[P4-design] P4 Formal semantics?

Rosu, Grigore grosu at illinois.edu
Mon Oct 17 17:30:05 EDT 2016

Dear P4 Designers,

I have a PhD student who is looking for a topic and, after some discussion with Nikolaj Bjorner, we think that defining a formal semantics to P4 could be a timely and useful project.  Note that we would do it using the K framework (http://kframework.org), so the semantics would immediately yield a series of formal analysis tools for P4, such as simulator/interpreter, symbolic execution, bounded model checking, symbolic model checking, and even a deductive verifier.  Our overall paradigm is explained on this wikipage: http://fsl.cs.illinois.edu/index.php/Programming_Language_Design_and_Semantics.

The main question right now is whether you think this is a worthwhile thing to do right now, or we should better wait a bit longer until things stabilize.  On the other hand, note that giving a formal semantics in K is a rather lightweight process, nothing comparable with doing the same thing in Coq or Isabelle (for example, it took only 4 months to define the K semantics of JavaScript ES5), so it can be used as an active means to even design P4 itself.  So in case we go ahead with it, it would be great if some of you would like to get involved as well, to make sure we stay on the right track.  My student would do most of the K "coding", but you and I would supervise him to make sure he is doing the right thing right.


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