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An Abstract Stack Based Approach to Verified Compositional Compilation to Machine Code

Last modified: Fri Sep 27 22:02:22 2019 GMT.


Yuting Wang
Pierre Wilke
Zhong Shao


A key ingredient contributing to the success of CompCert, the state-of-the-art verified compiler for C, is its block-based memory model, which is used uniformly for all of its languages and their verified compilation. However, CompCert's memory model lacks an explicit notion of stack. Its target assembly language represents the runtime stack as an unbounded list of memory blocks, making further compilation of CompCert assembly into more realistic machine code difficult since it is not possible to merge these blocks into a finite and continuous stack. Furthermore, various notions of verified compositional compilation rely on some kind of mechanism for protecting private stack data and enabling modification to the public stack-allocated data, which is lacking in the original CompCert. These problems have been investigated but not fully addressed before, in the sense that some advanced optimization passes that significantly change the ways stack blocks are (de-)allocated, such as tailcall recognition and inlining, are often omitted.

We propose a lightweight and complete solution to the above problems. It is based on the enrichment of CompCert's memory model with an abstract stack that keeps track of the history of stack frames to bound the stack consumption and that enforces a uniform stack access policy by assigning fine-grained permissions to stack memory. Using this enriched memory model for all the languages of CompCert, we are able to reprove the correctness of the full compilation chain of CompCert, including all the optimization passes. In the end, we get Stack-Aware CompCert, a complete extension of CompCert that enforces the finiteness of the stack and fine-grained stack permissions.

Based on Stack-Aware CompCert, we develop CompCertMC, the first extension of CompCert that compiles into a low-level language with flat memory spaces. Based on CompCertMC, we develop Stack-Aware CompCertX, a complete extension of CompCert that supports a notion of compositional compilation that we call contextual compilation by exploiting the uniform stack access policy provided by the abstract stack.


In Proc. 46th ACM SIGPLAN-SIGACT Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages (POPL'19), Lisbon, Portugal, January 2019. Published as Proceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages (PACMPL), Volume 3, Number POPL, Article 62 (January 2019), 30 pages.
  • Conference Paper [PDF]
  • POPL Talk Slides [PDF]

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