Automated Synthesis of Comprehensive Memory Model Litmus Test Suites

The memory consistency model is a fundamental part of any shared memory architecture or programming model. Modern weak memory models are notoriously difficult to define and to implement correctly. Most real-world programming languages, compilers, and (micro)architectures therefore rely heavily on black-box testing methodologies. The success of such techniques requires that the suite of litmus tests used to perform the testing be comprehensive—it should ideally stress all obscure corner cases of the model and of its implementation. Most litmus test suites today are generated from some combination of manual effort and randomization; however, the complex and subtle nature of contemporary memory models means that manual effort is both error-prone and subject to incomplete coverage.

This paper presents a methodology for synthesizing comprehensive litmus test suites directly from a memory model specification. By construction, these suites contain all tests satisfying a minimality criterion: that no synchronization mechanism in the test can be weakened without causing new behaviors to become observable. We formalize this notion using the Alloy modeling language, and we apply it to a number of existing and newly-proposed memory models. Our results show not only that this synthesis technique can automatically reproduce all manually-generated tests from existing suites, but also that it discovers new tests that are not as well studied.

Andrew Wright (MIT)
Alexandros Papakonstantinou (NVIDIA)
Olivier Giroux (NVIDIA)
Publication Date: 
Saturday, April 8, 2017