader"

  2. Most of the custom classes needs Built-in Java Language features to be used like using String or int whose definition is available again in "rt.jar" & this will be loaded by "Bootstrap Class Loader" hence the priority might be given to it.







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