[LLVMdev] Annotating known pointer alignment

Clemens Hammacher hammacher at cs.uni-saarland.de
Sun Oct 28 14:55:34 PDT 2012

Hi Duncan,

thanks for your comments.

>> First, consider this function:
>>    #include <stdint.h>
>>    uint64_t foo(uint64_t *bar) {
>>      *bar = 42;
>>      return (uint64_t)bar & 3;
>>    }
>> Which is compiled to
>>    define i64 @foo(i64* %bar) nounwind uwtable ssp {
>>      store i64 42, i64* %bar, align 8
>>      %0 = ptrtoint i64* %bar to i64
>>      %and = and i64 %0, 3
>>      ret i64 %and
>>    }
>> 1) How can clang deduce the alignment on the store?
> by consulting the C standard :)

Ah, good to know. ยง6.3.2.3 (7) even states that casting alone leads to 
undefined behaviour, if the resulting pointer is not correctly aligned.

>   It emits a store without
>> alignment information,
> I assume you mean: without an explicit alignment.
>   and instcombine adds the explicit alignment according to
>> the langref (pref alignment).
> Without an explicit alignment means the ABI alignment in the case of
> loads/stores.

Yes, that second step was clear. Assuming you meant the "preferential 
alignment", according to the langref.

>> 2) If we know that the store is aligned, shouldn't instcombine deduce
>> that the
>> pointer %bar itself must be aligned (set low bits in KnownZero), and
>> use this
>> information for other uses, at least those that are dominated by the
>> store? This
>> would fold the three instructions to "ret i64 0".
> Probably it should.  Doing so would require that LLVM semantics
> considers an
> unaligned load/store to result in undefined behaviour, and would need to be
> documented in the LangRef.

It already is: "Overestimating the alignment results in an undefined 
behavior." (both load and store).
But implementing this kind of optimization is not that easy, since it 
would require to
1) visit other uses (hopefolly an aligned load/store) of the pointer for 
which we want to know the Known-Zero-Bits, and
2) know the dominance tree, since exploiting the knowledge about the 
alignment of the pointer is only valid after the load/store has been 

As far as I can see, both is not done in InstCombine yet, so adding it 
would (a) be a lot of work, and (b) increase the runtime of InstCombine.

What's your opinion about an alignment on ptrtoint instructions? Then 
clang could add that information, since as I just learned the C standard 
guarantees *any* pointer to be correctly aligned.
Since this is not guaranteed in LLVM IR, we need to communicate this 
information in order to take advantage of it.


> Ciao, Duncan.
>> 3) If instcombine cannot deduce it, is there a way to annotate that a
>> specific
>> pointer value is aligned? In my case it should work to add this sequence:
>>    %A = ptrtoint i64* %ptr to i64
>>    %B = and i64 %A, -8
>>    %C = inttoptr i64 %B to i64*
>> and replacing all uses of %ptr by %C, then running optimizations, and
>> then
>> replacing %C by %ptr again. But this is neither efficient nor nice, and
>> optimizations could cause other instructions to use my dummy
>> instructions too
>> such that I cannot remove them afterwards.
>> Nick Lewycky once proposed to add an alignment field to ptrtoint (for
>> bug 9120),
>> following the principle that pointer uses know the alignment. That
>> would also
>> help for my example. After inlining, I could visit all uses of the
>> pointer
>> (load/store/ptrtoint) and add the alignment accordingly.
>> Also clang could set an alignment for ptrtoint, since it seems to know
>> that some
>> pointers are always aligned.
>> Thanks for any help to solve my problem or answer my questions!
>> Clemens
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