Google Research

Modeling the Invariance of Virtual Pointers in LLVM

arXiv preprint arXiv:2003.04228 (2020)

Abstract

Devirtualization is a compiler optimization that replaces indirect (virtual) function calls with direct calls. It is particularly effective in object-oriented languages, such as Java or C++, in which virtual methods are typically abundant.

We present a novel abstract model to express the lifetimes of C++ dynamic objects and invariance of virtual table pointers in the LLVM intermediate representation. The model and the corresponding implementation in Clang and LLVM enable full devirtualization of virtual calls whenever the dynamic type is statically known and elimination of redundant virtual table loads in other cases.

Due to the complexity of C++, this has not been achieved by any other C++ compiler so far. Although our model was designed for C++, it is also applicable to other languages that use virtual dispatch. Our benchmarks show an average of 0.8% performance improvement on real-world C++ programs, with more than 30% speedup in some cases. The implementation is already a part of the upstream LLVM/Clang and can be enabled with the -fstrict-vtable-pointers flag.

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