[lldb-dev] "devirtualizing" files in the VFS

Sam McCall via lldb-dev lldb-dev at lists.llvm.org
Thu Nov 15 03:02:20 PST 2018

I'd like to get some more perspectives on the role of the VirtualFileSystem
abstraction in llvm/Support.
(The VFS layer has recently moved from Clang to LLVM, so crossposting to
both lists)

https://reviews.llvm.org/D54277 proposed adding a function to
VirtualFileSystem to get the underlying "real file" path from a VFS path.
LLDB is starting to use VFS for some filesystem interactions, but
wants/needs to keep using native IO (FILE*, file descriptors) for others.
There's some more context/discussion in the review.

My perspective is coloured by work on clang tooling, clangd etc. There we
rely on VFS to ensure code (typically clang library code) works in a
variety of environments, e.g:
in an IDE the edited file is consistently used rather than the one on disk
clang-tidy checks work on a local codebase, but our code review tool also
runs them as a service
This works because all IO goes through the VFS, so VFSes are substitutable.
We tend to rely on the static type system to ensure this (most people write
lit tests that use the real FS).

Adding facilities to use native IO together with VFS works against this,
e.g. a likely interface is
  // Returns the OS-native path to the specified virtual file.
  // Returns None if Path doesn't describe a native file, or its path is
  Optional<string> FileSystem::getNativePath(string Path)
Most potential uses of such a function are going to produce code that
doesn't work well with arbitrary VFSes.
Anecdotally, filesystems are confusing, and most features exposed by VFS
end up getting misused if possible.

So those are my reasons for pushing back on this change, but I'm not sure
how strong they are.
I think broadly the alternatives for LLDB are:
make a change like this to the VFS APIs
migrate to actually doing IO using VFS (likely a lot of work)
know which concrete VFSes they construct, and track the needed info
stop using VFS, and build separate abstractions for tracking remapping of
native files etc
abandon the new features that depend on this file remapping

As a purist, 2 and 4 seem like the cleanest options, but that's easy to say
when it's someone else's work.
What path should we take here?

Cheers, Sam
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