Latest version is JamVM 2.0.0, released on 30th July 2014. See the release notes for the changes since 1.5.4.

JamVM is an open-source Java Virtual Machine that aims to support the latest version of the JVM specification, while at the same time being compact and easy to understand.

You can download the latest release of JamVM from the download area or have a look at the project summary page. This contains links to the public forums and facilities for bug reporting and feature requests.

I welcome feedback of any kind, e.g. bug reports, suggestions, etc. I'm always interested to hear how and if people are using JamVM so even if you don't have a problem drop me an email (email address at the bottom).

Class Libraries

JamVM must be used in conjunction with a Java class-library to make a full Java Runtime Environment. Compatible class-libraries are GNU Classpath or the class-library from OpenJDK.

GNU Classpath

GNU Classpath is a community-driven reimplementation of the Java class-libraries. For many years it was the only library supported by JamVM. Since the open-sourcing of Java, development of GNU Classpath has slowed but it is still active and maintained. The latest release is 0.99, released on 16th March 2012.

When configured for GNU Classpath, JamVM provides a shared library (libjvm.so) for use with the JNI Invocation API, and a standalone executable (jamvm) to run Java programs.

GNU Classpath is mostly Java 1.5 compliant, with some APIs from Java 1.6. Although JamVM supports Java 7 and Java 8, these features are disabled when used with GNU Classpath. GNU Classpath, however, is much smaller than OpenJDK, which makes it suitable for embedded systems.

By default, if no class-library is specified when configuring JamVM, JamVM is built to use GNU Classpath.


OpenJDK is the official open-source implementation of the JDK resulting from the open-sourcing of Java in 2007. It consists of a class-library, a virtual machine (HotSpot) and a java compiler (plus other tools).

JamVM is compatible with the class-library from OpenJDK 6, 7 and 8 (the latest). When configured for use with OpenJDK, JamVM provides a shared library (libjvm.so) which can be used to replace the libjvm.so containing HotSpot. The existing OpenJDK launcher (java) is used, which now runs JamVM.

IcedTea is a build harness for OpenJDK that initially replaced encumbered parts of OpenJDK with free components. In addition to HotSpot, IcedTea also packages and supports alternative virtual machines such as JamVM. To use JamVM, the -jamvm option is given on the java command line. This directs the launcher to load the libjvm.so from the jamvm directory rather than the standard server or client directory.

The easiest way to get OpenJDK/IcedTea is to install a pre-built package for your system. You can then replace HotSpot or the existing JamVM library with the library you have built.

Supported Platforms/Architectures

JamVM has been written for a Unix/Posix-compliant system. Unfortunately, incompatibilities between Unixes still exist, and JamVM needs to use several non-portable calls (mostly threading related). In addition, some architecture specific definitions are required (memory barriers, etc.). Finally, the native calling convention (or ABI) is both platform and architecture dependent. This is needed by JamVM when constructing a call frame to invoke a native method. For most platform/architectures this is provided by highly-efficient hand-written native assembler, although libffi is also supported for all platforms (specified by --with-libffi when configuring). Libffi is less efficient than the hand-written assembler although recent versions of JamVM also includes stubs for common method signatures.

The following platforms/architectures are recognised by configure. Those marked with * must be configured to use libffi.

JamVM "Features"

For those interested in the design of virtual machines, JamVM includes a number of optimisations to improve speed and reduce foot-print. A list, in no particular order, is given below.

That's it!

Robert Lougher
19th August 2014.
rob at jamvm.org.uk
rlougher at users.sf.net

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