Program Logic for Weak Memory Concurrency

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


In order to improve performance or conserve energy, modern hardware implementations have adopted weak memory models; that is, models of concurrency that allow more outcomes than the classic sequentially consistent (SC) model of execution. Modern programming languages similarly provide their own language-level memory models, which strive to allow all the behaviors allowed by the various hardware-level memory models, as well as those that can occur as a result of desired compiler optimizations. As these weak memory models are often rather intricate, it can be difficult for programmers to keep track of all the possible behaviors of their programs. It is therefore very useful to have an abstraction layer over the model that can be used to ensure program correctness without reasoning about the underlying memory model. Program logics are a way of constructing such an abstraction—one can use their syntactic rules to reason about programs, without needing to understand the messy details of the memory model for which the logic has been proven sound. Unfortunately, most of the work on formal verification in general, and program logics in particular, has so far assumed the SC model of execution. This means that new logics for weak memory have to be developed. This thesis presents two such logics—fenced separation logic (FSL) and weak separation logic (Weasel)—which are sound for reasoning under two different weak memory models. FSL considers the C/C++ concurrency memory model, supporting several of its advanced features. The soundness of FSL depends crucially on a specific strengthening of the model which eliminates a certain class of undesired behaviors (so-called out-of-thin-air behaviors) that were inadvertently allowed by the original C/C++ model. Weasel works under weaker assumptions than FSL, considering a model which takes a more fine-grained approach to the out-of-thin-air problem. Weasel's focus is on exploring the programming constructs directly related to out-of-thin-air behaviors, and is therefore significantly less feature-rich than FSL. Using FSL and Weasel, the thesis explores the key challenges in reasoning under weak memory models, and what effect different solutions to the out-of-thin-air problem have on such reasoning. It explains which reasoning principles are preserved when moving from a stronger to a weaker model, and develops novel proof techniques to establish soundness of logics under weaker models.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Technical University of Kaiserslautern
  • Vafeiadis, Viktor, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2021


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