LLVM Project News and Details from the Trenches

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Life of an instruction in LLVM

LLVM is a complex piece of software. There are several paths one may take on the quest of understanding how it works, none of which is simple. I recently had to dig in some areas of LLVM I was not previously familiar with, and this article is one of the outcomes of this quest.

What I aim to do here is follow the various incarnations an "instruction" takes when it goes through LLVM’s multiple compilation stages, starting from a syntactic construct in the source language and until being encoded as binary machine code in an output object file.

This article in itself will not teach one how LLVM works. It assumes some existing familiarity with LLVM’s design and code base, and leaves a lot of "obvious" details out. Note that unless otherwise stated, the information here is relevant to LLVM 3.2. LLVM and Clang are fast-moving projects, and future changes may render parts of this article incorrect. If you notice any discrepancies, please let me know and I’ll do my best to fix them.