PyGirl: Generating Whole-System VMs from high-level models using PyPy

Abstract : Virtual machines emulating hardware devices are generally implemented in low-level languages and using a low-level style for performance reasons. This trend results in largely difficult to understand, difficult to extend and unmaintainable systems. As new general techniques for virtual machines arise, it gets harder to incorporate or test these techniques because of early design and optimization decisions. In this paper we show how such decisions can be postponed to later phases by separating virtual machine implementation issues from the high-level machine-specific model. We construct compact models of whole-system VMs in a high-level language, which exclude all low-level implementation details. We use the pluggable translation toolchain PyPy to translate those models to executables. During the translation process, the toolchain reintroduces the VM implementation and optimization details for specific target platforms. As a case study we implement an executable model of a hardware gaming device. We show that our approach to VM building increases understandability, maintainability and extendability while preserving performance.
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Camillo Bruni, Toon Verwaest, Marcus Denker. PyGirl: Generating Whole-System VMs from high-level models using PyPy. [Technical Report] 2009. ⟨inria-00556430⟩

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