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This is a collection of thoughts/ideas on the placement-by-return RFC.


These are the applications that I think this feature can be used for if extended appropriately:

  1. creating (allocating + initializing) large objects,
  2. reliably ensuring RVO,
  3. allow creation without introducing new APIs
  4. allow creation to be fallible,
  5. allow creation of pinned data,
  6. allow creation of self-referential data.

Some of these points are already implemented (1.) and some are addressed in the RFC as problems (2., 3. and 4.).

Now I will go over each point and present motivation for that feature along with a possible solution:

Point 2: Lack of explicity


Users of this feature want to reliably know when RVO kicks in and when not. When working in an embedded/kernel/systems programming environment, allocations on the stack might be tightly constrained 1.

RFC’s solution

RFC names lints as the solution to this problem, but I do not think that this will be a particularly good solution:

New solution

I would propose adding a way to tell the compiler that one would like to enable RVO on a certain function. It could be an attribute on the function itself, a keyword or some other kind of marker on the return type:

pub fn new() -> MyStruct {
    MyStruct { ... }

This way the compiler

Additionally, this allows the feature to be

The optimizer would of course still be allowed to do RVO on other functions, but it would not be guaranteed.


Users will have to manually specify the attribute, new users could end up confused (without the attribute, they would be in the dark, this can be viewed as better or worse, depending on how you want to see it). This would also require existing code which wants RVO to be augmented with the attribute.

Point 3: No new APIs

This point has already been addressed by the RFC in this section. Illustrating example from the RFC:

impl<T> Vec<T> {
    fn push(&mut self, lazy value: T);


I believe the need for new APIs to be a huge disadvantage. Most users will not need to care, if their functions do emplacement or not. The people who do care will be able to look up the documentation of create_large_data/Vec::push and see #[in_place]/lazy and thus conclude that RVO is applied. There could be a new lint that would warn when a value returned by a #[in_place] function is copied and if the place it is copied to is the parameter of a crate-local function the compiler could suggest adding lazy to that parameter.

lazy would of course not be allowed on all parameters, because we should prevent the following footgun:

impl<T> Vec<T> {
    pub fn push(&mut self, lazy value: T) {
        //              ^^^^^ error this lazy value is being evaluated on the
        //                    stack, defeating the purpose of lazy.
        //                    help: mark `value` of `inner_push` as lazy

    fn inner_push(&mut self, value: T);

lazy would also allow the following pattern together with #[in_place]:

pub struct WithBuf<T> {
    data: T,
    buf: [u8; 1000_000_000],

impl<T> WithBuf<T> {
    pub fn new(lazy data: T) -> Self {
        Self {
            buf: [0; 1000_000_000]

let buf_buf = Box::new(WithBuf::new([1; 1000_000_000]));

Point 4: Fallible creation


Systems programming must be able to handle the rarest and most obscure errors. Usersland programs most often choose to panic in these situations, but in the kernel this is not an option. One such error is the out of memory error when trying to allocate e.g. driver state. This state could live on the heap, but might also store data that is itself on the heap at a different location. It is necessary to allocate in the initializer and it might thus fail.

RFC’s discussion

The RFC mentions splitting the tag from the union and achieving that via different ways:

solution advantages disadvantages
change the ABI of all enums, storing the tag in a register/in pointer metadata - breaking change, this almost seems like a non-starter
only change the ABI of returning enums to store the tag separately less breakage still a breaking change, RFC postpones solving this issue

New solution

Add a new function call ABI that is used when returning an enum from a #[in_place] function. This ABI returns the tag in a register and places the union part as usual in the caller supplied slot. An example:

pub struct Data<T> {
    data: T,
    buf: Box<[u8; 1000_000_000]>
impl<T> Data<T> {
    pub fn new(lazy data: T) -> Result<Self, AllocError> {
        Ok(Self {
            buf: Box::try_new([0; 1000_000_000])?,

fn main() -> Result<(), AllocError> {
    let data = Box::try_new(Data::new(fetch_data())?)?;
fn handle_data(data: &Data<[u32; 1000_000]>);
fn fetch_data() -> [u32; 1000_000];

The compiler would allow exiting early from functions with lazy parameters when the expression supplied as the parameter consists only of functions that are #[in_place]. Result would need to be changed to allow T, E: ?Sized and all unwrap functions be marked #[in_place] (as well as pattern matching adjusted).

I am not really satisfied with this solution. It is relying too much on compiler magic to make things work. We could also only allow this optimization for Result and immediate unwrap*/? calls. As that will be the main usage.

Point 5: Pinned data


In the linux kernel the synchronization primitives (e.g. mutex) need to be pinned, because they contain self-referential data structures (this section is about initializing pinned data, not self-referential data structures, see the next section for that). Because these need to be pinned, any type containing Mutex<T> (the safe wrapper) needs to be also be pinned. One could solve this problem by using a rust specific mutex without pinning, adding an additional indirection through Pin<Box<Mutex<T>>>. But these solutions are not fitting for the strict performance requirements the kernel has.

The solution

Introduce a new attribute/keyword similar to #[in_place] named #[pin_in_place]. It ensures that values yielded by the marked function will always be pinned (during and after initialization). This can only be applied to functions with a !Unpin return type. There also needs to be a way to mark parameters as compatible with this attribute. For this post I am going to use the same attribute, but on the parameter. These parameters of course also need to be lazy. So Box::try_pin would look like this:

impl<T> Box<T> {
    pub fn try_new(#[pin_in_place] lazy data: T) -> Result<Pin<Self>, AllocErr>;

The implementation for Box will probably need to be special. Other uses of #[pin_in_place] on a parameter will need to be delegated to functions with also #[pin_in_place] on that parameter. Also core::pin::Pin::pin! should allow the creation on the stack. Additionally some unsafe way to circumvent the compiler check would need to be made available.

Point 6: Self referential data


As already mentioned in the last section, the kernel has self referential types almost everywhere. It would be great to be able to initialize the Mutex purely via rust (at the moment a C function is being called, I do not think this will change any time soon, but the ability to do this in rust would be useful elsewhere).

The solution

In a function without a receiver parameter and that is marked #[pin_in_place] users are able to use self. It will have *mut $ret as the type where $ret is the return type of the function. This can be combined with general field projection 2 to easily point to fields from self. I think that at some point we could change its type to Pin<UninitPtr<$ret>>, but that does not exist yet (and nice ergonomics for a type like it also do not). Functions that have a receiver type are also excluded for the time being, but additional syntax could alleviate this (or one would write a helper function with an explicit this: &Self or similar).

A bigger problem would be the integration with returning an enum and the feature from section 4. In this function:

impl MyStruct {
    pub fn new() -> Result<Self, AllocError> {
        Ok(Self {
            data: Box::try_new(...)?,
            buf: [0; 1000],
            buf_ptr: &raw const self.buf,
            pin: PhantomPinned,

self should have type *mut Self, but with the current behavior it would have *mut Result<Self, AllocError>, but this pointer would actually point to a union with Self and AllocError as fields due to the enum optimization from section 4. I do not have a good idea of how to fix this, maybe

Smaller problem collection

Unnecessarily strict “bad” example

From the guide level explanation there is this example labeled as “bad”:

fn bad() -> Struct2 {
    let q = Struct { ... }
    Struct2 { member: q }

I believe that it stands in direct conflict with the section absolutely minimum viable copy elision. It should be possible to use slot.member as the memory location of q. Instead the following pattern should be labeled as “bad”:

fn bad(uncontrolled_param: bool) -> Struct2 {
    let mut p = Struct { ... };
    let mut q = Struct { ... };
    foo(&mut p, &mut q);
    Struct2 {
        member: if uncontrolled_param { p } else { q },

Because the compiler would not be able to assign both p and q to the same memory location.


This was a bit of a random collection of ideas that I had to improve placement by return, as I am working on making pinned initialization in the kernel free of unsafe. Most of these ideas need more fleshing out before they can be added to the RFC. I hope that we can achieve safe pinned initialization together with this, because I think that these problems are connected.

If you are interested in learning more about kernel initialization, you can participate in the zulip discussion. Or take a look at the repository.


  1. View this issue for more. 

  2. I believe that such a feature will be much easier to implement than this, so we could rely on it, and if not users will just have to use unsafe in the meantime.