[llvm-dev] llvm.memcpy for struct copy

David Chisnall via llvm-dev llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Thu Feb 1 02:03:38 PST 2018

On 31 Jan 2018, at 17:36, Jakub (Kuba) Kuderski via llvm-dev <llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org> wrote:
> If you want to get rid of memcpy altogether, you can take a look at this pass: https://github.com/seahorn/seahorn/blob/master/lib/Transforms/Scalar/PromoteMemcpy.cc .

There are at least four different places in LLVM where memcpy intrinsics are expanded to either sequences of instructions or calls:

- InstCombine does it for very small memcpys (with a broken heuristic).

- PromoteMemCpy does it mostly to expose other optimisation opportunities.

- SelectionDAG does it (though in a pretty terrible way, because it can’t create new basic blocks and so can’t emit small loops)

- Some back ends do it in cooperation with SelectionDAG to provide their own implementation.

Whether you want a memcpy intrinsic or a sequence of loads and stores depends a little bit on what optimisation you’re doing next - some work better treating individual fields separately, some prefer to have a blob of memory that they can treat as a single entity.

It’s also worth noting that LLVM’s handling of padding in structure fields is particularly bad.  LLVM IR has two kinds of struct: packed an non-packed.  The documentation doesn’t make it clear whether non-packed structs have padding at the end (and clang assumes that it doesn’t, some of the time).  Non-padded structs do have padding in between fields for alignment.  When lowering from C (or a language needing to support a C ABI), you sometimes end up with padding fields inserted by the front end.  Optimisers have no way of distinguishing these fields from non-padding fields and so we only get rid of them if SROA extracts them and finds that they have no side-effect-free consumers.  In contrast, the padding between fields in non-packed structs disappears as soon as SROA runs.  This can lead to violations of C semantics, where padding fields should not change (because C defines bitwise comparisons on structs using memcmp).  This can lead to subtly different behaviour in C code depending on the target ABI (we’ve seen cases where trailing padding is copied in one ABI but not in another, depending solely on pointer size).


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