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Retrofitting Parallelism onto OCaml

by   KC Sivaramakrishnan, et al.
University of Cambridge
Indian Institute Of Technology, Madras

OCaml is an industrial-strength, multi-paradigm programming language, widely used in industry and academia. OCaml is also one of the few modern managed system programming languages to lack support for shared memory parallel programming. This paper describes the design, a full-fledged implementation and evaluation of a mostly-concurrent garbage collector (GC) for the multicore extension of the OCaml programming language. Given that we propose to add parallelism to a widely used programming language with millions of lines of existing code, we face the challenge of maintaining backwards compatibility–not just in terms of the language features but also the performance of single-threaded code running with the new GC. To this end, the paper presents a series of novel techniques and demonstrates that the new GC strikes a balance between performance and feature backwards compatibility for sequential programs and scales admirably on modern multicore processors.


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