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The Economics of Garbage Collection

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Executive Summary

This paper argues that economic theory can improve the authors' understanding of memory management. They introduce the allocation curve, as an analogue of the demand curve from microeconomics. An allocation curve for a program characterizes how the amount of garbage collection activity required during its execution varies in relation to the heap size associated with that program. The standard treatment of microeconomic demand curves (shifts and elasticity) can be applied directly and intuitively to their new allocation curves. As an application of this new theory, they show how allocation elasticity can be used to control the heap growth rate for variable sized heaps in Jikes RVM.

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