[cfe-dev] [RFC] Suppress C++ static destructor registration

JF Bastien via cfe-dev cfe-dev at lists.llvm.org
Mon Jul 16 14:55:06 PDT 2018

Hi folks,

I’d like to add a flag in clang, -fno-cxx-static-destructors,  which allows developers to demand that no static destructors be emitted. Bruno has a sample implementation <https://reviews.llvm.org/D22474>. We’ve discussed this previously <http://lists.llvm.org/pipermail/cfe-dev/2016-July/050040.html> but I’d like to re-open the discussion and make a different case for it because we’ve received more requests for such a feature.

Why is this desirable?

In low-memory circumstances it’s often the case that we know that static global destructors are never called. It would be useful to avoid emitting them entirely to save memory. We can’t necessarily make the types themselves trivially destructible (e.g. a std::map, or a type that’s used both as a global and as an automatic variable for which the destructor is only meaningful when automatic, or coming from 3rd party library such as boost), and using a NeverDestroyed<T> class or global pointer only (std::string& foo = *new std::string(“derp");) prevents constexpr and is annoying boilerplate (and again, 3rd party code breaks that party).

This is also useful for some thread-related use cases: we have empirical evidence that threads using globals cause crashes if these globals are being destroyed.

Thread-local storage is similarly painful for different reasons. I’m not proposing that anything be done yet, but let’s keep it in mind.

Developers want this?

Yes, we’ve received numerous requests for this. Developers are worried about code footprint, and have numerous crash reports they’d like to get rid of. Developers tell us they’d really rather not pay for this feature, because they don’t want to use it yet are stuck with it (and C++ is a “don’t pay for what you don’t use” language).
Interesting note: developers are used to having no cleanup on termination on platforms where applications can get terminated when e.g. they’re sent to the background by user action.

Concrete example

Greg Parker provided this example of thread-related issues in the previous discussion:

The Objective-C runtime has a global table that stores retain counts. Pretty much all Objective-C code in the process uses this table. With global destructors in place this table is destroyed during exit(). If any other thread is still running Objective-C code then it will crash.

Currently the Objective-C runtime avoids the destructor by initializing this table using placement new into an aligned static char buffer.

I’m assuming that the embedded usecase is obvious enough to everyone to not need an example. Let me know if that’s not the case.

What about standardization?

If this works out I'll discuss standardization options through SG14 (and then WG21). The type of developer who’s asked for this are typical SG14 targets (embedding, gaming, etc). This might fit in with “freestanding” or other similar SG14 efforts, but we need experience to guide the proposal. Maybe EWG will be interested as well? 🤷‍♂️


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