Chapter: Multicore Application Programming For Windows, Linux, and Oracle Solaris - Coding for Performance

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The Two Types of Compiler Optimization

There are two fundamental types of optimization: elimination of work or restructuring of work.

The Two Types of Compiler Optimization

 

There are two fundamental types of optimization: elimination of work or restructuring of work. Although there is a huge list of optimizations that can be performed by compilers, all of them resolve to either not doing something or doing something in a more effi-cient way. Consider the snippet of code shown in Listing 2.32.

 

Listing 2.32 Empty Loop

for (int i=0; i<1000; i++) { }

It quite clearly does not perform any useful work; a programmer might have included it as a naïve delay. An optimizing compiler will eliminate the entire loop. Consider the variant of the code shown in Listing 2.33.

 

Listing 2.33 Loop Containing Function Call

for (int i=0; i<1000; i++) { do_nothing(); }

 

Unless the compiler can inspect the body of the function do_nothing() or the pro-grammer has used some other mechanism to indicate to the compiler that the code does nothing, then the compiler will have to leave this loop in the code.

 

Listing 2.34 shows another code snippet.

 

Listing 2.34 Loop Containing Floating-Point Arithmetic

double total=0.0;

 

for (int i=0; i<1000; i++) { total = total + 1.0;}

 

Although a human would determine that the code is equivalent to adding 1,000 to the floating-point variable total, a compiler may perform all the individual additions. This is in case there is some side effect from the floating-point computation that a different part of the code is watching for. For example, there might be a floating-point exception handler that gets triggered by the computation of this loop. By default, some compilers cannot eliminate this code, but when given suitable compiler flags, the com-piler will remove the loop. This is a demonstration that the compiler needs to be given appropriate instructions by the user in order for it to perform all the optimizations that it is capable of.

 

The other fundamental type of optimization is an improvement in the efficiency of the operations. In the section “Array Access Patterns,” we saw a potential example where the compiler could interchange two loops in order to improve the pattern of memory accesses. This improved the performance of the code by reducing the memory access costs. Another example of this improvement in the efficiency of the code is where one operation can be replaced by a less expensive one. This is called strength reduction. A good demonstration of strength reduction is replacing integer division by a power of two with a shift operation. The code in Listing 2.35 contains an integer division by two.

 

Listing 2.35 Code with Opportunity for Optimization

unsigned int b;

 

...

 

unsigned int a = b/2;

An integer division by two can be replaced by a shift right operation, as shown in Listing 2.36.

 

Listing 2.36 Code After Optimization

unsigned int b;

 

...

 

unsigned int a = b>>1;

Another common optimization is to replace conditional code with logical operations. The performance gains come from the ease with which the processor is able to execute the resulting code. The improved sequence may eliminate branch instructions, therefore eliminating branch misprediction stalls, or maybe the new sequence needs fewer instruc-tions. Listing 2.37 shows code with an opportunity for the replacement of conditional code with logical operations.

 

Listing 2.37   Conditional Code

if ( (value & 1) == 1 )

 

{

 

odd = 1;

 

}

 

Else

{

 

odd = 0;

 

}

The code shown in Listing 2.37 can be replaced by the equivalent code shown in Listing 2.38.

 

Listing 2.38   Logical Operations

odd = value & 1;


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