Xoc, an extension-oriented compiler for systems programming

Russ Cox, Tom Bergan, Austin T. Clements, Frans Kaashoek, Eddie Kohler
2008 ACM SIGOPS Operating Systems Review  
Today's system programmers go to great lengths to extend the languages in which they program. For instance, system-specific compilers find errors in Linux and other systems, and add support for specialized control flow to Qt and event-based programs. These compilers are difficult to build and cannot always understand each other's language changes. However, they can greatly improve code understandability and correctness, advantages that should be accessible to all programmers. We describe an
more » ... nsion-oriented compiler for C called xoc. An extension-oriented compiler, unlike a conventional extensible compiler, implements new features via many small extensions that are loaded together as needed. Xoc gives extension writers full control over program syntax and semantics while hiding many compiler internals. Xoc programmers concisely define powerful compiler extensions that, by construction, can be combined; even some parts of the base compiler, such as GNU C compatibility, are structured as extensions. Xoc is based on two key interfaces. Syntax patterns allow extension writers to manipulate language fragments using concrete syntax. Lazy computation of attributes allows extension writers to use the results of analyses by other extensions or the core without needing to worry about pass scheduling. Extensions built using xoc include xsparse, a 345-line extension that mimics Sparse, Linux's C front end, and xlambda, a 170line extension that adds function expressions to C. An evaluation of xoc using these and 13 other extensions shows that xoc extensions are typically more concise than equivalent extensions written for conventional extensible compilers and that it is possible to compose extensions.
doi:10.1145/1353535.1346312 fatcat:mzk3osz4ivbazal6o2jicn6rjy