SCCACHE is a cross-platform tool developed by Mozilla to cache C, C++, Rust, and CUDA compilation units to speed up future compilations.
For various reasons that we will get into soon, SCCACHE does not work when performing Chromium or Electron.js builds on Windows. I’m leading the Desktop Engineering team at Postman, where we run a heavily modified fork of Electron.js suited to our needs. Running Windows builds was proving to be either really slow (due to the lack of SCCACHE support) or really expensive (as we needed to provision incredibly powerful Windows machines to compensate for the lack of a cache).
This article describes my adventure making SCCACHE work on Windows and contributing the results back to Chromium: 9c7622d.
SCCACHE vs Goma
Electron.js used to rely on SCCACHE to perform fast builds on macOS and GNU/Linux. However, it retired SCCACHE support throughout 2020 (see #26701 and #23297) and moved entirely to Goma (see #26324 and #26476), an SCCACHE alternative built by Google. While that sounds great, the main Goma server is hosted by Google, which only offers access to it to core Chromium and Electron.js contributors. While the upstream Electron.js project gets fast builds both locally and on Continuous Integration due to Goma, companies operating Electron.js forks typically cannot get Goma access (mainly for Continuous Integration). Also, running a self-hosted Goma infrastructure is not an easy task compared to the simplicity of SCCACHE.
Forks can continue to make use of SCCACHE for macOS and GNU/Linux on Chromium and Electron.js builds, however SCCACHE results in few cache-hits on Windows despite supporting MSVC as an official compiler. There have been various requests and unsuccessful attempts in both Electron.js (#15090) and Chromium (#787983) to make SCCACHE, or a similar technology, work on Windows. The lack of SCCACHE Windows support was one of the reasons why the Electron.js upstream project eventually moved to Goma.
Profile Guided Optimization (PGO)
PGO is an technique implemented by clang to help the compiler make better
optimization choices based on an existing profile that aims to represent common
runtime execution patterns. If you are curious, you can explore how Chromium
implements PGO support at
Sadly, SCCACHE does not support PGO yet. However, at the time of this writing, there is an open PR to address this feature: #952. Until that PR is merged, we can easily disable PGO support by declaring the following GN argument:
chrome_pgo_phase = 0
/Brepro and deterministic builds
cl.exe MSVC compiler supports an undocumented flag called
that allows the linker to not inject timestamps into the compiled objects to
support deterministic builds.
SCCACHE does not recognize the undocumented
/Brepro flag as a valid compiler
option, and marks the outcome as un-cacheable for safety reasons. There is an
in-progress PR to white-list
this flag in the SCCACHE MSVC definition. Until then, we can disable it.
Interestingly enough, turns out that the
/Brepro flag is automatically
disabled when using
too, as the Goma backend does not support it either.
Similar to other compilers such as GCC, the
cl.exe MSVC compiler can be
configured to output the list of included file paths of the source files to
stderr. The Ninja build system parses this dependency information during the
build process and maintains an internal dependency database,
optimize rebuilds. To perform this task, the
cl.exe compiler officially
/showIncludes option that outputs all include file paths,
including the system ones. To optimize the Ninja internal dependency database,
the clang-cl project introduced a
/showIncludes:user variant that omits
system include paths.
However, SCCACHE does not recognize the possibility of an argument to the
/showIncludes flag in their MSVC compiler implementation, leading to
un-cacheable compilation requests.
We can use the officially supported
/showIncludes flag to make SCCACHE work
and optimize Ninja rebuilds. We pay the cost of parsing and maintaining a
larger dependency database, however that overhead is minimal compared to the
compile speed increase provided by SCCACHE.
Once all the discusses changes are applied, the SCCACHE stats will show that the cache starts getting populated:
Compile requests 27222 Compile requests executed 27222 Cache hits 515 Cache hits (C/C++) 515 Cache misses 26707 Cache misses (C/C++) 26707 Cache timeouts 0 Cache read errors 0 Forced recaches 0 Cache write errors 0 Compilation failures 0 Cache errors 8 Cache errors (C/C++) 8 Non-cacheable compilations 0 Non-cacheable calls 0 Non-compilation calls 0 Unsupported compiler calls 0 Average cache write 0.001 s Average cache read miss 8.813 s Average cache read hit 0.003 s Failed distributed compilations 0
Re-running the build in top of the cache results in a high number of cache hits and a 3x build time improvement in our setup:
Compile requests 27222 Compile requests executed 27222 Cache hits 27218 Cache hits (C/C++) 27218 Cache misses 4 Cache misses (C/C++) 4 Cache timeouts 0 Cache read errors 0 Forced recaches 0 Cache write errors 0 Compilation failures 0 Cache errors 0 Non-cacheable compilations 0 Non-cacheable calls 0 Non-compilation calls 0 Unsupported compiler calls 0 Average cache write 0.000 s Average cache read miss 8.364 s Average cache read hit 0.028 s Failed distributed compilations 0
The Chromium CL landed on a recent version of Chromium that is not consumed by Electron.js yet. However, you can still backport the patch to your Chromium tree, which we are doing for our Electron.js v11 builds.