The HipHop Virtual Machine

ACM International Conference on Object Oriented Programming Systems, Languages, and Applications

By: Keith Adams, Jason Evans, Bertrand Maher, Guilherme Ottoni, Drew Paroski, Brett Simmers, Edwin Smith, Owen Yamauchi


The HipHop Virtual Machine (HHVM) is a JIT compiler and runtime for PHP. While PHP values are dynamically typed, real programs often have latent types that are useful for optimization once discovered. Some types can be proven through static analysis, but limitations in the ahead-of-time approach leave some types to be discovered at run time. And even though many values have latent types, PHP programs can also contain polymorphic variables and expressions, which must be handled without catastrophic slowdown.

HHVM discovers latent types by structuring its JIT around the concept of a tracelet. A tracelet is approximately a basic block specialized for a particular set of run-time types for its input values. Tracelets allow HHVM to exactly and efficiently learn the types observed by the program, while using a simple compiler. This paper shows that this approach enables HHVM to achieve high levels of performance, without sacrificing compatibility or interactivity.