Google Summer of Code is coming to an end. I've spent the summer working on optimizing the VOC compiler, and I’m super excited to share the results.
There are a couple of ways to evaluate the performance improvement from my project.
Firstly, we introduced a microbenchmarking suite. Each microbenchmark is a small piece of Python code that tests a single and specific Python construct, or datatype, or control flow. The benchmarking infrastructure itself is crude (essentially it just tells you the total amount of processor time it took to run, with no fancy statistics) but it has been extremely useful to me while working on performance features to verify performance gain.
The idea is that the benchmarking suite is not to be run as part of the full test suite, but rather as needed and manually whenever an optimization is implemented. It also provides a way to check and prevent performance regression, especially on the "optimized" parts of VOC. While it doesn't really make sense to record specific numbers, as they will always vary from machine to machine, it should be reasonably easy to compare two versions of VOC. Benchmark numbers are included on each optimization-related PR I've worked on this summer (see PR log below), and I hope that more benchmarks will be added as more performance efforts are carried out in the future.
Pystone is a Python Dhrystone, a standard benchmark for testing the performance of Python on a machine. Here are the before and after results on my machine:
May 10th, 2018:
$ python setup.py test -s tests.test_pystone test_pystone (tests.test_pystone.PystoneTest) ... Pystone(1.2) time for 50000 passes = 101.833 This machine benchmarks at 490.998 pystones/second
$ python setup.py test -s tests.test_pystone test_pystone (tests.test_pystone.PystoneTest) ... Pystone(1.2) time for 50000 passes = 101.298 This machine benchmarks at 493.595 pystones/second
$ python setup.py test -s tests.test_pystone test_pystone (tests.test_pystone.PystoneTest) ... Pystone(1.2) time for 50000 passes = 102.247 This machine benchmarks at 489.014 pystones/second
On current master (Aug 14th, 2018):
$ python setup.py test -s tests.test_pystone test_pystone (tests.test_pystone.PystoneTest) ... Pystone(1.2) time for 50000 passes = 11.2300 This machine benchmarks at 4452.37 pystones/second
$ python setup.py test -s tests.test_pystone test_pystone (tests.test_pystone.PystoneTest) ... Pystone(1.2) time for 50000 passes = 10.9833 This machine benchmarks at 4552.36 pystones/second
$ python setup.py test -s tests.test_pystone pystone (tests.test_pystone.PystoneTest) ... Pystone(1.2) time for 50000 passes = 10.9498 This machine benchmarks at 4566.29 pystones/second
Some things that I learned about VOC while working on this project:
1. Object creation in the JVM is expensive. This definitely does not mean that the VOC user writing Python should think about minimizing the number of objects that she creates, but rather that any time we can non-trivially reduce the number of objects created during bytecode transpilation or in VOC-defined function calls, we can expect to see a huge performance boost. Integer and boolean preallocation, which is about reusing objects that have already been created, was one of the most significant improvements we made this summer.
2. Method calls in VOC are expensive. This is essentially due to the process of invoking a callable: you have to check that the method is defined on the object, then construct it (read: object creation!), and check the arguments, before it can actually be called. (This is done using reflection, which is super interesting and confusing in itself.) And this is the reason why refactoring the Python comparison functions made such a big performance impact, because we were able to circumvent this process.
3. Exception-heavy code is expensive. Again, this is not to say that the programmer is on the hook for being frugal when throwing exceptions, but that VOC benefits greatly by avoiding the use of exceptions internally except when strictly necessary. For instance, Python uses StopIteration exceptions to signal the end of a for loop, and they quickly rack up when you have nested loops (everything is ultimately related to object creation!). That was the motivation for the nested loops optimization.
If I may be a bit more reflective here, one of the a-ha! moments I had this summer was realizing that to really optimize something, you have to understand where its biggest problems are first. I remember pitching to Russ at the start of the summer things like loop unrolling, constant folding, even converting to SSA-form (you know, stuff I heard about optimzation in my compilers class) and he was saying to me, think simpler. While working on my project, I used a profiler to understand exactly which parts of VOC were slow, and that information drove the changes we implemented. I think it worked out pretty well!
- Minimize boxing of primitive types like String and Int. As VOC is written half in Python, half in Java, a single integer can be found in various representations on its way through the compiler -- as a Python object, unboxed to a primitive Java int, then packaged back up to a Python object. This problem was (somewhat incoherently) addressed in my proposal, but ultimately we couldn't come up with a good abstraction to support it.
- Build a peephole optimizer. CPython's peephole optimizer scans generated bytecode to identify sequences of bytecode that can be optimized, VOC could benefit from this too.
- Hook up more benchmarks, which serve as both proof of the kinds of programs VOC can currently compile and areas ripe for performance improvement.
I will wrap this up by giving big thanks to Russ, my mentor. The time you spent helping me form my ideas, patiently answering my questions and reviewing my work was invaluable to me. It couldn't have been easy keeping up with what I was doing especially since I started improvising halfway through the summer. I am so grateful for your help, thank you.
PR Log (in chronological order)
Bug Fixes and Miscellaneous
- Fix Method repr
- Fix custom substitutions
- Fix List Bug
- Remove Unnecessary Instruction
- Fix __setitem__ error messages
- Fix contains/not contains bugs and refactor
- Add tests for problematic exception raising
- Add test for with + exception combo
- Add test for wrong iter error message
- Add tests for globals bug
- Remove unnecessary type casts and clean up
- Add test for problematic builtin function call
- Introduce org/python/Object type tests
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- 2018 Google Summer of Code - Implement asyncio support in VOC