Help make the build faster by porting make rules to the misc tier

We added a capability to the Firefox build system that will ultimately 
lead to speeding up the build and we need your help to realize its 


The Firefox build executes as a pipeline of stages called tiers. The 
tiers are currently export -> compile -> misc -> libs -> tools. The 
build system iterates the tiers and builds directories in those tiers.

The export, compile, and misc tiers are mostly concurrent. If you 
execute with |make -j32| or more, they should saturate your cores. If 
you have access to a modern, multi-core machine, you realize the 
benefits of that machine.

The libs and tools tier, by contrast, aren't concurrent. This is mostly 
due to historical reasons. Back in the day, the traversal order of the 
directories was hard-coded by the order directories were registered in 
(DIRS += foo bar). If you had a cross-directory dependency, you 
registered one directory before the other.

Furthermore, back when we only had export, libs, and tools tier, these 
tiers were conceptually "pre-build," "build," and "post-build" tiers. 
libs became a dumping ground for most build tasks. Fast forward a few 
years and libs is still where most of the one-off build rules live. libs 
still executes in the order directories are defined in.

Mission Misc

The libs tier slows down the build because it isn't executed 
concurrently. By how much? As always, "it depends." But on my machine, 
traversing the libs tier on a no-op build takes ~50% of the wall time of 
the build (~22s/45s). The inefficiency of the libs tier is even more 
pronounced during a full build (multi-core usage drops off a cliff). 
*The libs tier is clownshoes.*

Our goal is to slowly kill the libs tier by moving things elsewhere, 
where they can execute with much higher concurrency and where 
cross-directory dependencies are properly captured. That will leave us 
with a more efficient build system that executes faster.

This is where we need your help.

The tree has tons of build tasks that run during the libs tier. Many of 
them have no dependencies and can be safely moved into the misc tier.

*We need your help writing patches to move things to the misc tier.*

How You Can Help

1) Search for build rules in your that execute in the libs 
tier/target in your files
2) Examine the dependencies
3) If it doesn't depend on anything in the libs tier/target or doesn't 
depend on things outside the current directory, it is probably safe to 
move it to misc. (See also the warnings below.)
5) Try converting the rule to the misc tier. Add |HAS_MISC_RULE = True| 
to the in that directory.
6) Test the build locally and push it to try
7) File a bug blocking bug 1099232. Initiate a code review and flag a 
build peer (glandium, mshal, gps are preferred) for review.

For an example conversion, see

For a log showing what all gets built in libs, see (this is an OS X build). We 
ideally want this log to be empty.


The default rule/tier for INSTALL_TARGETS and PP_TARGETS is libs. Unless 
you explicitly declare a *_TARGET variable, the rule will execute during 
libs and will be slower.

*Merely grepping for "libs" is thus not sufficient for identifying rules 
that execute during libs.*

Here is how you move an INSTALL_TARGETS rule from libs to misc.


   foo_FILES := foo.js
   foo_DEST := $(DIST)/bin


   foo_FILES := foo.js
   foo_DEST := $(DIST)/bin
   foo_TARGET := misc

Things to Watch Out For

When evaluating whether you can convert something from libs to misc:

* Stay away from things referencing $(XPI_NAME)
* Stay away from things related to JAR manifest parsing
* Stay away from things related to packaging
* Stay away from things related to l10n

There be dragons around all of these things. It is best to let a build 
peer handle it.

If you aren't sure, don't hesitate to ask a build peer. We (the build 
peers) want help tackling low-hanging fruit: don't waste your time on 
something beyond your skill level: you likely won't derive anything but 
pain. If it doesn't work right away, seriously consider moving on and 
punting to someone with more domain knowledge.

Cross-Directory Dependencies

Did you find a rule that depends on another directory? For things in, this should "just work." But for rules, you need 
to explicitly declare that cross-directory dependency or the build is 
susceptible to race conditions.

To declare a cross-directory dependency for the misc tier, you'll want 
to add an entry at the bottom of config/

For example, say you have a misc rule in "xpcom/system" that depends on 
a misc rule in "xpcom/base." You would add the following to

   xpcom/system/misc: xpcom/base/misc

The build system integrates this into the traversal logic to ensure that 
xpcom/base is traversed before xpcom/system is evaluated.


If you have any questions, ask in #build.

I look forward to seeing many review requests in my inbox!

11/14/2014 6:03:09 PM 1761 articles. 0 followers. Post Follow

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