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This guide describes how to build the Jikes RVM. The first section is an overview of the Jikes RVM build process and this is followed by your system requirements and a detailed description of the steps required to build JikesRVM.


Compiling the source code

The majority of the Jikes RVM is written in Java and will be compiled into class files just as with other Java applications. There is also a small portion of the Jikes RVM that is written in C that must be compiled with a C compiler such as gcc. The Jikes RVM uses Ant version 1.6.5 or later as the build tool that orchestrates the build process and executes the steps required in building the Jikes RVM.

Generating source code

The build process also generates Java and C source code based on build time constants such as the selected instruction architecture, garbage collectors and compilers. The generation of the source code occurs prior to the compilation phase.

Bootstrapping the RVM

The Jikes RVM compiles Java class files and produces arrays of code and data. To build itself the Jikes RVM will execute on an existing Java Virtual Machine and compiles a copy of it's own class files into a boot image for the code and data using thw boot image writer tool. The boot image runner is a small C program that loads the boot image and transfers control flow into the Jikes RVM.

Class libraries

The Java class library is the mechanism by which Java programs communicate with the outside world. The Jikes RVM uses the GNU Classpath class library. The developer can either specify a particular version of GNU Classpath to use or they can allow the build process to download and build an appropriate version of the library.

Target Requirements

The Jikes RVM is known to build and work on certain combinations of instruction architectures and operating systems. The following sections detail the supported architectures and operating systems.


The PowerPC (or ppc) and ia32 instruction set architectures are supported by the Jikes RVM.


Intel's Instruction Set Architectures (ISAs) get known by different names:

  • IA-32 is the name used to describe processors such as 386, 486 and the Pentium processors. It is popularly called x86 or sometimes in our documentation as x86-32.
  • IA-32e is the name used to describe the extension of the IA-32 architecture to support 8 more registers and a 64-bit address space. It is popularly called x86_64 or AMD64, as AMD chips were the first to support it. It is found in processors such AMD's Opteron and Athlon 64, as well as in Intel's own Pentium 4 processors that have EM64T in their name.
  • IA-64 is the name of Intel's Itanium processor ISA.

The Jikes RVM currently supports the IA-32 ISA. As IA-32e is backward compatible with IA-32, the Jikes RVM can be built and run upon IA-32e processors. The IA-64 architecture supports IA-32 code through a compatibility mode or through emulation and Jikes RVM should run in this configuration.

Operating Systems

The Jikes RVM is capable of running on any operating system that is supported by the GNU Classpath library, low level library support is implemented and memory layout is defined. The low level library support includes interaction with the threading and signal libraries, memory management facilities and dynamic library loading services. The memory layout must also be known as Jikes RVM will attempt to locate the boot image code and data at specific memory locations. These memory locations must not conflict with where the native compiler places it's code and data. Operating systems that are known to work include AIX, Linux and OSX. At one stage a port to win32 was completed but it was never integrated into the main Jikes RVM codebase.

Support Matrix

The following table details the targets that have historically been supported and the current status of the support. The column is the identifier that the Jikes RVM uses to identify this target.

Operating System

Instruction Architecture

Address Size





32 bits





32 bits





32 bits





32 bits





32 bits

Not Working




64 bits





64 bits

Not Working




64 bits


Tool Requirements

Java Virtual Machine

The Jikes RVM requires an existing Java Virtual Machine that conforms to Java 5.0 such as Sun JDK 1.5 or IBM JDK 5.0. Some Java Virtual Machines are unable to cope with compiling the Java class library so it is recomended that you install one of the above mentioned JVMs if they are not already installed on your system. The remaining build instructions assume that this Java Virtual Machine on your path. You can run "java -version" to check you are using the correct JVM.


Ant version 1.6.5 or later is the tool required to orchestrate the build process. You can download and install the Ant tool from if it is not already installed on your system. The remaining build instructions assume that $ANT_HOME/bin is on your path. You can run "ant -version" to check you are running the correct version of ant.

C Tool Chain

The Jikes RVM assumes that the GNU C Tool Chain is present on the system or a tool chain that is reasonably compatible. Most modern *nix environments satisfy this requirement.


As part of the build process the Jikes RVM uses the bison tool which should be present on most modern *nix environments.


Perl is trivially used as part of the build process but this requirement may be removed in future releases of Jikes RVM. Perl is also used as part of the regression and performance testing framework.


GNU Awk is required as part of the regression and performance testing framework but is not required when building Jikes RVM.


Defining Ant properties

There are a number of ant properties that are used to control the build process of the Jikes RVM. These properties may either be specified on the command line by "-Dproperty=variable" or they may be specified in a file named "" in the base directory of the jikesrvm source tree. The "" file is a standard Java proeprty file with each line containing a "property=variable" and comments starting with a # and finishing at the end of the line. The following table describes some properties that are commonly specified.




The name of the host environment used for building the Jikes RVM. The name should match one of the files located in the build/hosts/ directory minus the '.properties' extension.


The name of the target environment for the Jikes RVM.  The name should match one of the files located in the build/targets/ directory minus the '.properties' extension. This should only be specified when cross compiling the Jikes RVM. See Using the RVM for a detailed description of cross compilation.


The name of the configuration used when building the Jikes RVM. The name should match one of the files located in the build/configs/ directory minus the '.properties' extension. This setting is further described in the section Configuring the RVM.


An identifier for the current patch applied to the source tree. See Using the RVM for a description of how this fits into the standard usage patterns of the Jikes RVM.



The directory where Ant looks for external components when building the RVM.



The directory where Ant stores the final Jikes RVM runtime.



The directory where Ant stores the intermediate artifacts generated when building the Jikes RVM.



Define this property if you do not want the build process to update configuration files when auto downloading components.


At a minimum it is recomended that the user specify the property in the "" file.

The configuration files in "build/targets/" and "build/hosts/" are designed to work with a typical install but it may be necessary to overide specific properties. The easiest way to achieve this is to specify the properties to override in the "" file.

Selecting a Configuration

A "configuration" in terms of the Jikes RVM is the combination of build time parameters and component selection used for a particular Jikes RVM image. The Configuring the RVM section describes the details of how to define a configuration. Typical configuration names include;

  • production: This configuration defines a fully optimized version of the Jikes RVM.
  • development: This configuration is the same as production but with debug options enabled. The debug options perform internal verification of the Jikes RVM which means that it builds and executes more slowly.
  • prototype: This configuration is compiled using an unoptimized compiler and includes minimal components which means it has the fastest build time.
  • prototype-opt: This configuration is compiled using an unoptimized compiler but it includes the adaptive system and optimizing compiler. This configuration has a reasonably fast build time.

If a user is working on a particular configuration most of the time they may specify the ant property in "" otherwise it should be passed in on the command line "".

Fetching Dependencies

The Jikes RVM has a build time dependency on the GNU Classpath class library and dependening on the configuration may have a dependency on GCSpy. The build system is capable of downloading and building these dependencies.

To download and install the GNU Classpath class library you can run the command "ant build-classpath". After this command has completed running it should have downloaded and built the GNU Classpath class library for the current host.

See the Using GCSpy page for directions on building configurations with GCSpy support.

Building the RVM

The next step in building the Jikes RVM is to run the ant command "ant" or "ant". This should build a complete RVM runtime in the directory "${dist.dir}/${}_${}". The following table describes some of the ant targets that can be executed. A complete list of documented targets can be listed by executing the command "ant -projecthelp"




Check that all the required properties are defined.


Compile MMTk toolkit.


Generate configuration independent source code if required or force.generation property is set.


Generate source code for the current configuration if required or force.generation property is set.


Download GNU Classpath class library and build it.

main or runtime

Build a runtime image.


Remove the intermediate directory and runtime image directory.


Remove all generated artifacts.

Running the RVM

The Jikes RVM can be executed in a similar way to most Java Virtual Machines. The difference is that the command is "rvm" and resides in the runtime directory (i.e. "${dist.dir}/${}_${}"). See Running the RVM for a complete list of command line options.

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