JEP 190: Pluggable Static Analyzers

AuthorsEric McCorkle, Brian Goetz
OwnerEric Mccorkle
Created2013/06/13 20:00
Updated2014/08/07 23:13
TypeFeature
StatusDraft
Componenttools / javac
ScopeJDK
Discussioncompiler dash dev at openjdk dot java dot net
EffortM
DurationM
Priority4
Endorsed byBrian Goetz
Issue8046180

Summary

Explore the design space for implementing a framework for pluggable static type analyzers for javac. This framework, in conjunction with the type annotations provided by JSR 308 (JEP 104), will allow users to define extensions that can perform arbitrary static analysis at compile time. The eventual goal of this effort is to provide a common framework for implementing code analysis tools; however, the goal of this phase is to explore the design space and gain knowledge and experience.

Goals

This is a research JEP. The sole goal of this JEP is to explore the design space sufficiently to be able to propose a feature JEP (or recommend that the feature not be pursued.)

The goals can be stated as follows:

Non-Goals

Success Metrics

This research JEP will be judged successful if: it produces a design that we wish to move forward to a feature JEP, OR certainty that we do not wish to proceed with this feature.

Motivation

This effort benefits the Java language ecosystem in several ways. First, it provides a foundation upon which we can build static analysis tools for improving the quality of the JDK. Furthermore, it will likely generate a renewed interest in extensions to the Java type system, both in industry as well as academic research. Most importantly, however, it will enable teams of developers to configure and build analysis tools that more effectively enforce their coding standards, and which more effectively detect errors common to their specific applications.

A simple example of what could be done with the proposed framework is an extension of the core type system which emits warnings for a collection of anti-patterns known to be problematic, such as mutable static fields (likely security risk), reference comparisons (likely an error), and overriding equals without overriding hashCode (a performance problem).

However, the possible applications are more far-reaching. Tools such as FindBugs, lint, and other such tools could be reimplemented as pluggable analyzers and used as part of a build cycle. The proposed framework, combined with type annotations, also opens the door to more powerful error-detection and verification techniques, such as model-checking and formal specifications.

The proposed framework also can be adapted to work in a similar way with bytecode, providing many of the same benefits.

Description

Users should be able to define a compilation configuration, which consists of a set of selected inspections and configuration data for those inspections. (For example, the user may wish to customize the mapping to diagnostic levels, so some inspections become warnings, some errors, etc.)

An inspection plugin should be packagable on a fine-grained basis, and inspections should be able to request access to source, bytecode, tree, and classpath data, as well as emit diagnostic information that is merged into the diagnostic output of compilation. It should be easy for maintainers of existing inspection tools (such as FindBugs) to repackage their inspections individually as plugins.

Alternatives

There are several frameworks that have been produced in the course of academic work. Many do not represent production-ready products, and neither were they developed to interface cleanly with javac. There are also production-ready standalone tools (most notably FindBugs), which are used in commercial software development. However, they are currently separate from the javac tool chain. As such, they must be run as separate tools, integrating them into a build/test system is nontrivial, and there is no easy way to pick specific features from multiple different tools.

The ASM framework is a bytecode analysis and rewriting framework. However, it lacks the ability to analyze java source and it lacks certain features that are critical for certain kinds of analysis.