Java Virtual Machine(JVM)

The Java Virtual Machine (JVM) is an abstract computer. JVM specifications define some features that every JVM must have. Designers can implement the features in their own way. For example, JVM must be able to execute byte code, however, different techniques can be used for its execution. The main task of a JVM is to load class files and execute the bytecode they contain. JVM contains a class loader and an execution engine.

Class loader is responsible for loading class files from both the platforms and the Java API. The byte code contained in class files is executed by the execution engine.

A General diagram of JVM is shown below:
java virtual machine

An execution engine is not any hardware component, instead implemented as a software. It accepts the byte code and produces native code. Just-in-time Compiler (JIT) is a kind of execution engine.
JIT caches native code generated when the method was invoked for the first time. The cached code can be reused next time when the same method is invoked.

Java provides two kinds of methods:
• Java methods
• Native methods

Java methods are written in Java language, whereas native methods are written in other languages, such as C, C++ etc. Native methods are the part of platform specific dynamic linked libraries. Means native methods are platform dependent. When a Java program invokes a native method, the JVM loads the library file to call the method.
As shown in diagram below:

java virtual machine

Architecture of JVM

As mentioned earlier, each JVM has a class loader, which is responsible for loading classes and interfaces. Each JVM also has an execution engine to interpret the classes loaded by class loader. A Java Virtual Machine needs some Runtime Data Areas to store bytecode, objects, method parameters, local variables, return values, intermediate results etc. As general architecture of JVM is shown below:

architecture of java virtual machine

Method Area

Method Area Method area is analogous to the storage area for compiled code of a conventional language or to the least segment in OS process. Class loader reads byte code from class file and sends it to virtual machine. Virtual machine reads information about the type from class file and stores in method area. Virtual machines stores the following information in method area:
• The fully qualified name of direct super class.
• The fully qualified name of the type.
• Whether the type is a class or an interface.
• The modifiers of type (fi nal, public, abstract).
• Fully qualified name of interfaces implemented or extended.
• Field information.
• Static variables information.
• A reference to class loader to keep track of class loader used for loading the type: Bootstrap class loader or user defined class loader.
• A reference to class java.lang.Class: class to load every type. The java.lang.Class provides you a static method: forName(String ClassName), which returns a reference of instance of Object class (universal class) for class-name specified as parameter, for example:


The above statement creates an object of class java.lang.Class and returns the reference to c, using reference variable c, you can extract full information about the members of class String. Detailed discussion about methods of Class class is not subject of discussion in this chapter, for information, you can google it on internet.

Java Stack

JVM creates a new Java stack for each thread to store thread's state by pushing and poping frames on the stack. As a thread calls a method, JVM creates a frame and pushes it on the stack. A frame has 3 parts:
• Local variables
• Operands
• Frame data
A method called by thread can be completed by returning is called normal completion. If it completes by throwing an exception, it is called abstract completion. On completion of method in any way JVM pops the frame from stack and the previous frame becomes the current frame. Java stack is depicted in diagram shown as follows:


Heap Memory

The heap is the runtime data area, from which memory to all class instances and array is allocated. A running Java virtual machine instance has only one heap that is shared by all running threads. The heap is created on start of virtual machine. The size of heap may be fixed or expanded (up to the availability) according to requirement. The memory allocated to heap need not to be contiguous. The JVM throws an OutOfMemoryError, when availability of memory is less than the requirement. To query about the heap size programmatically, you can use the following methods:
Garbage collection is the process run by JVM at random intervals to reclaim the memory from unreferenced/unreachable objects. To know more about garbage collection goto home page visit: Garbage Collection.

Native Method Stack

Methods written in languages other than Java programming languages such as C, C++ are called native methods.
When a thread calls a Java method, a new frame is created and is being pushed onto the Java stack. When a thread calls a native method, the thread switches from Java stack to native method stack. The parameters(if any) are pushed on native method stack. If a native method calls back a Java method, the thread leaves the native method stack and enters in Java stack again.
Figure shown below demonstrate switching of a thread from Java stack to native method stack that calls back a Java method switches to Java stack.


Java API (Application Programming Interface)

Java API is a collection of library classes and interfaces organized in different packages. The API is written in Java language and run on the JVM. It is commonly used by the programmers to do their programming tasks.
Java API can be of three types, as listed below:
• Official Java core API, which is bundled with JDK setup.
• Optional official APIs, which may be downloaded if needed.
• Unofficial APIs, which are third party APIs that may be downloaded from source sites.
The Java API contain libraries for socket programming, multitasking, exception handling, date-time operations, handling a collection of objects, creating graphical user interfaces, database connectivity, handling strings, serialization, etc.

About the Author
Rajesh K. Bansal (SCJP-Sun Certified Java Programmer)
17 Years experience in Training & Development. Founder of, loves coding in Java(J2SE, J2EE), C++,PHP, Python, AngularJS, Android. If you like tutorials and want to know more in depth about Java , buy his book "Real Java" available on
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