11.6 Exceptions and Optimization
subclause gives permission to the implementation to perform certain “optimizations”
that do not necessarily preserve the canonical semantics.]
The rest of this Reference Manual (outside this subclause)
defines the canonical semantics
of the language. [The canonical
semantics of a given (legal) program determines a set of possible external
effects that can result from the execution of the program with given
Ramification: Note that the canonical
semantics is a set of possible behaviors, since some reordering, parallelism,
and nondeterminism is allowed by the canonical semantics.
The following parts of the canonical semantics are of particular interest
to the reader of this subclause:
Behavior in the presence of abnormal objects
and objects with invalid representations (see 13.9.1
Various actions that are defined to occur
in an arbitrary order.
Behavior in the presence of a misuse of Unchecked_Deallocation,
Unchecked_Access, or imported or exported entity (see Clause 13
[As explained in 1.1.3
of an Implementation
”, the external effect of a program is
defined in terms of its interactions with its external environment. Hence,
the implementation can perform any internal actions whatsoever, in any
order or in parallel, so long as the external effect of the execution
of the program is one that is allowed by the canonical semantics, or
by the rules of this subclause.]
Ramification: Note that an optimization
can change the external effect of the program, so long as the changed
external effect is an external effect that is allowed by the semantics.
Note that the canonical semantics of an erroneous execution allows any
external effect whatsoever. Hence, if the implementation can prove that
program execution will be erroneous in certain circumstances, there need
not be any constraints on the machine code executed in those circumstances.
The following additional
permissions are granted to the implementation:
An implementation can
omit raising need not always raise
an exception when a language-defined check fails. Instead, the operation
that failed the check can simply yield an undefined result
exception is required to need
be raised by the implementation only if, in the absence of raising it,
the value of this undefined result would have some effect on the external
interactions of the program. In determining this, the implementation
shall not presume that an undefined result has a value that belongs to
its subtype, nor even to the base range of its type, if scalar. [Having
removed the raise of the exception, the canonical semantics will in general
allow the implementation to omit the code for the check, and some or
all of the operation itself.]
Ramification: Even without this permission,
an implementation can always remove a check if it cannot possibly fail.
Reason: We express the permission in
terms of removing the raise, rather than the operation or the check,
as it minimizes the disturbance to the canonical semantics (thereby simplifying
reasoning). By allowing the implementation to omit the raise, it thereby
does not need to "look" at what happens in the exception handler
to decide whether the optimization is allowed.
Discussion: The implementation can also
omit checks if they cannot possibly fail, or if they could only fail
in erroneous executions. This follows from the canonical semantics.
Note: This permission is intended to allow normal "dead code
removal" optimizations, even if some of the removed code might have
failed some language-defined check. However, one may not eliminate the
raise of an exception if subsequent code presumes in some way that the
check succeeded. For example:
if X * Y > Integer'Last then
Put_Line("X * Y overflowed");
when others =>
Put_Line("X * Y overflowed");
If X*Y does overflow, you may not remove the
raise of the exception if the code that does the comparison against Integer'Last
presumes that it is comparing it with an in-range Integer value, and
hence always yields False.
As another example
where a raise may not be eliminated:
subtype Str10 is String(1..10);
type P10 is access Str10;
X : P10 := null;
if X.all'Last = 10 then
In the above code, it would be wrong to eliminate
the raise of Constraint_Error on the "X.all" (since X is null),
if the code to evaluate 'Last always yields 10 by presuming that X.all
belongs to the subtype Str10, without even "looking".
If an exception is raised due to the failure of a
language-defined check, then upon reaching the corresponding exception_handler
(or the termination of the task, if none), the external interactions
that have occurred have to need
reflect only that the exception was raised somewhere within the execution
of the sequence_of_statements
with the handler (or the task_body
possibly earlier (or later if the interactions are independent of the
result of the checked operation) than that defined by the canonical semantics,
but not within the execution of some abort-deferred operation or independent
subprogram that does not dynamically enclose the execution of the construct
whose check failed.
An independent subprogram is
one that is defined outside the library unit containing the construct
whose check failed, and for which the Inline aspect is False.
assignment that occurred outside of such abort-deferred operations or
independent subprograms can be disrupted by the raising of the exception,
causing the object or its parts to become abnormal, and certain subsequent
uses of the object to be erroneous, as explained in 13.9.1
Reason: We allow such variables to become
abnormal so that assignments (other than to atomic variables) can be
disrupted due to “imprecise” exceptions or instruction scheduling,
and so that assignments can be reordered so long as the correct results
are produced in the end if no language-defined checks fail.
Ramification: If a check fails, no result
dependent on the check may be incorporated in an external interaction.
In other words, there is no permission to output meaningless results
due to postponing a check.
Discussion: We believe it is important
to state the extra permission to reorder actions in terms of what the
programmer can expect at run time, rather than in terms of what the implementation
can assume, or what transformations the implementation can perform. Otherwise,
how can the programmer write reliable programs?
This subclause has two conflicting goals: to allow as much optimization
as possible, and to make program execution as predictable as possible
(to ease the writing of reliable programs). The rules given above represent
Consider the two extremes:
The extreme conservative rule would be to delete this subclause entirely.
The semantics of Ada would be the canonical semantics. This achieves
the best predictability. It sounds like a disaster from the efficiency
point of view, but in practice, implementations would provide modes in
which less predictability but more efficiency would be achieved. Such
a mode could even be the out-of-the-box mode. In practice, implementers
would provide a compromise based on their customer's needs. Therefore,
we view this as one viable alternative.
The extreme liberal rule would be “the
language does not specify the execution of a program once a language-defined
check has failed; such execution can be unpredictable”. This achieves
the best efficiency. It sounds like a disaster from the predictability
point of view, but in practice it might not be so bad. A user would have
to assume that exception handlers for exceptions raised by language-defined
checks are not portable. They would have to isolate such code (like all
nonportable code), and would have to find out, for each implementation
of interest, what behaviors can be expected. In practice, implementations
would tend to avoid going so far as to punish their customers too much
in terms of predictability.
The most important thing about this subclause is that users understand
what they can expect at run time, and implementers understand what optimizations
are allowed. Any solution that makes this subclause contain rules that
can interpreted in more than one way is unacceptable.
We have chosen a compromise between the extreme
conservative and extreme liberal rules. The current rule essentially
allows arbitrary optimizations within a library unit and inlined subprograms
reachable from it, but disallow semantics-disrupting optimizations across
library units in the absence of inlined subprograms. This allows a library
unit to be debugged, and then reused with some confidence that the abstraction
it manages cannot be broken by bugs outside the library unit.
The permissions granted by this subclause can have an effect on the semantics
of a program only if the program fails a language-defined check.
Wording Changes from Ada 83
unclear. It has been completely rewritten here; we hope this version
is clearer. Here's what happened to each paragraph of RM83-11.6:
Paragraphs 1 and 2 contain no semantics; they
are merely pointing out that anything goes if the canonical semantics
is preserved. We have similar introductory paragraphs, but we have tried
to clarify that these are not granting any “extra” permission
beyond what the rest of the document allows.
Paragraphs 3 and 4 are reflected in the “extra
permission to reorder actions”. Note that this permission now allows
the reordering of assignments in many cases.
Paragraph 5 is moved to 4.5
“Operators and Expression Evaluation
where operator association is discussed. Hence, this is no longer an
“extra permission” but is part of the canonical semantics.
Paragraph 6 now follows from the general permission
to store out-of-range values for unconstrained subtypes. Note that the
parameters and results of all the predefined operators of a type are
of the unconstrained subtype of the type.
Paragraph 7 is reflected in the “extra
permission to avoid raising exceptions”.
We moved subclause 11.5
” (which was numbered 11.7)
after 11.6 to before 11.6, in order to preserve the famous number “11.6”
(given the changes to earlier subclauses in Clause 11
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