European LLVM Developers’ Meeting lands in Bristol

We chat to LLVM's Arnaud de Grandmaison and Phillip Power from Bristol-based SN Systems - the tech company behind the push to bring the event to the city
22nd January 2018

It’s been announced that the LLVM European conference, will be coming to Bristol this April.

Celebrating LLVM technologies and the developers who have contributed to them, LLVM is an open-source project that has benefitted some of the world’s most successful technology companies.

“Major LLVM contributors include Sony, Google and Apple, along with Mozilla, Qualcomm, Arm, Intel, Facebook, IBM, Ericsson and many more”

 

Given that this is the first time the conference will be held in Bristol, we thought we’d head out and discover more about LLVM, the conference and why the city was chosen – so we spoke with some of the people helping to make it happen.

Arnaud de Grandmaison is one of the LLVM Foundation Board of Directors, and Phillip Power is a conference organisation committee member who is also the toolchain product manager for Bristol-based SN Systems, a Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) owned company behind PlayStation’s development tools.

TechSPARK: So, tell us a bit about LLVM – what it is and how does it benefit its users?

Arnaud de Grandmaison: LLVM is an open source project focused on software compiler technology (the tools that translate high-level code into code different computer processors can understand). LLVM is behind the free Clang C/C++ compiler which is displacing the GNU GCC compiler in many areas.

LLVM is used behind many other software language compilers, such as the new Swift and Rust languages. The LLVM technology is also used in many other projects, such as sanitizers, static code analysers and more.

The LLVM Foundation is a public charitable organisation whose mission is to support the LLVM project through educational materials and events (like this developer meeting), scholarship and grant programs, ‘Women in Compilers’, tools outreach, project infrastructure, legal issues and other cross-cutting efforts.

Phillip Power: SN Systems contribute to this open source project and ship the compiler as part of its toolchain to all PlayStation 4 (PS4) game studios.

Other major LLVM contributors include Google, who use it to build many of their internal code, Apple, who ship it with their Xcode development environment for MacBook and iPhone for example, along with Mozilla, Qualcomm, Arm, Intel, Facebook, IBM, Ericsson and many more.

TS: How about the LLVM developers’ meeting?

AG: We organise two developer conferences each year for the individuals who contribute to and use the LLVM technology to get together under one roof and discuss what is happening and the future direction.

One conference is held in San Jose, California around October and the second conference is held in Europe in April. In past years it has been held in Paris, Edinburgh, London, Barcelona, Saarbrucken; each of these cities has a strong community presence.

“The ‘Women in Compilers’ event, new to the last LLVM conference in San Jose, will be held in Bristol before the conference”

 

For 2018, the LLVM Foundation decided to hold the European conference in Bristol which has a number of local companies who work with LLVM, as well the University of Bristol that uses LLVM for research purposes.

TS: And what can attendees look forward to at EuroLLVM 2018?

PP: The EuroLLVM conference runs over two days on 16 – 17 April. Like most conferences, there are two rooms where people present their latest ideas and work to the wider project community, either as a 40-minute talk or as a 5-minute lightning talk. Each of the talks is recorded and can be found on YouTube.

Check out one of LLVM’s most popular talks from the 2017 conference on ‘Implementing Swift Generics’:

 

What makes the LLVM conference special are the Birds of a Feather (BoF) and hackers lab sessions, these are open forums to voice and discuss the latest issues. There are normally four to five BoF sessions to discuss different topics in a large group and many smaller ad-hoc round-table discussions typically involving two to ten people. It is common for new projects to be borne out of such conversations.

AG: The ‘Women in Compilers’ event, new to the last LLVM conference in San Jose, will be held in Bristol before the conference. The LLVM project, like most software projects, suffers from a male majority. The LLVM Foundation want to do something about this and have been exploring ideas on how to encourage more women to get involved in our field. Everyone in the community is behind this initiative.

TS: What will SN Systems’ involvement be at EuroLLVM 2018?

PP: SN Systems has two people on the conference organisation committee with others from Arm, Ericsson, and researchers from European universities. As we have done at previous events, we’ll be presenting some of our new work.

“It’ll be great to host our friends from around the world in Bristol”

 

Additionally, as the conference is in Bristol, SN Systems will send more people from our compiler team than normal. It will also give an opportunity to other local people who wouldn’t normally think to attend, such as university students.

TS: What are the benefits of hosting EuroLLVM 2018 in Bristol?

PP: It’ll be great to host our friends from around the world in Bristol, from California’s Silicon Valley, Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia, as well as those closer to home in Cambridge and London. There are over a thousand contributors to the LLVM project and we will hopefully get more than 300 attending the conference.

We hope that some may enjoy the city so much that they will want to stay. Hopefully we will see many other people local to Bristol who work on the periphery of the LLVM project and others who have a passing interest too.

TS: Aside from attending, are there any other ways to get involved in LLVM? 

AG: The LLVM project is open to all; we are a friendly and vibrant community welcoming to newcomers. You can download the tool installers and start to use them with your own software projects or download the source code and start hacking.

There are a number of mailing lists and an IRC channel, for developers or users where you are free to ask questions and get involved.

More details including how to register for the conference are available on the LLVM website.