[LLVMdev] RFC: ThinLTO File Format

Teresa Johnson tejohnson at google.com
Mon Aug 3 11:59:53 PDT 2015

Hi Alex,

After outlining some of the rationale for using native-wrapped, there were
a couple of responses that indicated native-wrapped support was reasonable,
but they preferred to see bitcode-only first (Phillip and Rafael). This is
essentially what this proposal and the patches do - I've implemented some
of the basic support for looking for and parsing the native-wrapped
sections, but the bitcode-only reading/writing support is more complete.

In fact, as described in this RFC, I designed the native-wrapped format to
utilize the same bitcode encoding for most of the ThinLTO information, so
it uses most of the same underlying bitcode interfaces anyway. The
additional support required for native-wrapped is not tremendous, and is
similar to existing support in the LLVM tree for reading native-wrapped

We believe that there will be clang/llvm users who will find native-wrapped
ThinLTO easier to use for the same reasons (e.g. compatibility with
existing native toolchains), so I don't expect this to be Google specific.


On Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 12:26 PM, Alex Rosenberg <alexr at leftfield.org> wrote:

> I think I've read all the feedback posted regarding your May proposal. I
> have yet to see a single response that wants native object wrapped bitcode.
> If the only use for native object wrapped bitcode is for your project at
> Google, then it probably shouldn't go into the tree against all of these
> objections.
> Alex
> On Aug 3, 2015, at 9:19 AM, Teresa Johnson <tejohnson at google.com> wrote:
> As discussed in the high-level ThinLTO RFC (
> http://lists.cs.uiuc.edu/pipermail/llvmdev/2015-May/086211.html), we
> would like to add support for native object wrapped bitcode and ThinLTO
> information. Based on comments on the mailing list, I am adding support for
> ThinLTO in both normal bitcode files, as well as native-object wrapped
> bitcode.
> The following RFC describes the planned file format of ThinLTO information
> both in the bitcode-only and native object wrapped cases. It doesn't yet
> define the exact record format, as I would like feedback on the overall
> block design first.
> I've also implemented the support for reading and writing the bitcode
> blocks in the following patch:
> http://reviews.llvm.org/D11722
> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__reviews.llvm.org_D11722&d=AwMFaQ&c=8hUWFZcy2Z-Za5rBPlktOQ&r=Mfk2qtn1LTDThVkh6-oGglNfMADXfJdty4_bhmuhMHA&m=oUy_PB_mSfRgDO7H7bZOR04gv_DMzX5rPO_lv4PHt60&s=WVxrKkHnjKr75fCQ-UkGke8dk6KpZcFCnLWVrJ3G188&e=>
> The ThinLTO data structures and the file APIs are described in a separate
> RFC I will be sending simultaneously, with pointers to the patches
> implementing them.
> Looking forward to your feedback. Thanks!
> Teresa
> ThinLTO File Format
> Bitcode ThinLTO Support
>     ThinLTO Bitcode Blocks
>     Bitcode Combined Function Summary
> Native-Wrapped ThinLTO Support
>     Native-wrapped bitcode
>     Native-Wrapped Combined Function Summary
> This document discusses the high-level file format used to represent
> ThinLTO function index/summary information. It covers the index created at
> the module level (produced by the phase-1 -c compiles) and the combined
> function index/summary generated by the phase-2 linker step of a ThinLTO
> compile. More information about ThinLTO compilation can be found in the
> Updated RFC at:
> http://lists.cs.uiuc.edu/pipermail/llvmdev/2015-May/086211.html
> As discussed in that document and subsequent mailing list discussions, we
> will add support for ThinLTO with both normal bitcode-only intermediate
> files, as well as native-wrapped bitcode files. This document describes the
> ThinLTO format for both of these file types. The formats were designed to
> allow as much sharing of APIs and implementation as possible between the
> two file types.
> The ThinLTO information is written to the per-module (translation unit)
> intermediate files during the phase-1 (-c) compile. They are read by the
> phase-2 linker step, which aggregates them into a combined function
> index/summary file, and which by default does not need to parse the rest of
> the module IR. The phase-3 parallel backend processes that each compile a
> single module into a final object file read the combined function
> index/summary file during importing, but do not need to look at the
> module’s own ThinLTO information.
> Since as noted above the usual normal non-ThinLTO module IR and its
> ThinLTO information are not typically needed in the same compile step, the
> following design tries to minimize the required parsing of the normal
> module bitcode IR when reading the ThinLTO information, and vice versa.
> Bitcode ThinLTO Support
> This section describes the representation of ThinLTO for bitcode-only
> intermediate files.
> ThinLTO Bitcode Blocks
> There will be three ThinLTO bitcode blocks nested within an outer
> THINLTO_BLOCK, which itself is nested within the outer MODULE_BLOCK:
>  ...
>  <THINLTO_BLOCK BlockID=19 ...>
>    <THINLTO_SYMTAB_BLOCK BlockID=20 ...>
> These block IDs are defined along with other LLVM bitcode IDs in
> include/llvm/Bitcode/LLVMBitCodes.h:
> namespace llvm {
> namespace bitc {
>  // The only top-level block type defined is for a module.
>  enum BlockIDs {
>    // Blocks
>    // Module sub-block id's
>    ...
>    // ThinLTO sub-block id's.
>  };
> The outer THINLTO_BLOCK will contain a record with the version ID of the
> ThinLTO information, which will evolve as the importing algorithm is tuned.
> The exact record formats within each of the THINLTO_*_BLOCKs are still
> TBD, but the following is an overview of what they will contain:
> This block contains a record for each function in the summary. The record
> will contain the ValueID of the corresponding function symbol in the
> VALUE_SYMTAB_BLOCK (which contains the function’s name string), as well as
> the bitcode offset of the corresponding function summary record. The latter
> enables fast seeking when the function summary section is read lazily.
> This block contains a record for each module with functions in the
> combined function index/summary file, holding the module ID and its path
> string (so that the module can be located during phase-3 importing). This
> block is not needed in the per-module function index/summary, as the module
> path is known by the linker when the file is loaded. Additionally, the
> unique module ID is assigned to each module by the phase-2 linker step when
> creating the combined index (used to attain consistent renaming during
> static promotion in the phase-3 backend).
> This block contains a record for each function available for importing. At
> a minimum, it holds the index into the THINLTO_MODULE_STRTAB_BLOCK of the
> module containing the function, as well as the bitcode offset of the
> function’s FUNCTION_BLOCK within that module. The
> THINLTO_MODULE_STRTAB_BLOCK index will be 0 in the per-module function
> summary, as that section does not exist yet, but will be non-zero in the
> combined index/summary file (see Bitcode Combined Function Summary section
> below). It also will be used to hold information about the function that is
> useful in making importing decisions (e.g. its instruction count and
> profile entry count).
> There are several reasons for this block organization:
>    1.
>    Nesting ThinLTO subblocks within an parent THINLTO_BLOCK allows the
>    ThinLTO information to be quickly skipped during frontend parsing in the
>    backend phase-3 parallel backend compile steps, when the ThinLTO
>    information in the module is not needed.
>    2.
>    Nesting within the MODULE_BLOCK allows the THINLTO_SYMTAB_BLOCK
>    records to share the function name strings with the MODULE_BLOCK’s function
>    symbols. These strings are saved in the VALUE_SYMTAB_BLOCK nested within
>    the Module block. Note that it would be faster to parse ThinLTO blocks
>    during the phase-2 linker step if they were not nested within the
>    MODULE_BLOCK (which could be skipped in one step using the size in the
>    MODULE_BLOCK entry), since the phase-2 parser is only interested in the
>    ThinLTO blocks. But this block placement enables greater size efficiency.
>    3.
>    Separating the ThinLTO function symtab information from the rest of
>    the function summary has a couple of benefits:
>    1.
>       Mirrors how the information is structured in the native-wrapped
>       case, where the native object symbol table is leveraged for holding the
>       symbol name plus index into the summary section. This in turn enables
>       better sharing of the bitcode parsing code and interfaces (discussed in
>       more detail below in the native-wrapped description).
>       2.
>       Enables lazy reading of the function’s summary information, delayed
>       until we are considering importing that function, while allowing fast
>       checking of whether the function is available for importing (via presence
>       in the ThinLTO function symtab).
> Because, as mentioned earlier, the THINLTO_BLOCK and the rest of the
> MODULE_BLOCK are not typically both needed in a single compile step, we
> will implement a ThinLTO-specific bitcode reader class
> (ThinLTOBitcodeReader) to handle parsing of the ThinLTO blocks. This
> bitcode reader will hold a pointer to the ThinLTO data structure to be
> populated with the ThinLTO information (data structures described in a
> separate “ThinLTO File API and Data Structures” RFC which should be sent
> out at the same time). It will ignore all MODULE_BLOCK subblocks except the
> THINLTO_BLOCK, the BLOCKINFO_BLOCK containing abbrev IDs, and the
> VALUE_SYMTAB_BLOCK. The VALUE_SYMTAB_BLOCK parser is specialized/simplified
> since there will not be any Value objects created during ThinLTO parsing,
> we simply need to correlate each string with its ValueID in the
> Bitcode Combined Function Summary
> The combined function index/summary (thin archive) file created by the
> phase-2 linker step will also be bitcode. It will consist of a MODULE_BLOCK
> containing only a THINLTO_BLOCK, a BLOCKINFO_BLOCK, and a
> VALUE_SYMTAB_BLOCK. The THINLTO_BLOCK will contain all three subblocks,
> holding the aggregated per-module ThinLTO information. As noted earlier, it
> will also contain a THINLTO_MODULE_STRTAB_BLOCK created from the linked
> modules. The combined index will exclude symbols that are undefined,
> duplicate (e.g. comdats) or unlikely to benefit from importing. The
> are updated to reflect the new offset into the combined
> records are updated to include the appropriate module index into the
> Native-Wrapped ThinLTO Support
> This section describes the representation of ThinLTO for native-wrapped
> bitcode intermediate files. The discussion here uses ELF as an example, but
> should also apply to other formats such as COFF and Mach-O [1].
> Native-wrapped bitcode
> There is already support in LLVM for reading native-wrapped bitcode, where
> the bitcode is contained within an .llvmbc section. For ThinLTO, unlike in
> the earlier bitcode-only case, the ThinLTO information is not nested within
> the MODULE_BLOCK contained within the .llvmbc section. Instead, the native
> object will contain a symbol table, and special sections holding the
> additional ThinLTO information. These sections are the function summary
> section (.llvm_thinlto_funcsum) containing the function’s bitcode offset
> and summary information for importing decisions, as well as the module path
> string table (.llvm_thinlto_modstrtab).
> For simplicity and consistency with the bitcode-only format and
> interfaces, the contents of the .llvm_thinlto_funcsum and
> .llvm_thinlto_modstrtab will be encoded with bitcode. The
> .llvm_thinlto_modstrtab section will contain bitcode for a single
> THINLTO_MODULE_STRTAB_BLOCK. The format and contents of this block will be
> identical to the equivalent block in the bitcode-only case. Similarly, the
> .llvm_thinlto_funcsum section will contain bitcode for a single
> THINLTO_FUNCTION_SUMMARY_BLOCK. The format and contents will be identical
> to the equivalent block in the bitcode-only case, however note that the
> bitcode offset for the FUNCTION_BLOCK is the offset within the .llvmbc
> section bitcode (which contains the function IR).
> As with the symbol table in a normal object file, the symbol table for the
> native-object wrapped bitcode file will hold entries for both defined and
> undefined but referenced symbols. The entries for functions defined in the
> module specify the location of that function’s summary via the st_shndx
> (index of .llvm_thinlto_funcsum section) and st_value (bitcode offset
> within .llvm_thinlto_funcsum section). The st_size field will hold the size
> of the function summary entry in the .llvm_thinlto_funcsum section. Note
> that for functions that are deemed unlikely to benefit from importing (e.g.
> large and cold), the summary data will be suppressed and the symtab entry
> will simply have a zero offset and size.
> The symbol’s visibility can be emitted in the st_other field which
> typically holds the visibility info. If a tool such as objcopy or ld -r
> modifies the symbol visibility, this change is recorded in the symbol
> table. The change will be propagated to the bitcode when the backend
> compiles the native-wrapped bitcode.
> E.g.:
> Section Headers:
>  [Nr] Name              Type             Address           Offset
>       Size              EntSize          Flags  Link  Info  Align
>  [ 0]                   NULL             0000000000000000  00000000
>       0000000000000000  0000000000000000           0     0     0
>  [ 1] .shstrtab         STRTAB           0000000000000000  0000024b
>       0000000000000059  0000000000000000           0     0     1
>  [ 2] .text             PROGBITS         0000000000000000  00000040
>       0000000000000000  0000000000000000  AX       0     0     16
>  [ 5] .llvmbc           PROGBITS         0000000000000000  00000040
>       000000000000044c  0000000000000000   E       0     0     4
>  [ 6] .llvm_thinlto_funcsum PROGBITS     0000000000000000  00000040
>       0000000000000400  0000000000000000   E       0     0     4
>  [ 7] .llvm_thinlto_modstrtab PROGBITS   0000000000000000  00000440
>       0000000000000013  0000000000000000   E         0     0    4
> Symbol table '.symtab' contains 11 entries:
>   Num:    Value          Size Type    Bind   Vis      Ndx Name
>     0: 0000000000000000     0 NOTYPE  LOCAL  DEFAULT  UND
>     1: 0000000000000000     0 FILE    LOCAL  DEFAULT  ABS t1.c
>     2: 0000000000000000     0 SECTION LOCAL  DEFAULT    2
>     3: 0000000000000000     0 SECTION LOCAL  DEFAULT    4
>     4: 0000000000000000     0 SECTION LOCAL  DEFAULT    5
>     5: 0000000000000000     0 SECTION LOCAL  DEFAULT    6
>     6: 0000000000000000     0 SECTION LOCAL  DEFAULT    7
>     7: 0000000000000000     0 SECTION LOCAL  DEFAULT    8
>     8: 0000000000000040    40 FUNC    GLOBAL DEFAULT    6 bar
>     9: 0000000000000000    40 FUNC    GLOBAL DEFAULT    6 foo
>    10: 0000000000000000     0 NOTYPE  GLOBAL DEFAULT  UND blah
> The section index value in the symtab entry for ‘foo’ are 6 and 0x0,
> respectively, meaning that the function summary info for ‘foo’ can be found
> in section 6 (.llvm_thinlto_funcsum) at offset 0x0. Similarly, the function
> summary info for ‘bar’ can be found in .llvm_thinlto_funcsum at offset
> 0x40. The size refers to the size of the corresponding function summary
> entry.
> Native-Wrapped Combined Function Summary
> The combined function summary (thin archive) file created by the phase-2
> linker step can also be in native object format. It will contain the symbol
> table, and just the .llvm_thinlto_funcsum and .llvm_thinlto_modstrtab
> sections, combined across all of the linked modules. The combined symbol
> table, .llvm_thinlto_funcsum and .llvm_thinlto_modstrtab sections will
> exclude symbols that are undefined, duplicate (e.g. comdats) or unlikely to
> benefit from importing. The offsets in the symbol table are updated to
> reflect the new offset into the .llvm_thinlto_funcsum section, and the
> .llvm_thinlto_funcsum updated to include the appropriate module path index
> in the new .llvm_thinlto_modstrtab section.
> ________________
> [1] COFF and Mach-O symbol tables have similar fields. The main
> differences are that Mach-O symbol table entries don’t contain the symbol
> size, so the size is deduced by looking for the next symbol start address,
> and COFF holds the symbol sizes in auxiliary info that follows each symbol
> entry. See also http://www.delorie.com/djgpp/doc/coff/symtab.html
> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.delorie.com_djgpp_doc_coff_symtab.html&d=AwMFaQ&c=8hUWFZcy2Z-Za5rBPlktOQ&r=Mfk2qtn1LTDThVkh6-oGglNfMADXfJdty4_bhmuhMHA&m=oUy_PB_mSfRgDO7H7bZOR04gv_DMzX5rPO_lv4PHt60&s=7isNRRG84wFLU9ztTKYIXpp2tc_k91DwDH6bOpuOEsQ&e=>
> and
> https://developer.apple.com/library/mac/documentation/DeveloperTools/Conceptual/MachORuntime/index.html#//apple_ref/c/tag/nlist_64
> <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__developer.apple.com_library_mac_documentation_DeveloperTools_Conceptual_MachORuntime_index.html-23__apple-5Fref_c_tag_nlist-5F64&d=AwMFaQ&c=8hUWFZcy2Z-Za5rBPlktOQ&r=Mfk2qtn1LTDThVkh6-oGglNfMADXfJdty4_bhmuhMHA&m=oUy_PB_mSfRgDO7H7bZOR04gv_DMzX5rPO_lv4PHt60&s=4XqKCNsoQF6E-9s1t50vPGyEPPRQOhjzbY8iGykl-vU&e=>
> --
> Teresa Johnson | Software Engineer | tejohnson at google.com | 408-460-2413
> _______________________________________________
> LLVM Developers mailing list
> LLVMdev at cs.uiuc.edu         http://llvm.cs.uiuc.edu
> http://lists.cs.uiuc.edu/mailman/listinfo/llvmdev

Teresa Johnson | Software Engineer | tejohnson at google.com | 408-460-2413
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