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Assembly Policy

This document describes when and how to add assembly code to the Go cryptography packages.

In general, the rules are:

  • We prefer portable Go, not assembly. Code in assembly means (N packages * M architectures) to maintain, rather than just N packages.
  • Minimize use of assembly. We'd rather have a small amount of assembly for a 50% speedup rather than twice as much assembly for a 55% speedup. Explain the decision to place the assembly/Go boundary where it is in the commit message, and support it with benchmarks.
  • Use higher level programs to generate non-trivial amounts of assembly, either standalone Go programs or go get-able programs, like avo. Output of other reproducible processes (like formally verified code generators) will also be considered. Discuss the implementation strategy on the issue tracker in advance.
  • Use small, testable units (25–75 lines) called from higher-level logic written in Go. If using small, testable functions called from logic written in Go is too slow, use small, testable assembly units with Go-compatible wrappers, so that Go tests can still test the individual units.
  • Any assembly function needs a reference Go implementation, that’s tested and fuzzed side-by-side with the assembly. Follow golang.org/wiki/TargetSpecific for structure and testing practices.
  • Document in the Go code why the implementation requires assembly (specific performance benefit, access to instructions, etc), so we can reevaluate as the compiler improves.

Last update: March 1, 2022