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SPLASH 2017
Sun 22 - Fri 27 October 2017 Vancouver, Canada
Thu 26 Oct 2017 11:15 - 11:37 at Regency A - Types and Language Design Chair(s): Mario Wolczko

ORCA is a concurrent and parallel garbage collector for actor programs, which does not require any STW steps, or synchronization mechanisms, and that has been designed to support zero-copy message passing and sharing of mutable data. ORCA is part of a runtime for actor-based languages, which was co-designed with the Pony programming language, and in particular, with its data race free type system. By co-designing an actor language with its runtime, it was possible to exploit certain language properties in order to optimize performance of garbage collection. Namely, ORCA relies on the guarantees of absence of race conditions in order to avoid read/write barriers, and it leverages the actor message passing, for synchronization among actors.

In this paper we briefly describe Pony and its type system. We use pseudo-code in order to introduce how ORCA allocates and deallocates objects, how it shares mutable data without requiring barriers upon data mutation, and how can immutability be used to further optimize garbage collection. Moreover, we discuss the advantages of co-designing an actor language with its runtime, and we demonstrate that ORCA can be implemented in a performant and scalable way through a set of micro-benchmarks, including a comparison with other well-known collectors.