Sunday, March 9, 2008

heap allocation without malloc()

Someone speculated that "in any programming language, heap memory is allocated always using the C function malloc(). There's no alternative." Nigel disagrees. If a language is not based on C, then it can use its own heap-library.

The heap-mgmt library is a wholesaler/retailer. For efficiency heap-library requests large blocks [1] of memory and gives out small chunks to the application. Probably many languages have a heap-mgmt library. C's heap library (in glibc) uses malloc(). Nigel felt C# has its own heap-mgmt library and may have a malloc-equivalent. JVM is written in C but it could re-implement the heap-mgmt library with its own malloc-equivalent.

Everyone must file tax returns with the same government, but through different tax consultants. Tax consultants are not part of the government. Similarly, Heap-mgmt library is one level above system calls. It makes system calls (perhaps brk()/sbrk()) to request the large blocks from OS. Every language must use system calls to request memory but possibly using its own heap-mgmt library.

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