Java Heap

The Java Heap Space is the memory “container” of you runtime Java program which provides to your Java program the proper memory spaces it needs (Java Heap, Native Heap) and managed by the JVM itself.

Your Java program life cycle typically looks like this:

– Java program coding (via Eclipse IDE etc.) e.g.
– Java program compilation (Java compiler or third party build tools such as Apache Ant, Apache Maven..) e.g. HelloWord.class
– Java program start-up and runtime execution e.g. via your HelloWorld.main() method

The Java Heap space is mainly applicable and important for the third step: runtime execution. For the HotSpot VM, the Java Heap Space is split in 3 silos:

– Java Heap for short & long lived objects (YoungGen & OldGen spaces)
– PermGen space
– Native Heap

Now let’s dissect your HelloWorld.class program so you can better understand.

– At start-up, your JVM will load and cache some of your static program and JDK libraries to the Native Heap, including native libraries, Mapped Files such as your program Jar file(s), Threads such as the main start-up Thread of your program etc.
– Your JVM will then store the “static” data of your HelloWorld.class Java program to the PermGen space (Class metadata, descriptors..)
– Once your program is started, the JVM will then manage and dynamically allocate the memory of your Java program to the Java Heap (YoungGen & OldGen). This is why it is so important that you understand how much memory your Java program needs to you can properly fine-tuned the capacity of your Java Heap controlled via –Xms & -Xmx JVM parameters. Profiling, Heap Dump analysis allow you to determine your Java program memory footprint
– Finally, the JVM has to also dynamically release the memory from the Java Heap Space that your program no longer need; this is called the garbage collection process. This process can be easily monitored via the JVM verbose GC or a monitoring tool of your choice such as JConsole