The LLVM Project is a collection of modular and reusable compiler and
toolchain technologies. Despite its name, LLVM has little to do with
traditional virtual machines, though it does provide helpful libraries that
can be used to build them. The name
"LLVM" itself is not an acronym; it is the full name of the project.
LLVM began as a research
the University of Illinois, with
the goal of providing a modern, SSA-based compilation strategy capable
of supporting both static and dynamic compilation of arbitrary
programming languages. Since then, LLVM has
grown to be an umbrella project consisting of a number of
subprojects, many of which are being used in production by a wide variety of
commercial and open source projects
as well as being widely used in academic research. Code
in the LLVM project is licensed under the "UIUC" BSD-Style license.
The primary sub-projects of LLVM are:
The LLVM Core libraries provide a modern source- and
target-independent optimizer, along with
code generation support for many
popular CPUs (as well as some less common ones!) These libraries are built
around a well specified code representation
known as the LLVM intermediate representation ("LLVM IR"). The LLVM Core
libraries are well documented, and it is particularly
easy to invent your own language (or port an existing compiler) to use
LLVM as an optimizer and code generator.
Clang is an "LLVM native"
C/C++/Objective-C compiler, which aims to deliver amazingly fast compiles
(e.g. about 3x faster than GCC when
compiling Objective-C code in a debug configuration), extremely useful error and warning messages
and to provide a platform for building great source level tools. The
Clang Static Analyzer is a
tool that automatically finds bugs in your code, and is a great example of the
sort of tool that can be built using the Clang frontend as a library to
parse C/C++ code.
integrates the LLVM optimizers and code generator with the GCC parsers.
This allows LLVM to compile Ada, Fortran, and other languages supported by
the GCC compiler frontends, and access to C features not supported by Clang
(such as OpenMP).
The LLDB project builds on
libraries provided by LLVM and Clang to provide a great native debugger.
It uses the Clang ASTs and expression parser, LLVM JIT, LLVM disassembler,
etc so that it provides an experience that "just works". It is also
blazing fast and much more memory efficient than GDB at loading symbols.
The libc++ and
libc++ ABI projects provide
a standard conformant and high-performance implementation of the C++
Standard Library, including full support for C++11.
The compiler-rt project
provides highly tuned implementations of the low-level code generator
support routines like "__fixunsdfdi" and other calls generated when
a target doesn't have a short sequence of native instructions to implement
a core IR operation. It also provides implementations of run-time libraries
for dynamic testing tools such as
The OpenMP subproject
provides an OpenMP runtime for use with the
OpenMP implementation in Clang.
The vmkit project is an
implementation of the Java and .NET Virtual Machines that is built on LLVM
The polly project implements
a suite of cache-locality optimizations as well as auto-parallelism and
vectorization using a polyhedral model.
The libclc project aims to
implement the OpenCL standard library.
The klee project implements a
"symbolic virtual machine" which uses a theorem prover to try to evaluate
all dynamic paths through a program in an effort to find bugs and to prove
properties of functions. A major feature of klee is that it can produce a
testcase in the event that it detects a bug.
project is a memory safety compiler for C/C++ programs. It instruments
code with run-time checks to detect memory safety errors (e.g., buffer
overflows) at run-time. It can be used to protect software from
security attacks and can also be used as a memory safety error debugging
tool like Valgrind.
The lld project aims
to be the built-in linker for clang/llvm. Currently, clang must invoke
the system linker to produce executables.
In addition to official subprojects of LLVM, there are a broad variety of
other projects that use components
of LLVM for various tasks. Through these external projects you can use
LLVM to compile Ruby, Python, Haskell, Java, D, PHP, Pure, Lua, and a number of
other languages. A major strength of LLVM is its versatility, flexibility, and
reusability, which is why it is being used for such a wide variety of different
tasks: everything from doing light-weight JIT compiles of embedded languages
like Lua to compiling Fortran code for massive super computers.
As much as everything else, LLVM has a broad and friendly community of people
who are interested in building great low-level tools. If you are interested in
getting involved, a good first place is to skim the LLVM Blog and to sign up for the LLVM Developer mailing
list. For information on how to send in a patch, get commit access, and
copyright and license topics, please see the
LLVM Developer Policy.