Remote GHCi

Simon Marlow marlowsd at
Wed Nov 18 09:25:51 UTC 2015

On 18/11/2015 00:53, Edward Z. Yang wrote:
> I like it.
> Let me make sure that I've understand this correctly:
>      - While GHC doesn't need to be built with profiling if you
>        want to use profiling in the interpeter, you will need
>        multiple versions of the "server binary" for each way
>        you want to implement.  This should be pretty reasonable,
>        because the server binary is a lot smaller than GHC.

Yes, exactly.

>      - It seems that GHC will ship bytecode and object code
>        to the server binary.  In this case, the interpeted
>        code and compiled code CAN share data among each other;
>        it is just when you want to share data with GHC that
>        you must implement serialization.  (Also, external
>        bytecode format?!)

We need to ship bytecode, but not necessarily object code.  The idea is 
to implement the linker API via an RPC protocol to the server binary. 
It's pretty straightforward actually, I have a prototype running already.

We would only need to ship object code if the server were running on a 
separate machine, that's something for later (if ever).

>      - Many people have commented that their extensions use
>        dynCompileExpr.  I think these cases can be accommodated,
>        by making the server binary not a standalone application,
>        but a LIBRARY which can be linked against a custom
>        application (e.g. IHaskell).  The messages to be sent
>        should not be the values/file descriptors, but the
>        invocations that are being requested of GHC. Unfortunately,
>        this does seem to imply that most things would have to
>        be rewritten from scratch to not use the ghc-api, but
>        use whatever this new library's interface over the message
>        passing is.

Hmm, the thing is that it is *already* a library (the GHC API) and I 
want to make it a separate process, to decouple the runtime that is 
running the compiler from the one running the interpreted code.

> Honestly, it seems like the hard part is defining the message-passing
> protocol, esp. since the GHC API is as overgrown as it is today.

What I have in mind is much lower level than the GHC API.  Here's what I 
have so far:

data Message a where
  -- linker API
   LookupSymbol :: String -> Message (Maybe RemotePtr)
   LoadDLL :: String -> Message (Maybe String)
   LoadArchive :: String -> Message () -- error?
   LoadObj :: String -> Message () -- error?
   UnloadObj :: String -> Message () -- error?
   AddLibrarySearchPath :: String -> Message RemotePtr
   RemoveLibrarySearchPath :: RemotePtr -> Message Bool
   ResolveObjs :: Message Bool
   -- creating and evaluating bytecode
   CreateBCO :: ResolvedBCO -> Message RemoteHValue
   FreeHValue :: RemoteHValue -> Message ()
   Eval :: RemoteHValue {- IO [a] -}  -> Message [RemoteHValue] {- [a] -}

this is enough to support basic GHCi operations.


> Edward
> Excerpts from Simon Marlow's message of 2015-11-17 02:10:55 -0800:
>> Hi folks - I've been thinking about changing the way we run interpreted
>> code so that it would be run in a separate process.  It turns out this
>> has quite a few benefits, and would let us kill some of the really
>> awkward hacks we have in GHC to work around problems that arise because
>> we're running interpreted code and the compiler on the same runtime.
>> I summarised the idea here:
>> I'd be interested to hear if anyone has any thoughts around this,
>> particularly if doing this would make your life difficult in some way.
>> Are people relying on dynCompileExpr for anything?
>> Cheers,
>> Simon

More information about the ghc-devs mailing list