Data center applications and frameworks are often written in managed languages such as Java, Python or Scala. While managed-language issues like garbage collection and JIT compilation have seen significant research on single-node systems, modern data center workloads run across a large number of independent language VMs and face new challenges that were not previously addressed. At the same time, the data center environment also creates new opportunities, as it enables rethinking layers of the infrastructure stack that have traditionally been fixed.
In this talk, I will discuss some of these opportunities and challenges, spanning both the hardware and the software layer. On the software side, I will show how to better support distributed managed-language applications using a "Holistic" Language Runtime System, which treats the runtimes underlying a distributed application as a distributed system itself. On the hardware side, I will describe how custom data center SoCs could provide an opportunity to revisit the old idea of hardware support for garbage collection. Finally, I will discuss how this type of hardware-software research can benefit from the emergence of open-source hardware and how infrastructure based on the free and open RISC-V ISA may provide an opportunity to achieve a higher degree of realism and industry adoption for academic computer architecture research.