Ongoing Research

The following is a list of the current research efforts being conducted under the ALLVM umbrella.  The techniques we are exploring will be applicable in varying degrees to any software shipped as virtual instruction set code, but software written using static languages are likely to benefit the most.  In particular, several important and large categories of software are written in static languages and do not benefit from virtual instruction sets, including high performance computing (HPC) software, systems software, mobile applications for iOS, and embedded software.  Through our research, we hope to bring the benefits of compiling with virtual instruction sets to all these classes of software.  We also hope to develop new classes of techniques (e.g., IPC optimizations, dynamic autovectorization, novel autotuning approaches and automated fault diagnosis) that benefit all classes of software.

Inter-Process Communication (IPC) Optimizations

Led by Will Dietz

The components that will participate in a distributed computation (e.g., a Web service consisting of a Web server, a backing database engine, a NoSQL key-value store, a front-end load-balancer) are only determined when the system starts up or later.  Optimizing such systems inherently requires run-time analyses and transformations, which in turn require a suitable program representation of distributed computations to be constructed at runtime.

Dynamic Autovectorization

Led by Joshua Cranmer

Optimizations that take advantage of run-time information not available or too expensive to use at compile-time, e.g., hot path information, alias information, and alignment information.

Extracting LLVM IR from Binary Code

Led by Sandeep Dasgupta

Reconstructing a rich program representation from native machine code for software components that are only available in machine code form.  Richness includes extracting variable and type information from binary. Another related goal is to defining correct semantics of x86 instruction.


Led by Vikram Adve and Tom Chen

Install-time optimizations that use heuristic search techniques to explore a search space of code shapes at varying levels of granularity, e.g., sequences of compiler passes; function and basic block layouts; data layouts; loop transformations; and instruction sequences using superoptimization techniques.

Debloating and System Specialization

Led by Hashim Sharif

Specializing and co-optimizing an entire software stack (application, libraries, operating system) for a given configuration description.  There are several contexts in which such specialization can be especially fruitful:

  • High-performance computing (HPC) applications built on complex libraries for portability: We are exploring libraries including Kokkos, GASNet, libOMP, and OpenMPI.
  • Docker containers containing a fixed set of predefined software components, often with a single primary application and its libraries.  Such containers inherently define a very narrow use case for the libraries and operating system interfaces, providing the potential for aggressive specialization.
  • Software whose behavior is extensively customized via configuration files defined at install-time or startup time.  By treating the configuration data as constants, we hope to propagate them aggressively and achieve more efficient, specialized code.

HPVM: Parallel program compilation and performance portability

Led by Maria Kotsifakou and Hashim Sharif

The first goal of this work is to design suitable abstractions of parallelism to represent parallel computations in both virtual instruction sets and in compiler intermediate representations that manipulate them.  We have prototyped a design called Heterogeneous Parallel Virtual Machine (HPVM) as an extension of the LLVM IR.  A second goal is to develop code generation, optimization and autotuning techniques that take advantage of the HPVM abstractions to generate very high performance code for a wide range of parallel hardware, including emerging heterogeneous parallel systems.  A third goal is to implement existing and new parallel programming languages — both general-purpose languages like OpenMP and OpenCL and domain-specific languages — using these compiler capabilities.

Automated debugging on the end-user’s machine

Led by Sean Bartell

Automated fault localization and diagnosis require sophisticated static and dynamic analysis techniques.  ALLVM enables this diagnosis to be done on the end-user’s machine, which is extremely important for diagnosing production bugs because it is otherwise difficult or impossible for developers to reproduce the data, software environment, system configuration, and other crucial details that led to the failure.

Verified Translation

Led by Theodoros Kasampalis

One drawback of shipping code in virtual instruction set form is that the final machine code cannot be tested directly.  This is especially problematic for C/C++ code with undefined behaviors, which may lead to different — and unpredictable — results for different compilers and even different optimization sequences.  Our goal is to develop a certified code generation strategy based on Translation Validation from virtual instruction set to native machine code so that developers can test their code before shipping and have the same confidence in the behavior of the code that they would do with well-tested native machine code.  To achieve this goal, we must carry out translation validation between two different languages, which has never been done before.  Moreover, we must develop techniques to obtain predictable semantics for programs with undefined behaviors and ensure that back-end code generators respect such semantics.


Led by Richard Wei, Vikram Adve, Lane Schwartz (TEL)

DLVM is a domain-specific compiler framework for deep learning based on HPVM and LLVM. TEL is a domain-specific tensor programming language based on DLVM. It provides an easy way to build type-safe, GPU-accelerated neural networks with convenient interoperability with C and Swift.