Evacuation Pause: Mixed

It’s a pleasant case when concurrent cleanup can free up entire regions in Old Generation, but it may not always be the case. After Concurrent Marking has successfully completed, G1 will schedule a mixed collection that will not only get the garbage away from the young regions, but also throw in a bunch of Old regions to the collection set.

A mixed Evacuation pause does not always immediately follow the end of the concurrent marking phase. There is a number of rules and heuristics that affect this. For instance, if it was possible to free up a large portion of the Old regions concurrently, then there is no need to do it.

There may, therefore, easily be a number of fully-young evacuation pauses between the end of concurrent marking and a mixed evacuation pause.

The exact number of Old regions to be added to the collection set, and the order in which they are added, is also selected based on a number of rules. These include the soft real-time performance goals specified for the application, the liveness and gc efficiency data collected during concurrent marking, and a number of configurable JVM options. The process of a mixed collection is largely the same as we have already reviewed earlier for fully-young gc, but this time we will also cover the subject of remembered sets.

Remembered sets are what allows the independent collection of different heap regions. For instance, when collecting region A,B and C, we have to know whether or not there are references to them from regions D and E to determine their liveness. But traversing the whole heap graph would take quite a while and ruin the whole point of incremental collection, therefore an optimization is employed. Much like we have the Card Table for independently collecting Young regions in other GC algorithms, we have Remembered Sets in G1.

As shown in the illustration below, each region has a remembered set that lists the references pointing to this region from the outside. These references will then be regarded as additional GC roots. Note that objects in Old regions that were determined to be garbage during concurrent marking will be ignored even if there are outside references to them: the referents are also garbage in that case.

Mixed Evacuation Pause: beginning

What happens next is the same as what other collectors do: multiple parallel GC threads figure out what objects are live and which ones are garbage:

Mixed Evacuation Pause: determining live objects

And, finally, the live objects are moved to survivor regions, creating new if necessary. The now empty regions are freed and can be used for storing objects in again.


To maintain the remembered sets, during the runtime of the application, a Post-Write Barrier is issued whenever a write to a field is performed. If the resulting reference is cross-region, i.e. pointing from one region to another, a corresponding entry will appear in the Remembered Set of the target region. To reduce the overhead that the Write Barrier introduces, the process of putting the cards into the Remembered Set is asynchronous and features quite a number of optimizations. But basically it boils down to the Write Barrier putting the dirty card information into a local buffer, and a specialized GC thread picking it up and propagating the information to the remembered set of the referred region.

In the mixed mode, the logs publish certain new interesting aspects when compared to the fully young mode:

[Update RS (ms)1: Min: 0.7, Avg: 0.8, Max: 0.9, Diff: 0.2, Sum: 6.1]
[Processed Buffers2: Min: 0, Avg: 2.2, Max: 5, Diff: 5, Sum: 18]
[Scan RS (ms)3: Min: 0.0, Avg: 0.1, Max: 0.2, Diff: 0.2, Sum: 0.8]
[Clear CT: 0.2 ms]4
[Redirty Cards: 0.1 ms]5

  1. [Update RS (ms) – Since the Remembered Sets are processed concurrently, we have to make sure that the still-buffered cards are processed before the actual collection begins. If this number is high, then the concurrent GC threads are unable to handle the load. It may be, e.g., because of an overwhelming number of incoming field modifications, or insufficient CPU resources.
  2. [Processed Buffers – How many local buffers each worker thread has processed.
  3. [Scan RS (ms) – How long it took to scan the references coming in from remembered sets.
  4. [Clear CT: 0.2 ms] – Time to clean the cards in the card table. Cleaning simply removes the “dirty” status that was put there to signify that a field was updated, to be used for Remembered Sets.
  5. [Redirty Cards: 0.1 ms] – The time it takes to mark the appropriate locations in the card table as dirty. Appropriate locations are defined by the mutations to the heap that GC does itself, e.g. while enqueuing references.