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AutoAlias: Automatic Variable-Precision Alias Analysis for Object-Oriented Programs

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The aliasing question (can two reference expressions point, during an execution, to the same object?) is both one of the most critical in practice, for applications ranging from compiler optimization to programmer verification, and one of the most heavily researched, with many hundreds of publications over several decades. One might then expect that good off-the-shelf solutions are widely available, ready to be plugged into a compiler or verifier. This is not the case. In practice, efficient and precise alias analysis remains an open problem. We present a practical tool, AutoAlias, which can be used to perform automatic alias analysis for object-oriented programs. Based on the theory of “duality semantics”, an application of Abstract Interpretation ideas, it is directed at object-oriented languages and has been implemented for Eiffel as an addition to the EiffelStudio environment. It offers variable-precision analysis, controllable through the choice of a constant that governs the number of fixpoint iterations: a higher number means better precision and higher computation time. All the source code of AutoAlias, as well as detailed results of analyses reported in this article, are publicly available. Practical applications so far have covered a library of data structures and algorithms and a library for GUI creation. For the former, AutoAlias achieves a precision appropriate for practical purposes and execution times in the order of 25 s for about 8000 lines of intricate code. For the GUI library, AutoAlias produces the alias analysis in around 232 s for about 150,000 lines of intricate code.

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We are indebted to colleagues who collaborated on the previous iterations of the alias calculus work, particular Sergey Velder (ITMO University) for many important suggestions regarding the theory, Alexander Kogtenkov (Eiffel Software, also then ETH Zurich) who implemented an earlier version of the Change Calculus, and Marco Trudel (then ETH Zurich). We thank members of the Software Engineering Laboratory at Innopolis University, particularly Manuel Mazzara and Alexander Naumchev, for many fruitful discussions.

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Correspondence to Victor Rivera.

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Rivera, V., Meyer, B. AutoAlias: Automatic Variable-Precision Alias Analysis for Object-Oriented Programs. SN COMPUT. SCI. 1, 12 (2020).

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