An efficient EVM instruction for copying memory areas
|Authors||Alex Beregszaszi (@axic), Paul Dworzanski (@poemm), Jared Wasinger (@jwasinger), Casey Detrio (@cdetrio), Pawel Bylica (@chfast), Charles Cooper (@charles-cooper)|
Table of Contents
Provide an efficient EVM instruction for copying memory areas.
Memory copying is a basic operation, yet implementing it on the EVM comes with overhead.
This was recognised and alleviated early on with the introduction of the “identity” precompile, which accomplishes
memory copying by the use of
CALL’s input and output memory offsets. Its cost is
15 + 3 * (length / 32) gas, plus
the call overhead. The identity precompile was rendered ineffective by the raise of the cost of
CALL to 700, but subsequently
the reduction by EIP-2929 made it slightly more economical.
Copying exact words can be accomplished with
<offset> MLOAD <offset> MSTORE or
<offset> DUP1 MLOAD DUP2 MSTORE,
at a cost of at least 12 gas per word. This is fairly efficient if the offsets are known upfront and the copying can be unrolled.
In case copying is implemented at runtime with arbitrary starting offsets, besides the control flow overhead, the offset
will need to be incremented using
32 ADD, adding at least 6 gas per word.
Copying non-exact words is more tricky, as for the last partial word, both the source and destination needs to be loaded,
masked, or’d, and stored again. This overhead is significant. One edge case is if the last “partial word” is a single byte,
it can be efficiently stored using
As example use case, copying 256 bytes costs:
- at least 757 gas pre-EIP-2929 using the identity precompile
- at least 157 gas post-EIP-2929 using the identity precompile
- at least 96 gas using unrolled
- 27 gas using this EIP
According to an analysis of blocks 10537502 to 10538702, roughly 10.5% of memory copies would have had improved performance with the
availability of an
Memory copying is used by languages like Solidity and Vyper, where we expect this improvement to provide efficient means of building
data structures, including efficient sliced access and copies of memory objects. Having a dedicated
MCOPY instruction would also add
forward protection against future gas cost changes to
CALL instructions in general.
Having a special
MCOPY instruction makes the job of static analyzers and optimizers easier, since the effects of a
CALL in general
have to be fenced, whereas an
MCOPY instruction would be known to only have memory effects. Even if special cases are added
for precompiles, a future hard fork could change
CALL effects, and so any analysis of code using the identity precompile would only
be valid for a certain range of blocks.
Finally, we expect memory copying to be immensely useful for various computationally heavy operations, such as EVM384, where it is identified as a significant overhead.
MCOPY is introduced at
|top - 0||
|top - 1||
|top - 2||
This ordering matches the other copying instructions, i.e.
Per yellow paper terminology, it should be considered part of the
W_copy group of opcodes, and follow the gas calculation for
W_copy in the yellow paper. While the calculation in the yellow paper should be considered the final word, for reference, as of time of this writing, that currently means its gas cost is:
words_copied = (length + 31) // 32 g_verylow = 3 g_copy = 3 * words_copied + memory_expansion_cost gas_cost = g_verylow + g_copy
This instruction returns no stack items.
length bytes from the offset pointed at
src to the offset pointed at
dst in memory.
Copying takes place as if an intermediate buffer was used, allowing the destination and source to overlap.
length > 0 and (
src + length or
dst + length) is beyond the current memory length, the memory is extended with respective gas cost applied.
The gas cost of this instruction mirrors that of other
Wcopy instructions and is
Gverylow + Gcopy * ceil(length / 32).
Production implementation of exact-word memory copying and partial-word memory copying can be found in the Solidity, Vyper and Fe compilers.
With EIP-2929 the call overhead using the identity precompile was reduced from 700 to 100 gas. This is still prohibitive for making the precompile a reasonable alternative again.
This EIP introduces a new instruction which did not exist previously. Already deployed contracts using this instruction could change their behaviour after this EIP.
MCOPY 0 32 32 - copy 32 bytes from offset 32 to offset 0.
pre (spaces included for readability):
gas used: 6
MCOPY 0 0 32 - copy 32 bytes from offset 0 to offset 0.
gas used: 6
MCOPY 0 1 8 - copy 8 bytes from offset 1 to offset 0 (overlapping).
gas used: 6
MCOPY 1 0 8 - copy 8 bytes from offset 0 to offset 1 (overlapping).
gas used: 6
Copyright and related rights waived via CC0.
Please cite this document as:
Alex Beregszaszi (@axic), Paul Dworzanski (@poemm), Jared Wasinger (@jwasinger), Casey Detrio (@cdetrio), Pawel Bylica (@chfast), Charles Cooper (@charles-cooper), "EIP-5656: MCOPY - Memory copying instruction [DRAFT]," Ethereum Improvement Proposals, no. 5656, February 2021. [Online serial]. Available: https://eips.ethereum.org/EIPS/eip-5656.