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<Understanding how the JVM uses native memory on Windows and Linux ⁄ >

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The Java heap, where every Java object is allocated, is the area of memory you're most intimately connected with when writing Java applications. The JVM was designed to insulate us from the host machine's peculiarities, so it's natural to think about the heap when you think about memory. You've no doubt encountered a Java heap OutOfMemoryError - caused by an object leak or by not making the heap big enough to store all your data - and have probably learned a few tricks to debug these scenarios. But as your Java applications handle more data and more concurrent load, you may start to experience OutOfMemoryErrors that can't be fixed using your normal bag of tricks - scenarios in which the errors are thrown even though the Java heap isn't full. When this happens, you need to understand what is going on inside your Java Runtime Environment (JRE).

Java applications run in the virtualized environment of the Java runtime, but the runtime itself is a native program written in a language (such as C) that consumes native resources, including native memory. Native memory is the memory available to the runtime process, as distinguished from the Java heap memory that a Java application uses. Every virtualized resource - including the Java heap and Java threads - must be stored in native memory, along with the data used by the virtual machine as it runs. This means that the limitations on native memory imposed by the host machine's hardware and operating system (OS) affect what you can do with your Java application.

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