LLVM PC Sections Metadata


PC Sections Metadata can be attached to instructions and functions, for which addresses, viz. program counters (PCs), are to be emitted in specially encoded binary sections. Metadata is assigned as an MDNode of the MD_pcsections (!pcsections) kind; the following section describes the metadata format.

Metadata Format

An arbitrary number of interleaved MDString and constant operators can be added, where a new MDString always denotes a section name, followed by an arbitrary number of auxiliary constant data encoded along the PC of the instruction or function. The first operator must be a MDString denoting the first section.

!0 = !{
  [ , !1 ... ]
  [ !"<section#2">
    [ , !2 ... ]
    ... ]
!1 = !{ iXX <aux-consts#1>, ... }
!2 = !{ iXX <aux-consts#2>, ... }

The occurrence of section#1, section#2, …, section#N in the metadata causes the backend to emit the PC for the associated instruction or function to all named sections. For each emitted PC in a section #N, the constants aux-consts#N in the tuple !N will be emitted after the PC. Multiple tuples with constant data may be provided after a section name string (e.g. !0 = !{"s1", !1, !2}), and a single constant tuple may be reused for different sections (e.g. !0 = !{"s1", !1, "s2", !1}).

Binary Encoding

Instructions result in emitting a single PC, and functions result in emission of the start of the function and a 32-bit size. This is followed by the auxiliary constants that followed the respective section name in the MD_pcsections metadata.

To avoid relocations in the final binary, each PC address stored at entry is a relative relocation, computed as pc - entry. To decode, a user has to compute entry + *entry.

The size of each entry depends on the code model. With large and medium sized code models, the entry size matches pointer size. For any smaller code model the entry size is just 32 bits.

Encoding Options

Optional encoding options can be passed in the first MDString operator: <section>!<options>. The following options are available:

  • C – Compress constant integers of size 2-8 bytes as ULEB128; this includes the function size (but excludes the PC entry).

For example, foo!C will emit into section foo with all constants encoded as ULEB128.

Guarantees on Code Generation

Attaching !pcsections metadata to LLVM IR instructions shall not affect optimizations or code generation outside the requested PC sections.

While relying on LLVM IR metadata to request PC sections makes the above guarantee relatively trivial, propagation of metadata through the optimization and code generation pipeline has the following guarantees.

Metadata Propagation

In general, LLVM does not make any guarantees about preserving IR metadata (attached to an Instruction) through IR transformations. When using PC sections metadata, this guarantee is unchanged, and !pcsections metadata is remains optional until lowering to machine IR (MIR).

Note for Code Generation

As with other LLVM IR metadata, there are no requirements for LLVM IR transformation passes to preserve !pcsections metadata, with the following exceptions:

  • The AtomicExpandPass shall preserve !pcsections metadata according to the below rules 1-4.

When translating LLVM IR to MIR, the !pcsections metadata shall be copied from the source Instruction to the target MachineInstr (set with MachineInstr::setPCSections()). The instruction selectors and MIR optimization passes shall preserve PC sections metadata as follows:

  1. Replacements will preserve PC sections metadata of the replaced instruction.

  2. Duplications will preserve PC sections metadata of the copied instruction.

  3. Merging will preserve PC sections metadata of one of the two instructions (no guarantee on which instruction’s metadata is used).

  4. Deletions will loose PC sections metadata.

This is similar to debug info, and the BuildMI() helper provides a convenient way to propagate debug info and !pcsections metadata in the MIMetadata bundle.

Note for Metadata Users

Use cases for !pcsections metadata should either be fully tolerant to missing metadata, or the passes inserting !pcsections metadata should run after all LLVM IR optimization passes to preserve the metadata until being translated to MIR.