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Date: Wed, 2 Dec 2020 10:54:09 -0800
From: Kees Cook <>
To: Masahiro Yamada <>
Cc: Will Deacon <>, Sami Tolvanen <>,
	Steven Rostedt <>,
	Josh Poimboeuf <>,
	Peter Zijlstra <>,
	Greg Kroah-Hartman <>,
	"Paul E. McKenney" <>,
	Nick Desaulniers <>,
	clang-built-linux <>,
	Kernel Hardening <>,
	linux-arch <>,
	linux-arm-kernel <>,
	Linux Kbuild mailing list <>,
	Linux Kernel Mailing List <>,
Subject: Re: [PATCH v7 00/17] Add support for Clang LTO

On Wed, Dec 02, 2020 at 11:42:21AM +0900, Masahiro Yamada wrote:
> On Wed, Dec 2, 2020 at 2:31 AM Kees Cook <> wrote:
> >
> > On Mon, Nov 30, 2020 at 12:01:31PM +0000, Will Deacon wrote:
> > > Hi Sami,
> > >
> > > On Wed, Nov 18, 2020 at 02:07:14PM -0800, Sami Tolvanen wrote:
> > > > This patch series adds support for building the kernel with Clang's
> > > > Link Time Optimization (LTO). In addition to performance, the primary
> > > > motivation for LTO is to allow Clang's Control-Flow Integrity (CFI) to
> > > > be used in the kernel. Google has shipped millions of Pixel devices
> > > > running three major kernel versions with LTO+CFI since 2018.
> > > >
> > > > Most of the patches are build system changes for handling LLVM bitcode,
> > > > which Clang produces with LTO instead of ELF object files, postponing
> > > > ELF processing until a later stage, and ensuring initcall ordering.
> > > >
> > > > Note that v7 brings back arm64 support as Will has now staged the
> > > > prerequisite memory ordering patches [1], and drops x86_64 while we work
> > > > on fixing the remaining objtool warnings [2].
> > >
> > > Sounds like you're going to post a v8, but that's the plan for merging
> > > that? The arm64 parts look pretty good to me now.
> >
> > I haven't seen Masahiro comment on this in a while, so given the review
> > history and its use (for years now) in Android, I will carry v8 (assuming
> > all is fine with it) it in -next unless there are objections.
> What I dislike about this implementation is
> it cannot drop any unreachable function/data.
> (and it is completely different from GCC LTO)

This seems to be an orthogonal concern: the kernel doesn't have GCC LTO
support either (though much of Sami's work is required for GCC LTO too).

> This is not real LTO.

I don't know what you're defining as "real LTO", but this is, very much,
Link Time Optimization: the compiler has access to the entire code at
once, and it is therefore in a position to perform many manipulations to
the code. As Sami mentioned, perhaps you're thinking specifically of
dead code elimination? That's a specific optimization.

> [thread[1] merging]
> This help document is misleading.
> People who read the document would misunderstand how great this feature would.
> This should be added in the commit log and Kconfig help:
>            In contrast to the example in the documentation, Clang LTO
>            for the kernel cannot remove any unreachable function or data.
>            In fact, this results in even bigger vmlinux and modules.

Which LTO passes are happening, how optimization are being performed,
etc, are endlessly tunable, but we can't work on that tuning without
the infrastructure to perform an LTO build in the first place. We need
to land the support, and go from there. As written, it works very well
for arm64 (which is what v8 targets specifically) and the results have
been running on millions of Android phones for years now. If further
tuning needs to happen for other architectures, config combinations, etc,
those can and will be developed. (For example, x86 is around the corner,
once some false positive warnings from objtool get hammered out, etc.)

I still want this in -next so we can build on it and improve it -- it
has been stuck in limbo for too long.



Kees Cook

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