4 cpu AS4100 w/5.2: Java options?

Nate Williams nate at yogotech.com
Mon Oct 18 10:28:39 PDT 2004

> > I would like to run Java on zis ere Alpha 4100 w/a fresh build of 
> > RELENG_5_2.
> > 
> > I note that most of the jdk ports are marked ONLY_FOR_ARCHS = i386.
> > 
> > Googling and list crawling indicates this may be quite difficult to do.
> > 
> > What are the current options for running/building/installing a 1.[34] JDK 
> > on
> > an Alpha running 5.2?
> Depends entirely on your skill set and how much time you're prepared to
> invest.
> Since their is no native port of 1.3 or 1.4 to the Alpha your options
> are
> a) Run an x86/sparc/<other supported platform> hardware emulator.  Boot
>    an OS on that hardware emulator and run the JDK with it.  This should
>    probably work but sounds like it would be pretty slow.
> b) Port or complete the port of either 1.3 or 1.4 to Alpha.  If you know
>    Alpha assembler then the 1.3 port (Classic VM) shouldn't be too hard
>    to complete.  1.4 or 1.3 + HotSpot is going to be a lot of work.

FWIW, back when Alpha was supported by DEC (the original manufacturer),
they lent an Alpha to the FreeBSD project to aid in the porting work.
Andrew Gallatin spent some time on the Digital-Unix emulator, and we
were able to get the 'native' JDK1.3 binaries that DEC provided running
on the Alpha in emulation mode.

The results weren't pretty.  The Alpha port done by the Digital folks
for running on Digitals' version of OSF was virtually useless.  My
486/66 ran the same processes 5-10X faster than the 500Mhz Miata box.

In the very short time I spent working on it and speaking with the DEC
people, apparently doing it quickly required a lot of work, since the
JVM internally didn't map well to the Alpha processor.  The only hope to
make things work faster required doing JIT optimizations similar to what
HotSpot does.  However, porting HotSpot and/or any other JIT to the
Alpha without example code for the emulator is going to be very

Even if you could get the emulator working with the older DEC-provided
JDK, I would be hard-pressed to encourage you to work on the project,
simply because of the cost/benefit ratio.

While the Alpha *was* a great architecture, the performance
characteristics for Java simply don't make it a feasible platform for
development and/or hosting any sort ofJava application, even one as
simple as 'Hello World'.  And, it's a no-go as far as support from the
vendor, as I don't believe Alpha CPUS are even being made anymore.


More information about the freebsd-java mailing list