[lldb-dev] [RFC] Segmented Address Space Support in LLDB

Pavel Labath via lldb-dev lldb-dev at lists.llvm.org
Tue Oct 20 10:50:33 PDT 2020

There's a lot of things that are unclear to me about this proposal. The 
mechanics of representing an segmented address are one thing, but I I 
think that the really interesting part will be the interaction with the 
rest of lldb. Like
- What's going to be the source of this address space information? Is it 
going to be statically baked into lldb (a function of the target 
architecture?), or dynamically retrieved from the target or platform 
we're debugging? How would that work?
- How is this going to interact with Object/SymbolFile classes? Are you 
expecting to use existing object and symbol formats for address space 
information, or some custom ones? AFAIK, none of the existing formats 
actually support encoding address space information (though that hasn't 
stopped people from trying).

Without understanding the bigger picture it's hard for me to say whether 
the proposed large scale refactoring is a good idea. Nonetheless, I am 
doubtful of the viability of that approach. Some of my reasons for that are:
- not all addr_ts represent an actual address -- sometimes that is a 
difference between two addresses, which still uses addr_t, as that's 
guaranteed to fit.
- relatedly to that, there is a difference (I'd expect) between the 
operations supported by the two types. addr_t supports all integral 
operations (though I hope we don't use all of them), but I wouldn't 
expect to be able to do the same with a SegmentedAddress. For one, I'd 
expect it wouldn't be possible to add two SegmentedAddresses together 
(which is possible for addr_t). OTOH, adding a SegmentedAddress and an 
addr_t would probably be fine? Would subtracting two SegmentedAddresses 
should result in an addr_t? But only if they have matching address 
spaces (and assert otherwise)?
- I'd also be worried about over-generalizing specialized code which can 
afford to work with plain addresses, and where the added address space 
would be a nuisance (or a source of bugs). E.g. ELF has no notion of 
address space, so I don't think I'd find it helpful to replace all plain 
integer calculations in elf parsing code with something more complex. 
(I'm aware that some people are using elf to encode address space 
information, but this is a pretty nonstandard extension, and it'd take 
more than type substitution to support anything like that.)
- large scale refactorings are very much not the norm in llvm

On 19/10/2020 23:56, Jonas Devlieghere via lldb-dev wrote:
> We want to support segmented address spaces in LLDB. Currently, all of 
> LLDB’s external API, command line interface, and internals assume that 
> an address in memory can be addressed unambiguously as an addr_t (aka 
> uint64_t). To support a segmented address space we’d need to extend 
> addr_t with a discriminator (an aspace_t) to uniquely identify a 
> location in memory. This RFC outlines what would need to change and how 
> we propose to do that.
> ### Addresses in LLDB
> Currently, LLDB has two ways of representing an address:
>   - Address object. Mostly represents addresses as Section+offset for a 
> binary image loaded in the Target. An Address in this form can persist 
> across executions, e.g. an address breakpoint in a binary image that 
> loads at a different address every execution. An Address object can 
> represent memory not mapped to a binary image. Heap, stack, jitted 
> items, will all be represented as the uint64_t load address of the 
> object, and cannot persist across multiple executions. You must have the 
> Target object available to get the current load address of an Address 
> object in the current process run. Some parts of lldb do not have a 
> Target available to them, so they require that the Address can be 
> devolved to an addr_t (aka uint64_t) and passed in.
>   - The addr_t (aka uint64_t) type. Primarily used when receiving input 
> (e.g. from a user on the command line) or when interacting with the 
> inferior (reading/writing memory) for addresses that need not persist 
> across runs. Also used when reading DWARF and in our symbol tables to 
> represent file offset addresses, where the size of an Address object 
> would be objectionable.
> ## Proposal

> ### Address + ProcessAddress
>   - The Address object gains a segment discriminator member variable. 
> Everything that creates an Address will need to provide this segment 
> discriminator.
>   - A ProcessAddress object which is a uint64_t and a segment 
> discriminator as a replacement for addr_t. ProcessAddress objects would 
> not persist across multiple executions. Similar to how you can create an 
> addr_t from an Address+Target today, you can create a ProcessAddress 
> given an Address+Target. When we pass around addr_ts today, they would 
> be replaced with ProcessAddress, with the exception of symbol tables 
> where the added space would be significant, and we do not believe we 
> need segment discriminators today.

I'm strongly in favor of the first approach. The reason for that is that 
we have a lot of code that can only reasonable deal with one kind of an 
address, and I'd like to be able to express that in the type system. In 
fact, I think we could have more distinct types even now, but adding 
address spaces makes that even more important.

> ### Address Only
> Extend the lldb_private::Address class to be the one representation of 
> locations; including file based ones valid before running, file 
> addresses resolved in a process, and process specific addresses 
> (heap/stack/JIT code) that are only valid during a run. That is 
> attractive because it would provide a uniform interface to any “where is 
> something” question you would ask, either about symbols in files, 
> variables in stack frames, etc.
> At present, when we resolve a Section+Offset Address to a “load address” 
> we provide a Target to the resolution API.  Providing the Target 
> externally makes sense because a Target knows whether the Section is 
> present or not and can unambiguously return a load address.    We could 
> continue that approach since the Target always holds only one process, 
> or extend it to allow passing in a Process when resolving non-file 
> backed addresses.  But this would make the conversion from addr_t uses 
> to Address uses more difficult, since we will have to push the Target or 
> Process into all the API’s that make use of just an addr_t.  Using a 
> single Address class seems less attractive when you have to provide an 
> external entity to make sense of it at all the use sites.
> We could improve this situation by including a Process (as a weak 
> pointer) and fill that in on the boundaries where in the current code we 
> go from an Address to a process specific addr_t.  That would make the 
> conversion easier, but add complexity.  Since Addresses are ubiquitous, 
> you won’t know what any given Address you’ve been handed actually 
> contains.  It could even have been resolved for another process than the 
> current one.  Making Address usage-dependent in this way reduces the 
> attractiveness of the solution.
> ## Approach
> Replacing all the instances of addr_t by hand would be a lot of work. 
> Therefore we propose writing a clang-based tool to automate this menial 
> task. The tool would update function signatures and replace uses of 
> addr_t inside those functions to get the addr_t from the ProcessAddress 
> or Address and return the appropriate object for functions that 
> currently return an addr_t. The goal of this tool is to generate one big 
> NFC patch. This tool needs not be perfect, at some point it will be more 
> work to improve the tool than fixing up the remaining code by hand. 
> After this patch LLDB would still not really understand address spaces 
> but it will have everything in place to support them.
> Once all the APIs are updated, we can start working on the functional 
> changes. This means actually interpreting the aspace_t values and making 
> sure they don’t get dropped.
> Finally, when all this work is done and we’re happy with the approach, 
> we extend the SB API with overloads for the functions that currently 
> take or return addr_t . I want to do this last so we have time to 
> iterate before committing to a stable interface.
> ## Testing
> By splitting off the intrusive non-functional changes we are able to 
> rely on the existing tests for coverage. Smaller functional changes can 
> be tested in isolation, either through a unit test or a small GDB remote 
> test. For end-to-end testing we can run the test suite with a modified 
> debugserver that spoofs address spaces.
> Thanks,
> Jonas
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