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Re: [Caml-list] mark_slice, sweep_slice, oldify
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Date: 2001-09-19 (16:40)
From: Damien Doligez <Damien.Doligez@i...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] mark_slice, sweep_slice, oldify
>From: Marco Maggesi <maggesi@math.unifi.it>

>With the aid of gprof I noticed that my program spends most of the time
>of the computation in three functions `mark_slice', `sweep_slice' and
>`oldify' (see below the output of gprof obtained after the computation
>of some products of polynomials).

>What does this exactly mean?  This is the generational garbage
>collector, right?  May I low the cost of GC?

As Xavier said, "oldify" is the minor collector and "mark_slice" and
"sweep_slice" are the major collector.  Spending 17% of your time in
"oldify" is not shockingly bad.  Spending 45% in the major collector
is a lot higher than normal.

>I do not pretend a precise answer.  Simply tell me what I have to look
>or study to understand which operation stress the GC more and which not.

It is not really operations that stress the GC, but the behavior of
your programs with respect to data structures, so it is always a bit
hard to understand what is going on exactly.

The default GC parameters are a compromise between speed and memory
use, and there is no way to make them optimal for all programs.  If
you want more speed (in exchange for more memory "wasted"), there are
mainly two parameters that you can change: minor_heap_size and

Increasing minor_heap_size will reduce the time spent by both the
minor GC and the major GC.  The default is 32768 words, and depending
on your machine and the behaviour of your program, it can be
reasonable to increase it to 250000, or even to a few millions.  It is
often (but not always) better to keep it small enough to fit in
the cache of your machine.

Increasing space_overhead will reduce the time spent in the major GC.
The default is 42 percent.  If your program uses 100 megabytes of data
structures, then the GC will (on average) use an additional 42
megabytes of memory (you can think of it as a buffer for allocations;
the larger the buffer, the less work the GC has to do).  It can be
reasonable to increase space_overhead to 100 or 200, again depending
on the amount of memory in your machine and the behaviour of your

It may also be interesting to increase major_heap_increment if the
program uses a lot of memory (which seems to be true in your case).
By increasing it, you reduce the number of times that add_to_heap is
called.  The default value is 62k words.

To have a better idea of what's going on, you need to use the Gc
module of the standard library.  You should print the GC statistics at
the end of your program.  The most important figure is the ratio of
promoted_words to minor_words.  This should be as small as possible.
If it is more than 10%, you'll spend too much time in the GC (both
minor and major).  Increasing minor_heap_size often helps in this case.

Please send me mail if the above hints are not enough to solve your

-- Damien
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