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Re: Q: float arrays
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Date: -- (:)
From: Xavier Leroy <Xavier.Leroy@i...>
Subject: Re: Q: float arrays

> Trying to quantify to cost of handling arrays of tuples instead of 
> multiple "parallel" arrays, i recently came to some results, which at 
> first sight, seems a little surprising.

> What i cannot understand is that map2 seems to be slower than
> map_pairs (in the range 1->2 in native compiled mode). The few i
> know about the Caml compiler is that it doesnt boxe floats in
> arrays.

The bytecode compiler keeps floats boxed in arrays, so there is no
essential difference between an array of pairs of floats and two float
arrays. (The array of pairs entails one extra indirection and is less
space efficient, but has better locality.)

The native-code compiler unboxes floats in arrays. But unboxing is a
double-edged sword. When the float array is accessed as a float
(e.g. to perform arithmetic on it), unboxed arrays are a big win.
When the float array is accessed as a Caml value (e.g. to pass to
another function, or from a piece of polymorphic code), the unboxed
float needs to be boxed first to convert it to a regular Caml value,
and this is expensive.

Your map2 function actually performs two boxing operations at each
iteration, because the two float elements are passed to a function. It
also has to test dynamically the kind of the array (float
vs. non-float), because it's a polymorphic function.  This explains
why it's slower than map on an array of pairs (which involves no
boxing, just 3 indirections per iteration)

If you inline the "*." operation in map2, all boxing will be
eliminated (and all dynamic tests as well, since the function is now
monomorphic), and you'll get much better performance than what can be
obtained with an array of pairs:

 let product f a a' =
   let l = length a in
   if ( length a' != l ) then invalid_arg "product" else
   if l = 0 then [||] else begin
     let r = create l (f(unsafe_get a 0)(unsafe_get a' 0)) in
     for i = 1 to l - 1 do
       unsafe_set r i (unsafe_get a i *. unsafe_get a' i)

Polymorphism and higher-order functions don't mix well with high
performance. If you need Fortran-like performance, there are cases
where you must write Fortran-style code.

- Xavier Leroy