Introduction

Hyperscan is a software regular expression matching engine designed with high performance and flexibility in mind. It is implemented as a library that exposes a straightforward C API.

The Hyperscan API itself is composed of two major components:

Compilation

These functions take a group of regular expressions, along with identifiers and option flags, and compile them into an immutable database that can be used by the Hyperscan scanning API. This compilation process performs considerable analysis and optimization work in order to build a database that will match the given expressions efficiently.

If a pattern cannot be built into a database for any reason (such as the use of an unsupported expression construct, or the overflowing of a resource limit), an error will be returned by the pattern compiler.

Compiled databases can be serialized and relocated, so that they can be stored to disk or moved between hosts. They can also be targeted to particular platform features (for example, the use of Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions 2 (Intel® AVX2) instructions).

See Compiling Patterns for more detail.

Scanning

Once a Hyperscan database has been created, it can be used to scan data in memory. Hyperscan provides several scanning modes, depending on whether the data to be scanned is available as a single contiguous block, whether it is distributed amongst several blocks in memory at the same time, or whether it is to be scanned as a sequence of blocks in a stream.

Matches are delivered to the application via a user-supplied callback function that is called synchronously for each match.

For a given database, Hyperscan provides several guarantees:

  • No memory allocations occur at runtime with the exception of two fixed-size allocations, both of which should be done ahead of time for performance-critical applications:
    • Scratch space: temporary memory used for internal data at scan time. Structures in scratch space do not persist beyond the end of a single scan call.
    • Stream state: in streaming mode only, some state space is required to store data that persists between scan calls for each stream. This allows Hyperscan to track matches that span multiple blocks of data.
  • The sizes of the scratch space and stream state (in streaming mode) required for a given database are fixed and determined at database compile time. This means that the memory requirements of the application are known ahead of time, and these structures can be pre-allocated if required for performance reasons.
  • Any pattern that has successfully been compiled by the Hyperscan compiler can be scanned against any input. There are no internal resource limits or other limitations at runtime that could cause a scan call to return an error.

See Scanning for Patterns for more detail.

Tools

Some utilities for testing and benchmarking Hyperscan are included with the library. See Tools for more information.

Example Code

Some simple example code demonstrating the use of the Hyperscan API is available in the examples/ subdirectory of the Hyperscan distribution.