Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Large Object Heap Improvements in .NET 4.5

    Garbage collection is one of premiere features of the .NET managed coding platform. As the platform has become more capable, we’re seeing developers allocate more and more large objects. Since large objects are managed differently than small objects, we’ve heard a lot of feedback requesting improvement. Today’s post is by Surupa Biswas and Maoni Stephens from the garbage collection feature team. -- Brandon

The CLR manages two different heaps for allocation, the small object heap (SOH) and the large object heap (LOH). Any allocation greater than or equal to 85,000 bytes goes on the LOH. Copying large objects has a performance penalty, so the LOH is not compacted unlike the SOH. Another defining characteristic is that the LOH is only collected during a generation 2 collection. Together, these have the built-in assumption that large object allocations are infrequent.

Because the LOH is not compacted, memory management is more like a traditional allocator. The CLR keeps a free list of available blocks of memory. When allocating a large object, the runtime first looks at the free list to see if it will satisfy the allocation request. When the GC discovers adjacent objects that died, it combines the space they used into one free block which can be used for allocation. Because a lot of interaction with the free list takes place at the time of allocation, there are tradeoffs between speed and optimal placement of memory blocks.

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