Package jdk.incubator.foreign

Classes to support low-level, safe and efficient memory access.

The key abstractions introduced by this package are MemorySegment and MemoryAddress. The first models a contiguous memory region, which can reside either inside or outside the Java heap; the latter models an address - which can sometimes be expressed as an offset into a given segment. A memory address represents the main access coordinate of a memory access var handle, which can be obtained using the combinator methods defined in the MemoryHandles class. Finally, the MemoryLayout class hierarchy enables description of memory layouts and basic operations such as computing the size in bytes of a given layout, obtain its alignment requirements, and so on. Memory layouts also provide an alternate, more abstract way, to produce memory access var handles, e.g. using layout paths. For example, to allocate an off-heap memory region big enough to hold 10 values of the primitive type int, and fill it with values ranging from 0 to 9, we can use the following code:

static final VarHandle intHandle = MemoryHandles.varHandle(int.class, ByteOrder.nativeOrder());

try (MemorySegment segment = MemorySegment.allocateNative(10 * 4)) {
    MemoryAddress base = segment.baseAddress();
    for (long i = 0 ; i < 10 ; i++) {
       intHandle.set(base.addOffset(i * 4), (int)i);
Here we create a var handle, namely intHandle, to manipulate values of the primitive type int, at a given memory location. Also, intHandle is stored in a static and final field, to achieve better performance and allow for inlining of the memory access operation through the VarHandle instance. We then create a native memory segment, that is, a memory segment backed by off-heap memory; the size of the segment is 40 bytes, enough to store 10 values of the primitive type int. The segment is created inside a try-with-resources construct: this idiom ensures that all the memory resources associated with the segment will be released at the end of the block, according to the semantics described in Section 14.20.3 of The Java™ Language Specification. Inside the try-with-resources block, we initialize the contents of the memory segment; more specifically, if we view the memory segment as a set of 10 adjacent slots, s[i], where 0 <= i < 10, where the size of each slot is exactly 4 bytes, the initialization logic above will set each slot so that s[i] = i, again where 0 <= i < 10.

Deterministic deallocation

When writing code that manipulates memory segments, especially if backed by memory which resides outside the Java heap, it is crucial that the resources associated with a memory segment are released when the segment is no longer in use, by calling the MemorySegment.close() method either explicitly, or implicitly, by relying on try-with-resources construct (as demonstrated in the example above). Closing a given memory segment is an atomic operation which can either succeed - and result in the underlying memory associated with the segment to be released, or fail with an exception.

The deterministic deallocation model differs significantly from the implicit strategies adopted within other APIs, most notably the ByteBuffer API: in that case, when a native byte buffer is created (see ByteBuffer.allocateDirect(int)), the underlying memory is not released until the byte buffer reference becomes unreachable. While implicit deallocation models such as this can be very convenient - clients do not have to remember to close a direct buffer - such models can also make it hard for clients to ensure that the memory associated with a direct buffer has indeed been released.


This API provides strong safety guarantees when it comes to memory access. First, when dereferencing a memory segment using a memory address, such an address is validated (upon access), to make sure that it does not point to a memory location which resides outside the boundaries of the memory segment it refers to. We call this guarantee spatial safety; in other words, access to memory segments is bounds-checked, in the same way as array access is, as described in Section 15.10.4 of The Java™ Language Specification.

Since memory segments can be closed (see above), a memory address is also validated (upon access) to make sure that the segment it belongs to has not been closed prematurely. We call this guarantee temporal safety. Note that, in the general case, guaranteeing temporal safety can be hard, as multiple threads could attempt to access and/or close the same memory segment concurrently. The memory access API addresses this problem by imposing strong thread-confinement guarantees on memory segments: each memory segment is associated with an owner thread, which is the only thread that can either access or close the segment.

Together, spatial and temporal safety ensure that each memory access operation either succeeds - and accesses a valid memory location - or fails.

  • Interface Summary
    Interface Description
    A mapped memory segment, that is, a memory segment backed by memory-mapped file.
    A memory address models a reference into a memory location.
    A memory layout can be used to describe the contents of a memory segment in a language neutral fashion.
    Instances of this class are used to form layout paths.
    A memory segment models a contiguous region of memory.
  • Class Summary
    Class Description
    A group layout is used to combine together multiple member layouts.
    This class defines several factory methods for constructing and combining memory access var handles.
    This class defines useful layout constants.
    A sequence layout.
    A value layout.