There are two solutions currently on the way. Core developer Marcin are working on a port of the 1.9 regexp engine Oniguruma. This port still has some way to go, and is not integrated with JRuby. The other effort is called REJ, and is a port of the MRI engine I did a few months back. I've freshened up the work and integrated it with JRuby in a branch. At the moment this work actually seems to go quite well, but there are some snags.
First of all, let me point out that this approach gives us more or less total multibyte compatibility for 1.8, which is quite nice.
When doing benchmarking, I'm generally using Rails as the bar. I have a series of regular expressions that Petstore uses for each requst, and I'm using these to check performance. As a first datapoint, JRuby+REJ is faster at parsing regexps than JRuby trunk for basically all regexps. This ranges from slightly faster to twice as fast.
Most of the Rails regexen are actually faster in REJ than in JRuby+trunk, but the problem is that some of them are actually quite a bit slower. 4 of the 22 Rails regexps are slower, by between 20 and 250% percent. There are also this one: /.*_f/ =~ "_fxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx" which basically runs about 10x slower than JRuby trunk. Not nice at all.
In the end, the problem is backtracking. Since REJ is a straight port of the MRI code, the backtracking is also ported. But it seems that Java is unusually bad at handling that specific algorithm, and it performs quite badly. At the moment I'm continuing to look at it and trying to improve performance in all ways possible, so we'll see what happens. Charles Nutter have also started to look at it.
But what's really interesting is that I reran my Petstore benchmarks with the current REJ code. To rehash, my last results with JRuby trunk looked like this:
controller : 1.804000 0.000000 1.804000 ( 1.804000)But the results from rerunning with REJ was interesting, to say the least. I expected bad results because of the bad backtracking performance, but it seems the other speed improvements weigh up:
view : 5.510000 0.000000 5.510000 ( 5.510000)
full action: 13.876000 0.000000 13.876000 ( 13.876000)
controller : 1.782000 0.000000 1.782000 ( 1.782000)As you can see, the improvement is quite large in the view numbers. It is also almost there compared to MRI which had 4.57. Finally, the full action is better by a full second too. Again, MRI is 9.57s and JRuby 12.72. It's getting closer. I am quite optimistic right now, provided that we manage to fix the remaining problems with backtracking, our regexp engine might well be a great boon to performance.
view : 4.735000 0.000000 4.735000 ( 4.735000)
full action: 12.727000 0.000000 12.727000 ( 12.727000)