Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: New Results

Software specification and verification

The CompCert formally-verified compiler

Participants : Xavier Leroy, Jacques-Henri Jourdan [CNRS] , Michael Schmidt [AbsInt GmbH] , Bernhard Schommer [AbsInt GmbH] .

In the context of our work on compiler verification, since 2005, we have been developing and formally verifying a moderately-optimizing compiler for a large subset of the C programming language, generating assembly code for the ARM, PowerPC, RISC-V and x86 architectures [8]. This compiler comprises a back-end part, which translates the Cminor intermediate language to PowerPC assembly and which is reusable for source languages other than C [7], and a front-end, which translates the CompCert C subset of C to Cminor. The compiler is mostly written within the specification language of the Coq proof assistant, from which Coq's extraction facility generates executable OCaml code. The compiler comes with a 100000-line machine-checked Coq proof of semantic preservation establishing that the generated assembly code executes exactly as prescribed by the semantics of the source C program.

This year, we added a new optimization to CompCert: “if-conversion”, that is, the replacement of conditional statements and expressions by conditional move operations and similar branchless instruction sequences. As a consequence, fewer conditional branch instructions are generated. This replacement usually improves worst-case execution time (WCET), because mispredicted conditional branches tremendously increase execution time. This replacement is also interesting for cryptographic code and other programs that manipulate secret data: conditional branches over secret data take time that depends on the data, leaking some information, while conditional move instructions are constant-time and do not leak. The new if-conversion optimization plays a role in the ongoing work of Inria team Celtique on compilation that preserves constant-time properties. Its proof of semantic preservation is nontrivial and prompted the development of a new kind of simulation diagram.

Other recent improvements to the CompCert C compiler include:

We released two versions of CompCert incorporating these improvements: version 3.5 in February 2019 and version 3.6 in September 2019.

Time credits and time receipts in Iris

Participants : Glen Mével, François Pottier, Jacques-Henri Jourdan [CNRS] .

From March to August 2018, Glen Mével did an M2 internship at Gallium, where he was co-advised by Jacques-Henri Jourdan (CNRS) and François Pottier. Glen extended the program logic Iris with time credits and time receipts.

Time credits are a well-understood concept, and have been used in several papers already by Armaël Guéneau, Arthur Charguéraud, and François Pottier. However, because Iris is implemented and proved sound inside Coq, extending Iris with time credits requires a nontrivial proof, which Glen carried out, based on a program transformation which inserts “tick” instructions into the code. As an application of time credits, Glen verified inside Iris the correctness of Okasaki's notion of “debits”, which allows reasoning about the time complexity of programs that use thunks.

Time receipts are a new concept, which allows proving that certain undesirable events, such as integer overflows, cannot occur until a very long time has elapsed. Glen extended Iris with time receipts and proved the soundness of this extension. As an application of time credits and receipts together, Jacques-Henri Jourdan updated Charguéraud and Pottier's earlier verification of the Union-Find data structure [12] and proved that integer ranks cannot realistically overflow, even if they are stored using only logW bits, where W is the number of bits in a machine word.

This work carried out in 2018 has been published at ESOP 2019 [16].

A program logic for Multicore Ocaml

Participants : Glen Mével, François Pottier, Jacques-Henri Jourdan [CNRS] .

Glen Mével, who is co-advised by Jacques-Henri Jourdan and François Pottier, has been working on designing a mechanized program logic for Multicore OCaml.

One of the key challenges is to enable deductive reasoning under a weak memory model. In such a model, the behaviors of a program are no longer described by a naive interleaving semantics. Thus, the operational semantics that describes a weak memory model often feels unnatural to the programmer, and is difficult to reason about.

This year, Glen designed and implemented a proof system on top of Iris, a modular separation logic framework whose implementation and soundness proof are both expressed in Coq. This system allows mechanized program verification for a fragment of the Multicore OCaml language. It provides a certain degree of abstraction over the low-level operational semantics, in the hope of simplifying reasoning. This abstraction includes an abstract concept of “local view” of the shared memory; views are exchanged between threads via atomic locations.

A few simple concurrent data structures have been proven correct using the system. They include several variants of locks and mutual exclusion algorithms.

Glen presented preliminary results at the Iris Workshop in October 2019.

Verifying a generic local solver in Iris

Participants : Paulo Emílio de Vilhena, Jacques-Henri Jourdan [CNRS] , François Pottier.

From March to August 2019, Paulo Emílio de Vilhena did an M2 internship in our team, where he was advised by François Pottier, with precious help from Jacques-Henri Jourdan (CNRS).

Paulo verified a short but particularly subtle piece of code, namely a "local generic solver", that is, an on-demand, incremental, memoizing least fixed point computation algorithm. This algorithm is a slightly simplified version of Fix (, an OCaml library published by François Pottier in 2009.

The specification of this algorithm is simple: the solver computes the optimal least fixed point of a system of monotone equations. Although the solver relies on mutable internal state for memoization and for “spying”, a form of dynamic dependency discovery, no side effects are mentioned in the specification. The challenge is precisely to formally justify why it is permitted to hide these side effects from the user.

The verification is carried out in Iris, a modern breed of concurrent separation logic. Iris is embedded in Coq, so the proof is machine-checked. The proof makes crucial use of prophecy variables, a novel feature of Iris. Auxiliary contributions include a restricted infinitary conjunction rule for Iris and a specification and proof of Longley's “modulus” function, an archetypical example of spying.

This paper [13] has been accepted for presentation at the conference POPL 2020, which will take place in New Orleans in January 2020.

Formal reasoning about asymptotic complexity

Participants : Armaël Guéneau, Arthur Charguéraud [Inria team Camus] , François Pottier, Jacques-Henri Jourdan [CNRS] .

For several years, Armaël Guéneau, Arthur Charguéraud, François Pottier have been investigating the use of Separation Logic, extended with Time Credits, as an approach to the formal verification of the time complexity of OCaml programs. In 2018 and 2019, in collaboration with Jacques-Henri Jourdan, Armaël has worked on a more ambitious case study, namely a state-of-the-art incremental cycle detection algorithm, whose amortized complexity analysis is nontrivial. Armaël has proposed an improved and simplified algorithm and has carried out a machine-checked proof of its complexity. Furthermore, the verified algorithm has been released and is now used in production inside the Dune build system for OCaml. A paper has been published and presented at the International Conference on Interactive Theorem Proving (ITP 2019) [15]. A more detailed version of these results appears in Armaël Guéneau's dissertation [11], which was defended on December 16, 2019.


Participants : Damien Doligez, Leslie Lamport [Microsoft Research] , Ioannis Filippidis, Stephan Merz [Inria team VeriDis] .

Damien Doligez is the head of the “Tools for Proofs” team in the Microsoft-Inria Joint Centre. The aim of this project is to extend the TLA+ language with a formal language for hierarchical proofs, formalizing Lamport's ideas [25], and to build tools for writing TLA+ specifications and mechanically checking the proofs.

We have made a bug-fix release of TLAPS (version 1.4.4). In parallel, we are working on adding features for dealing with temporal properties, that is, fairness and liveness. We have implemented support for the enabled operator and the action composition operator in TLA+ proofs. This support is still experimental, but we hope to release a new version of TLAPS next year with these features.