Yi Li bio photo

Yi Li

Associate Professor

College of Computing and Data Science (CCDS)
Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

Address: Block N4-02b-63
50 Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798
Phone: +65 6790 4287

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Demystifying Performance Regressions in String Solvers

Yao Zhang, Xiaofei Xie, Yi Li, Yun Lin, Sen Chen, Yang Liu, and Xiaohong Li

IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, 2023

Abstract: Over the past few years, SMT string solvers have found their applications in an increasing number of domains, such as program analyses in mobile and Web applications, which require the ability to reason about string values. A series of research has been carried out to find quality issues of string solvers in terms of its correctness and performance. Yet, none of them has considered the performance regressions happening across multiple versions of a string solver. To fill this gap, in this paper, we focus on solver performance regressions (SPRs), i.e., unintended slowdowns introduced during the evolution of string solvers. To this end, we develop SPRFinder to not only generate test cases demonstrating SPRs, but also localize the probable causes of them, in terms of commits. We evaluated the effectiveness of SPRFinder on three state-of-the-art string solvers, i.e., Z3Seq, Z3Str3, and CVC4. The results demonstrate that SPRFinder is effective in generating SPR-inducing test cases and also able to accurately locate the responsible commits. Specifically, the average running time on the target versions is 13.2× slower than that of the reference versions. Besides, we also conducted the first empirical study to peek into the characteristics of SPRs, including the impact of random seed configuration for SPR detection, understanding the root causes of SPRs, and characterizing the regression test cases through case studies. Finally, we highlight that 149 unique SPR-inducing commits were discovered in total by SPRFinder, and 27 of them have been confirmed by the corresponding developers.


  author = {Zhang, Yao and Xie, Xiaofei and Li, Yi and Lin, Yun and Chen, Sen and Liu, Yang and Li, Xiaohong},
  journal = {IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering},
  month = mar,
  number = {3},
  pages = {947--961},
  title = {Demystifying Performance Regressions in String Solvers},
  volume = {49},
  year = {2023}