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Re: [cfe-dev] RFC: Support x86 interrupt and exception handlers

On 9/21/15 4:45 PM, H.J. Lu wrote:
On Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 11:52 AM, John Criswell <> wrote:
On 9/21/15 12:27 PM, H.J. Lu via cfe-dev wrote:
On Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 12:26 PM, H.J. Lu <> wrote:
On Tue, Sep 15, 2015 at 1:11 PM, H.J. Lu <> wrote:
To implement interrupt and exception handlers for x86 processors, a
compiler should support:

1. void * __builtin_ia32_interrupt_data (void)
I got a feedback on the name of this builtin function.  Since
it also works for 64-bit,  we should avoid ia32 in its name.
We'd like to change it to

void * __builtin_interrupt_data (void)

Here is the updated spec.

This updated spec adds

     unsigned int __builtin_exception_error (void)
     unsigned long long int __builtin_exception_error (void)

This function returns the exception error code pushed onto the stack by
processor.  Its return value is 64 bits in 64-bit mode and 32 bits in
32-bit mode.  This function can only be used in exception handler.

Exception handlers can, in general, call regular functions which, in turn,
might want to access the error code.  Given that operating system kernels
are always entered via an interrupt, trap, or system call, there should
always be an error code available (on x86, non-error-code interrupts can
just make up an error code).

It also changes the definition of

void * __builtin_interrupt_data (void)

so that it returns a pointer to the data layout pushed onto stack
by processor for both interrupt and exception handlers.

You might want to have a look at Secure Virtual Architecture (SVA). One of
I believe my x86 interrupt attribute is unrelated to SVA.

Actually, I really think that it is. Part of the SVA work extended the LLVM IR to support an operating system kernel. Your design for interrupt handlers and accessing interrupted program state looks very similar to my first draft of those extensions and has the exact same limitations (plus at least one limitation that my design did not have). It's pretty clear to me that you're redesigning a subset of the SVA-OS extensions from scratch; I find that unfortunate because you are literally reinventing the wheel.

If the implementation is useful, SVA is publicly available at

Finally, to echo Joerg's concerns, it's not clear that having
exception/interrupt handlers declared as a special type is really helpful.
It's not immediately obvious that you get a benefit from doing that vs.
doing what most system software does (having assembly code that saves
processor state and calls a C function).  I think you should do some
experiments to demonstrate the benefit that one can get with your method to
see if it is worth adding complexity to the compiler.

The main purpose of x86 interrupt attribute is to allow programmers
to write x86 interrupt/exception handlers in C WITHOUT assembly
stubs to avoid extra branch from assembly stubs to C functions.  I
want to keep the number of new intrinsics to minimum without sacrificing
handler performance. I leave faking error code in interrupt handler to
the programmer.

If you want to do that, there is another approach that should work just as well and will require only localized changes to the compiler.

Interrupt handlers are typically registered to some interrupt vector number using a registration function. In FreeBSD, it's setidt(), and in Linux, I think it's set_gate(). You can write a compiler transform that looks for these registration functions, determines the function that is registered as an interrupt handler, and generate the more efficient code for that interrupt handler function as you describe.

This solution avoids language extensions to the C/C++ front-end (which requires getting approval from the Clang developers) yet should get you the performance that you want (provided that it does improve performance, for which I'm a little skeptical but open to convincing via performance measurements). You can probably write this transform as a single LLVM MachineFunctionPass that your patched version of Clang runs during code generation.

In any event, that's my two cents.


John Criswell

John Criswell
Assistant Professor
Department of Computer Science, University of Rochester

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