Automating C++ Execution Exploration to Solve the Out-of-thin-air Problem

Simon Cooksey
2022
Modern computers are marvels of engineering. Customisable reasoning engines which can be programmed to complete complex mathematical tasks at incredible speed. Decades of engineering has taken computers from room sized machines to near invisible devices in all aspects of life. With this engineering has come more complex and ornate design, a substantial leap forward being multiprocessing. Modern processors can execute threads of program logic in parallel, coordinating shared resources like
more » ... and device access. Parallel computation leads to significant scaling of compute power, but yields a substantial complexity cost for both processors designers and programmers. Parallel access to shared memory requires coordination on which thread can use a particular fragment of memory at a given time. Simple mechanisms like locks and mutexes ensure only one process at a time can access memory gives an easy to use programming model, but they eschew the benefits of parallel computation. Instead, processors today have complex mechanisms to permit concurrent shared memory access. These mechanisms prevent simple programmer reasoning and require complex formal descriptions to define: memory models. Early memory model research focused on weak memory behaviours which are observable because of hardware design; over time it has become obvious that not only hardware but compilers are capable of making new weak behaviours observable. Substantial and rapid success has been achieved formalising the behaviour of these machines: researchers refined new specifications for shared-memory concurrency and used mechanisation to automate validation of their models. As the models were refined and new behaviours of the hardware were discovered, researchers also began working with processor vendors – helping to inform design choices in new processor designs to keep the weak behaviours within some sensible bounds. Unfortunately when reasoning about shared memory accesses of highly optimised programming languages like C and C++, deep questions are s [...]
doi:10.22024/unikent/01.02.93948 fatcat:7wbbdxvxb5ampjcodgrqclwrym