[llvm-dev] Ambiguity in !tbaa metadata?

Sanjoy Das via llvm-dev llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Tue Nov 1 18:04:22 PDT 2016

Hi Manman,

Thanks for the quick reply!

Manman wrote:
 >> On Nov 1, 2016, at 10:52 AM, Sanjoy Das via 
llvm-dev<llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org>  wrote:
 >> I was trying to add some stronger assertions in the verifier around
 >> !tbaa metadata when I ran into an ambiguity: I think the encoding of
 >> the metadata nodes are such that a given node can be interpreted as
 >> either a struct type node or a scalar tbaa node.  I'd like a sanity
 >> check before I try to fix or work around this.
 >> Consider some IR that I got from running clang over a small C++
 >> program:
 >> ```
 >> define void @foo() {
 >>   ...
 >>   load ..., !tbaa !2
 >>   load ..., !tbaa !7
 >>   load ..., !tbaa !10
 >>   ...
 >> }
 >> !2 = !{!3, !5, i64 0}
 >> !3 = !{!"T0", !4, i64 0}
 >> !4 = !{!"T1", !5, i64 0}
 >> !5 = !{!"T2", !6, i64 0}
 >> !6 = !{!"Root"}
 >> !7 = !{!8, !9, i64 0}
 >> !8 = !{!"T3", !9, i64 0}
 >> !9 = !{!"T4", !5, i64 0}
 >> !10 = !{!9, !9, i64 0}
 >> ```
 >> I've erased the actual string names to make the ambiguity more
 >> obvious.
 >> Here !2 and !7 are both struct tag nodes.  This means that !5 and !9
 >> are both scalar type nodes and !3 and !8 are struct type nodes[1].
 > For struct-path-aware TBAA, the scalar type node has name, parent 
node, and offset (optional).
 > This simplifies implementation by making formats of struct type nodes 
and scalar type nodes uniform.

So this answers one of my key questions -- the similarity is
not accidental.

 > Sorry that the comments are confusing.
 > For old scalar TBAA, the scalar node has name, parent node, and 
 > Why do you need to tell whether it is a struct type node or a scalar 
type node?

Say !4 above is !{!"T1", !5, i64 1}, with the interpretation that it
is a scalar type node with the "constant" bit set.  Then an access
through !4 with the offset 0 may alias with an access through !5.

However, if LLVM interprets !4 = !{!"T1", !5, i64 1} as a struct type
TBAA node that contains !5 at an offset of 1 byte, then an access
through !4 with the offset 0 is no alias with an access through !5.

Thus if the compiler thinks the latter and the frontend that generated
the TBAA metadata was thinking the former, then we may have a

The example is somewhat flimsy though, since ideally we'd force struct
type nodes to start with a 0 offset.  However this isn't part of the
specification today.

The back-story here is that I think there are some unverified
invariants that our TBAA implementation uses which would be nice to
enforce in the verifier (in particular, we had a subtle bug in our
codebase that would've been caught by a sufficiently smart verifier).
The "struct type nodes must start with offset 0" is one.  Another one
I want to verify is (this is the motivating cause): the final access
into the access type in a struct path has to be at offset 0.  That is,
the following is illegal:

   load ..., !tbaa !2

   !0 = !{"struct S", !1, 0, !1, 4, !1, 8}
   !1 = < scalar int >
   !2 = !{!0, !1, 6}

since if the above is allowed, then the implementation of
getMostGenericTBAA looks suspect.

 >> However, once we get to the first field of !3, !4 at offset 0, things
 >> become murkier.  !4 could either be a read-write scalar node with a !5
 >> as a parent, or be a struct type node containing !5 at offset 0.  I
 >> don't see a way to tell the two possibilities apart.
 >> The ambiguity shown above is "fine" since (I think, but I'm not sure)
 >> that containing an object at offset 0 should be equivalent to
 >> "subclassing" it in the TBAA type system.  It still makes writing
 >> verifier Assertions more difficult than it should be, though.
 >> Things get a bit more problematic once we allow for setting the
 >> "constant" tag on scalar TBAA.  If !4 was !{!"T1", !5, i64 1} then
 >> there we'd have a "real" ambiguity between it being a scalar node
 >> describing constant memory or a struct type node containing !5 at
 >> offset 1.
 >> Finally: we have a comment from 2013 in TypeBasedAliasAnalysis that
 >> implies scalar TBAA was slated for removal:
 >> "After all testing cases are upgraded to use struct-path aware TBAA
 >> and we can auto-upgrade existing bc files, the support for scalar TBAA
 >> can be dropped."
 >> Does anyone have some context for what the motivations were / why the
 >> work was stopped?  If all the use cases for scalar TBAA can be
 >> simulated using struct tbaa then that may be the easiest way to remove
 >> the ambiguity.
 > We auto-upgrade from scalar TBAA to struct-path-aware TBAA. I vaguely 
recall that we keep scalar TBAA around because of outside usage.
 > That is why we still have “createTBAANode” even though clang frontend 
does not use it.

Yes, I see that now.

Unless you have objections, I'd like to propose dropping support for
scalar TBAA metadata, since that lets us get rid of a non-trivial
amount of logic from TypeBasedAliasAnalysis.  I'll start an RFC on the
mailing list.

-- Sanjoy

More information about the llvm-dev mailing list