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Table of contents
1.
Introduction
2.
What is Porting?
3.
Steps involved in Porting a Compiler
3.1.
Step 1: Analyze the Target Environment
3.2.
Step 2: Identify the changes need to be made
3.3.
Step 3: Implement the necessary changes
3.4.
Step 4: Testing the Compiler in the Target Environment
3.5.
Step 5: Performance Optimization
4.
Pros and Cons of Porting a Compiler
4.1.
Pros
4.2.
Cons
5.
What is Bootstrapping?
6.
Differences between Porting and Bootstrapping
6.1.
Porting 
6.2.
Bootstrapping
7.
Similarities between Porting and Bootstrapping
8.
Examples of Successfully Ported Compilers
8.1.
GCC Compiler
8.2.
Java Compiler
8.3.
Swift Compiler
8.4.
Rust Compiler
9.
Frequently Asked Questions
9.1.
Why is porting important in Compiler Design?
9.2.
What challenges might be encountered during the process of Porting?
9.3.
How do you optimize the performance of a ported compiler in a new platform?
10.
Conclusion
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024
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Porting in Compiler Design

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Introduction

Hello Ninja, I hope you are doing great. Do you know about Porting in Compiler Design? If not, don't worry. We are here to enrich your knowledge and clear all your doubts.

porting in compiler design

This article will cover the Porting in Compiler Design and the various steps involved in the Porting. We will also discuss the pros and cons of Porting and see some real-life examples of successfully Ported Compilers.

What is Porting?

Porting in Compiler Design refers to the process of adapting a compiler to work in a new environment. It involves modifying the source code of the Compiler so that it can work in a new environment. One of the main advantages of porting is that we do not need to make different versions of the Compiler for other platforms. It allows developers to maintain the existing Compiler without changing the entire codebase so that it can work with upcoming software environments. Due to the compatibility of the Compiler with the different platforms, we can easily share our codes regardless of the platform we are using.

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Steps involved in Porting a Compiler

Porting a compiler involves adapting itself to work in a new environment which requires careful planning and execution. Below are the steps involved in porting a compiler to a new system.

Steps involved in Porting a Compiler

Step 1: Analyze the Target Environment

In this phase, we deeply analyze the specifications of the target environment including its architecture, memory, operating system and the software environment. It helps us to differentiate the target environment from the current working environment of our compiler.

Step 2: Identify the changes need to be made

In this step, we need to identify the changes made in the compiler to make it compatible with the target environment. This involves updating the source code and the configuration settings of the compiler or adding new modules or libraries in the compiler.

Step 3: Implement the necessary changes

In this step, we must implement changes in the Compiler's source code or configuration. We add some libraries and modules in the Compiler to make the Compiler more compatible with the target environment. To ensure good code quality, the necessary steps like code testing and code review must be done in this phase.

Step 4: Testing the Compiler in the Target Environment

In this phase, we test our Compiler in the target environment and check the outputs we get with the desired outputs. Our main goal is to resolve the issues or bugs that may prevent our compiler from working properly on the new environment.

Step 5: Performance Optimization

In this phase, we optimize the Compiler’s performance by optimizing the main algorithms used in the source code or by reducing the time spent in the memory allocation and deallocation. By parallelism (using multiple CPU cores at a time), the compiler can process more codes simultaneously which fastens the compilation time. Our main goal is to make a compiler as efficient as possible for the new environment.

Pros and Cons of Porting a Compiler

Pros

  • We can make the compiler more compatible with the platform which increases its reach and user base.
     
  • By adding some new libraries and the modules to the compiler, we can attract more customers.
     
  • We can target multiple platforms which increases the flexibility of the compiler and reduces the development cost.
     
  • By optimizing the source code, we can reduce the compilation time of the Compiler and make it more efficient.

Cons

  • Porting involves significant development and testing efforts.
     
  • It requires significant efforts to resolve the compatibility issues of the compiler with the target environment.
     
  • It leads to increased maintenance cost and maintaining the codebases for the different platforms requires more resources and time.
     
  • Porting a compiler is a complex process as it requires modification to the codebase and the testing infrastructure which causes a higher chance of having a bug in the codebase.

What is Bootstrapping?

Bootstrapping is a process of building a compiler for a programming language by using the existing version of itself or making a new version. It ensures that the compiler is compatible with the existing language specifications. We can make the compiler more optimized during the process of Bootstrapping. It makes the compiler more flexible such that it can run on any platform. It helps the compiler to become self hosted which allows it to be improved and updated over time. 

Differences between Porting and Bootstrapping

Porting 

Bootstrapping

It is the process of modifying the existing Compiler for the target environment. It is the process of building the Compiler from scratch.
We require knowledge of existing libraries and modules of the Compiler. We require knowledge of some Low-Level language and machine code.
It modifies the Compiler’s features based on the platform we aim for. It aims to create a Compiler that can run on any platform.
It is less efficient as compared to a Compiler that was built specifically for the target platform. It is more efficient as compared to Compiler that was Ported from a different platform.
It is less complex and time-consuming than Bootstrapping because we only do some changes in the codebase and add some features. It is more complex and time-consuming than Porting because we need to make a Compiler from scratch.
We can divide the Compiler’s codebase into smaller modular components and can port them separately. Here, the entire codebase must be written and compiled as a single set.

Similarities between Porting and Bootstrapping

  • Porting and Bootstrapping involves adapting a Compiler to work in a new environment.
     
  • Both require knowledge of the target platform including its architecture and operating system.
     
  • Both require extensive testing and debugging sessions, making the codebase free of bugs.
     
  • Both require knowledge of software development principles and practices.
     
  • Both require the implementation of efficient algorithms to make our Compiler more compatible with the target environment.

Examples of Successfully Ported Compilers

GCC Compiler

It is a popular compiler used for C++, C, Fortran, Ada, D, Go and other programming languages. It has been ported to many environments including modern Unix-like computer operating systems, Linux Distributions, macOs and Windows, Solaris and AIX. It is also available for many embedded systems like ARM Cortex-M, AVR and many more.

Java Compiler

Java Compiler is used for Java programming language, which converts the Java code into the bytecode, which only runs on platforms with Java Virtual Machine (JVM) installed. It has been ported to different platforms, including Linux, Unix, macOS, Windows, HP-UX, Z/OS, and AIX.

Swift Compiler

The Swift Compiler is used for the Swift programming language, which Apple Inc developed. Multiple platforms like macOS, iOS, watchOS, Linux, and Unix use it.

It is also available for embedded systems like ARM64 and BeagleBone Black.

Rust Compiler

The Rust Compiler translates the Rust source code into the executable machine code. It uses LLVM (Low-Level Virtual machine) backend to generate an efficient machine code. It has been ported to many platforms, including Unix-based, Linux-based, Windows, macOS, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is porting important in Compiler Design?

Porting is important in Compiler Design because it allows us to make compilers that can run on a wide range of platforms which enables greater flexibility and the reach of the compiler.

What challenges might be encountered during the process of Porting?

The challenges that might be encountered during the porting process are opimizing the performance of the compiler, testing and debugging the source code and adding platform specific libraries to the compiler.

How do you optimize the performance of a ported compiler in a new platform?

We can optimize the performance of the compiler by using the efficient algorithms in the source code, minimizing the I/O operations performed by the compiler, and using the process of parallelism so that the compiler can process more codes simultaneously.

Conclusion

This blog covers the concept of Porting in Compiler Design, steps involved in the Porting and the examples of some successfully Ported Compilers along with the comparison of Porting and Bootstrapping.
We hope you have enjoyed the article and got some insight into this topic. 
You can refer to Phases of Compiler, Compiler DesignIntermediate Code for ProcedureCode Generation and ,Lexical Analysis in Compiler Design ,Optimization to learn more about this topic.
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