ffi_pure

The #[ffi_pure] attribute applies clang's pure attribute to foreign functions declarations.

That is, #[ffi_pure] functions shall have no effects except for its return value, which shall not change across two consecutive function calls with the same parameters.

Applying the #[ffi_pure] attribute to a function that violates these requirements is undefined behavior.

This attribute enables Rust to perform common optimizations, like sub-expression elimination and loop optimizations. Some common examples of pure functions are strlen or memcmp.

These optimizations are only applicable when the compiler can prove that no program state observable by the #[ffi_pure] function has changed between calls of the function, which could alter the result. See also the #[ffi_const] attribute, which provides stronger guarantees regarding the allowable behavior of a function, enabling further optimization.

Pitfalls

A #[ffi_pure] function can read global memory through the function parameters (e.g. pointers), globals, etc. #[ffi_pure] functions are not referentially-transparent, and are therefore more relaxed than #[ffi_const] functions.

However, accesing global memory through volatile or atomic reads can violate the requirement that two consecutive function calls shall return the same value.

A pure function that returns unit has no effect on the abstract machine's state.

A #[ffi_pure] function must not diverge, neither via a side effect (e.g. a call to abort) nor by infinite loops.

When translating C headers to Rust FFI, it is worth verifying for which targets the pure attribute is enabled in those headers, and using the appropriate cfg macros in the Rust side to match those definitions. While the semantics of pure are implemented identically by many C and C++ compilers, e.g., clang, GCC, ARM C/C++ compiler, IBM ILE C/C++, etc. they are not necessarily implemented in this way on all of them. It is therefore also worth verifying that the semantics of the C toolchain used to compile the binary being linked against are compatible with those of the #[ffi_pure].