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From: Kaylor, Andrew <andrew.kaylor <at> intel.com>
Subject: RFC: Native Windows C++ exception handling
Newsgroups: gmane.comp.compilers.llvm.devel
Date: Monday 26th January 2015 22:27:32 UTC (over 3 years ago)
I am working on adding support for C++ exception handling when compiling
for a native Windows target (that is a target with "MSVC" specified as the
environment).  Because of differences between how the native Windows
runtime handles exceptions and the Itanium-based model used by current LLVM
exception handling code, I believe this will require some extensions to the
LLVM IR, though I'm trying to leverage the existing mechanisms as much as

I'll discuss this below in more detail, but the summary is that I'm going
to propose an extension to the syntax of the landing pad instruction to
enable landing pad clauses to be outlined as external functions, and I'd
like to introduce two new intrsinsics, llvm.eh.begin.catch and
llvm.eh.end.catch, to replace calls to the libc++abi __cxa_begin_catch and
__cxa_end_catch functions.

Currently, LLVM supports 64-bit Windows exception handling for MinGW
targets using a custom personality function and the libc++abi library. 
There are also LLVM clients, such as ldc, that provide Windows exception
handling similar to what I am proposing by providing their own custom
personality function.  However, what I would like is to support Windows C++
exception handling using the __CxxFrameHandler3 function provided by the
native Windows runtime library.

Some of the primary challenges in supporting native Windows C++ exception
handling are:

1. Catch and unwind handlers are called in a different frame context than
the original function in which they are defined.

2. Windows exception handling is state driven rather than landing pad
based.  The compiler must generate a table for each function mapping IP
addresses within that function to the EH state at that address.  When an
exception is thrown the runtime uses this table to determine which unwind
and catch handlers should be invoked.

3. Windows catch and unwind handling is implemented using a series of calls
to discrete handlers rather than a jump to a landing pad which uses runtime
decisions to reach all relevant handler blocks as is done in LLVM's
existing implementations.  LLVM's current landing pad structure frequently
results in in catch handling blocks and cleanup blocks which are shared by
multiple landing pads.  Windows expects each catch handler and unwind
handler to be defined in a single location.  The runtime then determines
which handlers should be called based on the EH state when an exception is
thrown and makes a series of calls when multiple handlers are needed.

The first challenge is relatively easy to address. The Microsoft C++
compiler creates a psuedo-function for handlers which it embeds in the body
of the parent function, but for LLVM I would like to try simply outlining
the handler bodies into fully external functions.  The task of outlining
the handler code is somewhat straightforward and can be done with the
existing IR.  However, I need a way to link the landing pads from the
parent function to the outlined handlers.  I propose doing this by
extending the syntax of the landing pad instruction to allow the address of
an outlined handler to be attached to catch and cleanup clauses.

The current syntax for landingpad is:

   = landingpad  personality  
   = landingpad  personality   cleanup

   := catch  
   := filter  

I'd like to change that to:

   = landingpad  personality  
   = landingpad  personality   cleanup
[at handler] *

   := catch   [at handler]
   := filter  

Outlined handlers will reference frame variables from the parent function
using the llvm.frameallocate and llvm.framerecover functions.  Any frame
variable which must be referenced from a catch or cleanup handler will be
moved into a block allocated by llvm.frameallocate.  When the handlers are
called, the parent function's frame pointer is passed as the second
argument to the call.  The handlers will use this frame pointer to find the
frame allocation block from the parent function.  The frame allocation
block will also contain space for an exception state variable and an
exception object pointer.  These values are maintained by the runtime

Current LLVM landing blocks use calls to __Cxa_begin_catch to get a pointer
to the object associated with the exception.  This function is provided by
the libc++abi library and is specific to the personality function being
used.  I would like to introduce a new intrinsic (llvm.eh.being.catch)
which accomplishes the same result in a personality-function independent
way.  For consistency, I also propose introducing llvm.eh.end.catch to
replace calls to __cxa_end_catch.

I am attaching several examples showing the outlining transformation I am
proposing.  Note that for simplicity I've used Linux type information in
these examples, but the final implementation will need to use
Microsoft-style RTTI.  I believe clang already has support for that.

The 'simple.ll' example shows a function with a single catch-all handler. 
The 'catch-type.ll' example shows a function which catches a specific type
of exception.  The 'min-unwind.ll' example shows a function which has no
exception handlers but which requires an unwind handler.  The 'nested.ll'
example shows a function which has nested try blocks.

The nested example illustrates the challenge mentioned above with regard to
inter-mingled handlers.  I think I know how I will accomplish the outlining
shown in that example and generate the state tables needed by the
__CxxFrameHandler3 personality function, but I'm going to skip discussion
of the details for now.

However, I do want to at least open discussion of the problem of EH state
handling.  The native Windows C++ exception handling essentially needs an
EH state assigned to each basic block.  I have an idea for how I might be
able to infer the EH states based on the targets of invoke instructions.  I
think I can make this work in a way that will produce correct results for
synchronous C++ exception handling.  However, I don't think I can get it to
map exactly to the actual C++ scopes in the original source code.  For this
reason, assuming we would like to support asynchronous C++ exception
handling at some future time, I think it may be preferable to have the EH
states embedded by the front end, possibly as metadata.  I haven't thought
through all of the possible problems here, and I am open to suggestions.
CD: 4ms