How To Release LLVM To The Public


  1. Introduction
  2. Release Process
  3. Distribution Targets

Written by Reid Spencer, John Criswell


This document collects information about successfully releasing LLVM to the public. It is the release manager's guide to ensuring that a high quality build of LLVM is released. Mostly, it's just a bunch of reminders of things to do at release time so we don't inadvertently ship something that is utility deficient.

There are three main tasks for building a release of LLVM:

  1. Create the LLVM source distribution.
  2. Create the LLVM GCC source distribtuion.
  3. Create a set of LLVM GCC binary distribtuions for each supported platform. These binary distributions must include compiled versions of the libraries found in llvm/runtime from the LLVM source distribution created in Step 1.

Release Process
Process Overview
  1. Update Documentation
  2. Merge Branches
  3. Make LibDeps.txt
  4. Settle LLVM HEAD
  5. Tag LLVM and Create the Release Branch
  6. Update LLVM Version
  7. Build LLVM
  8. Run 'make check'
  9. Run LLVM Test Suite
  10. Build the LLVM Source Distributions
  11. Build RPM Packages (optional)
  12. Build the LLVM GCC Binary Distribution
  13. Update the LLVM Website
Update Documentation

Review the documentation and ensure that it is up to date. The Release Notes must be updated to reflect bug fixes, new known issues, and changes in the list of supported platforms. The Getting Started Guide should be updated to reflect the new release version number tag avaiable from CVS and changes in basic system requirements.

Merge Branches

Merge any work done on branches intended for release into mainline. Finish and commit all new features or bug fixes that are scheduled to go into the release. Work that is not to be incorporated into the release should not be merged from branchs or commited from developer's working directories.

From this point until the release branch is created, developers should not commit changes to the llvm and llvm-gcc CVS repositories unless it is a bug fix for the release.

Make LibDeps.txt

Rebuild the LibDeps.txt target in utils/llvm-config. This makes sure that the llvm-config utility remains relevant for the release, reflecting any changes in the library dependencies.


Use the nightly test reports and 'make check' (deja-gnu based tests) to ensure that recent changes and merged branches have not destabilized LLVM. Platforms which are used less often should be given special attention as they are the most likely to break from commits from the previous step.

CVS Tag And Branch

Tag and branch the CVS HEAD using the following procedure:

  1. Request all developers to refrain from committing. Offenders get commit rights taken away (temporarily).
  2. The Release Manager updates his/her llvm, llvm-test, and llvm-gcc source trees with the latest sources from mainline CVS. The Release Manage may want to consider using a new working directory for this to keep current uncommitted work separate from release work.
  3. The Release Manager tags his/her llvm, llvm-test, and llvm-gcc working directories with "ROOT_RELEASE_XX" where XX is the major and minor release numbers (you can't have . in a cvs tag name). So, for Release 1.2, XX=12 and for Release 1.10, XX=110.

    cvs tag ROOT_RELEASE_XX

  4. Immediately create cvs branches based on the ROOT_RELEASE_XX tag. The tag should be "release_XX" (where XX matches that used for the ROOT_RELEASE_XX tag). This is where the release distribution will be created.

    cvs tag -b -r ROOT_RELEASE_XX release_XX

  5. Advise developers they can work on CVS HEAD again.
  6. The Release Manager and any developers working on the release should switch to the release branch (as all changes to the release will now be done in the branch). The easiest way to do this is to grab another working copy using the following commands:

    cvs -d <CVS Repository> co -r release_XX llvm
    cvs -d <CVS Repository> co -r release_XX llvm-test
    cvs -d <CVS Repository> co -r release_XX llvm-gcc

Update LLVM Version

After creating the llvm release branch, update the release branch's autoconf/ version from X.Xcvs to just X.X. Update it on mainline as well to be the next version (X.X+1cvs).

Build LLVM

Build both debug and release (optimized) versions of LLVM on all platforms. Ensure the build is warning and error free on each platform.

Build a new version of the LLVM GCC front-end after building the LLVM tools. Once that is complete, go back to the LLVM source tree and build and install the llvm/runtime libraries.

Run 'make check'

Run make check and ensure there are no unexpected failures. If there are, resolve the failures, commit them back into the release branch, and restart testing by re-building LLVM.

Ensure that 'make check' passes on all platforms for all targets. If certain failures cannot be resolved before release time, determine if marking them XFAIL is appropriate. If not, fix the bug and go back. The test suite must complete with "0 unexpected failures" for release.

LLVM Test Suite

Run the llvm-test suite and ensure there are no unacceptable failures. If there are, resolve the failures and go back to re-building LLVM. The test suite should be run in Nightly Test mode. All tests must pass.

Build the LLVM Source Distributions

Create source distributions for LLVM, LLVM GCC, and the LLVM Test Suite by exporting the source from CVS and archiving it. This can be done with the following commands:

cvs -d <CVS Repository> export -r release_XX llvm
cvs -d <CVS Repository> export -r release_XX llvm-test
cvs -d <CVS Repository> export -r release_XX llvm-gcc
mkdir cfrontend; mv llvm-gcc cfrontend/src
tar -cvf - llvm | gzip > llvm-X.X.tar.gz
tar -cvf - llvm-test | gzip > llvm-test-X.X.tar.gz
tar -cvf - cfrontend/src | gzip > cfrontend-X.X.source.tar.gz

Building RPM packages (optional)

You can, optionally, create source and binary RPM packages for LLVM. These may make it easier to get LLVM into a distribution. This can be done with the following commands:

  make dist        # Build the distribution source tarball
  make dist-check  # Check that the source tarball can build itself.
  cp llvm-M.m.tar.gz /usr/src/redhat/SOURCES  # Required by rpmbuild
  make srpm # for source rpm
  make rpm  # for binary rpm

First, use "make dist" to simply build the distribution. Any failures need to be corrected (on the branch). Once "make dist" can be successful, do "make dist-check". This target will do the same thing as the 'dist' target but also test that distribution to make sure it can build itself and runs "make check" as well. This ensures that needed files are not missing and that the src tarball can be successfully unpacked, built, installed, and cleaned. Once you have a reliable tarball, you need to copy it to the /usr/src/redhat/SOURCES directory which is a requirement of the rpmbuild tool. The last two "make" invocations just run rpmbuild to build either a source (srpm) or binary (rpm) RPM package.

Build the LLVM GCC Binary Distribution

Creating the LLVM GCC binary distribution requires performing the following steps for each supported platform:

  1. Build the LLVM GCC front-end. The LLVM GCC front-end must be installed in a directory named cfrontend/<platform>/llvm-gcc. For example, the Sparc/Solaris directory is named cfrontend/sparc/llvm-gcc.
  2. Build the libraries in llvm/runtime and install them into the created LLVM GCC installation directory.
  3. For systems with non-distributable header files (e.g. Solaris), manually remove header files that the GCC build process has "fixed." This process is admittedly painful, but not as bad as it looks; these header files are almost always easily identifiable with simple grep expressions and are installed in only a few directories in the GCC installation directory.
  4. Add the copyright files and header file fix script.
  5. Archive and compress the installation directory. These can be found in previous releases of the LLVM-GCC front-end.
Update the LLVM Website

Check out the llvm-www module from cvs. Create a new subdirectory X.X in the releases directory. Place the llvm, llvm-test, llvm-gcc source, and llvm-gcc binaries in this new directory. Copy the llvm/docs and LICENSE.txt files into this new directory. Update the releases/download.html file with the new release. Update the releases/index.html with the new release. Finally, update the main page ( index.html and sidebar) to point to the new release and release announcement. Make sure this all gets commited back into cvs.

Distribution Targets

The first thing you need to understand is that there are multiple make targets to support this feature. Here's an overview, we'll delve into the details later.

Okay, that's the basic functionality. When making a release, we want to ensure that the tree you build the distribution from passes dist-check. Beyond fixing the usual bugs, there is generally one impediment to making the release in this fashion: missing files. The dist-check process guards against that possibility. It will either fail and that failure will indicate what's missing, or it will succeed meaning that it has proved that the tarballs can actually succeed in building LLVM correctly and that it passes make check.


This target builds the distribution directory which is the directory from which the tarballs are generated. The distribution directory has the same name as the release, e.g. LLVM-1.7). This target goes through the following process:

  1. First, if there was an old distribution directory (for the current release), it is removed in its entirety and you see Removing old LLVM-1.7
  2. Second, it issues a make all ENABLE_OPTIMIZED=3D1 to ensure that the everything in your tree can be built in release mode. Often times there are discrepancies in building between debug and release modes so it enforces release mode first. If that fails, the distdir target fails too. This is preceded by the message Making 'all' to verify build.
  3. Next, it traverses your source tree and copies it to a new directory that has the name of the release (LLVM-M.m in our current case). This is the directory that will get tar'd. It contains all the software that needs to be in the distribution. During the copying process, it omits generated files, CVS directories, and any other "cruft" that's in your build tree. This is done to eliminate the possibility of huge distribution tarballs that include useless or irrelevant stuff in them. This is the trickiest part of making the distribution. Done manually you will either include stuff that shouldn't be in the distribution or exclude stuff that should. This step is preceded by the message Building Distribution Directory LLVM-1.7
  4. The distribution directory is then traversed and all CVS or .svn directories are removed. You see: Eliminating CVS/.svn directories from distribution
  5. The recursive dist-hook target is executed. This gives each directory a chance to modify the distribution in some way (more on this below).
  6. The distribution directory is traversed and the correct file permissions and modes are set based on the type of file.

To control the process of making the distribution directory correctly, each Makefile can utilize two features:

  1. EXTRA_DIST - this make variable specifies which files it should distribute. By default, all source files are automatically included for distribution as well as certain well known files (see DistAlways variable in Makefile.rules for details). Each Makefile specifies, via the EXTRA_DIST variable, which additional files need to be distributed. Only those files that are needed to build LLVM should be added to EXTRA_DIST. EXTRA_DIST contains a list of file or directory names that should be distributed. For example, the top level Makefile contains EXTRA_DIST := test llvm.spec include. This means that in addition to regular things that are distributed at the top level (CREDITS.txt, LICENSE.txt, etc.) the distribution should contain the entire test and include directories as well as the llvm.spec file.
  2. dist-hook - this make target can be used to alter the content of the distribution directory. For example, in the top level Makefile there is some logic to eliminate files in the include subtree that are generated by the configure script. These should not be distributed. Similarly, any dist-hook target found in any directory can add or remove or modify things just before it gets packaged. Any transformation is permitted. Generally, not much is needed.

You will see various messages if things go wrong:

  1. During the copying process, any files that are missing will be flagged with: ===== WARNING: Distribution Source 'dir/file' Not Found! These must be corrected by either adding the file or removing it from EXTRA_DIST.
  2. If you build the distribution with VERBOSE=1, then you might also see: Skipping non-existent 'dir/file' in certain cases where its okay to skip the file.
  3. The target can fail if any of the things it does fail. Error messages should indicate what went wrong.

This target does exactly what distdir target does, but also includes assembling the tarballs. There are actually four related targets here:


This target checks the distribution. The basic idea is that it unpacks the distribution tarball and ensures that it can build. It takes the following actions:

  1. It depends on the dist-gzip target which, if it hasn't already been built, builds the gzip tar bundle (see dist and distdir above).
  2. removes any pre-existing _distcheckdir at the top level.
  3. creates a new _distcheckdir directory at the top level.
  4. creates a build subdirectory and an install subdirectory under _distcheckdir.
  5. unzips and untars the release tarball into _distcheckdir, creating LLVM-1.7 directory (from the tarball).
  6. in the build subdirectory, it configures with appropriate options to build from the unpacked source tarball into the build directory with installation in the install directory.
  7. runs make all
  8. runs make check
  9. runs make install
  10. runs make uninstall
  11. runs make dist
  12. runs make clean
  13. runs make dist-clean

If it can pass all that, the distribution will be deemed distribution worth y and you will see:

===== LLVM-1.7.tar.gz Ready For Distribution =====

This means the tarball should then be tested on other platforms and have the nightly test run against it. If those all pass, THEN it is ready for distribution.

A note about disk space: using dist-check will easily triple the amount of disk space your build tree is using. You might want to check available space before you begin.



In addition to doing a normal clean, this target will clean up the files and directories created by the distribution targets. In particular the distribution directory (LLVM-X.X), check directory (_distcheckdir), and the various tarballs will be removed. You do this after the release has shipped and you no longer need this stuff in your build tree.

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The LLVM Compiler Infrastructure
Last modified: $Date: 2006/11/20 07:27:32 $