Solaris::Vmem - Perl interface to virtual memory allocator
$size = alloc($tie, 16384);
$size = trim($tie, 8192);
Modern applications tend to consume more and more memory as more memory and computer power
become available, so the importance of large array handling has been increasing. Also, the
relative importance of memory efficiency is becoming higher and higher because CPU speeds
are increasing much faster than memory access speeds.
Here is one way to better address the issue, especially for large arrays in the 64-bit mode
applications. The idea presented here is to use the virtual memory page-demand capabilities built
into the Solaris platform or any modern operating system (OS).
The solution to the problem of undersized malloc-allocated arrays is to create much bigger arrays, but
to do so without incurring the costs in memory (swap space) that malloc requires. This is what
Virtual Memory Arrays provide. Developers can create very large arrays that have the same
performance characteristics as normal malloc-allocated memory, but without the need to consume
the resources up front.
The Solaris::Vmem package allows you to reserve a large amount of virtual address space for
an array of arbitrary objects, without reserving the memory or swap space for it. The actual
memory (swap) allocation occurs lazily, that is, only when you fill the memory with data,
page by page. The particular implementation presented here is for Solaris systems running on UltraSPARC
Note that in Virtual Memory (VM) system environments malloc also does not allocate memory until that
memory is filled with data. However, malloc does reserve the memory (swap space) for each allocation.
Therefore, if you allocate a large amount of memory with malloc, you must have enough swap space to
support it, or else malloc will return NULL. Virtual Memory Arrays do not reserve memory (swap space),
allowing you to create virtual arrays much larger than the available memory (swap space).
This difference is especially important in the 64-bit mode where Solaris::Vmem allows you to reserve
many terabytes of virtual address space. Creating enough disk swap space to support this much address
space (not to mention physical memory) is impractical even with today's inexpensive disks.
The proposed Virtual Memory Arrays API consists of three routines, the first two of which
resemble traditional malloc-free. The following are the prototypes and brief descriptions of these functions.
$size = alloc($var, $req_size);
alloc() allocated a chunk of virtual address space of a given size, in bytes. On success, alloc()
returns the actual size of the memory chunk and "ties" the $var argument to the allocated space.
The VM system will allocate memory for this array, page by page, as you fill the array with data.
The $req_size value is rounded up to the next hardware page boundary.
release() destroys the virtual memory space associated with $var argument and returns any memory and
the virtual address space reserved for it back to the system.
$newsize = trim($var, $req_size);
trim() reduces the size of the given virtual memory chunk to a smaller virtual size (in bytes).
This routine is optional. It may be useful when you have filled the array with data and know that
you will not need any more memory than you've already allocated and filled. The $req_size value
is rounded up to the next page boundary. The funcation returns the new (actual) size of the virtual
The trim() function allows you to return some virtual address space in the back to the system.
If you have put any data into the range of addresses past the end of the "trimmed" memory chunk,
it will free the corresponding memory, such that the data there will no longer be available.
Calling this routine only has an effect if $req_size (rounded up to the next page boundary) is
smaller than the original virtual size.
Once you've trimmed a virtual memory chunk with trim(), you can't grow it any more by adding data
to its end. Any reference beyond the $newsize boundary will result in a fault. It's a good idea to
trim a chunk of memory only if you are reasonably sure you won't ever need to expand this array again.
Alexander Golomshtok, <firstname.lastname@example.org> Based on the vmem_array package by Greg Nakhimovsky, Sun Microsystems
To install Solaris::Vmem, copy and paste the appropriate command in to your terminal.
perl -MCPAN -e shell
For more information on module installation, please visit the detailed CPAN module installation guide.