GPUs have become part of most commodity systems. Nonetheless, they are often underutilized when not executing graphics-intensive or special-purpose numerical computations, which are rare in consumer workloads. Emerging architectures, such as integrated CPU/GPU combinations, may create an opportunity to utilize these otherwise unused cycles for offloading traditional systems tasks. Garbage collection appears to be a particularly promising candidate for offloading, due to the popularity of managed languages on consumer devices.
We investigate the challenges for offloading garbage collection to a GPU, by examining the performance trade-offs for the mark phase of a mark & sweep garbage collector. We present a theoretical analysis and an algorithm that demonstrates the feasibility of this approach. We also discuss a number of algorithmic design trade-offs required to leverage the strengths and capabilities of the GPU hardware. Our algorithm has been integrated into the Jikes RVM and we present promising performance results.