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Copyright (c) 2019 OpenPOWER Foundation
Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.
You may obtain a copy of the License at
Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS,
See the License for the specific language governing permissions and
limitations under the License.
<chapter version="5.0" xml:lang="en" xmlns="" xmlns:xi=""
xmlns:xlink="" xml:id="section_techniques">
<!-- Chapter Title goes here. -->
<title>Vector Programming Techniques</title>
<title>Help the Compiler Help You</title>
The best way to use vector intrinsics is often <emphasis>not to
use them at all</emphasis>.
This may seem counterintuitive at first. Aren't vector
intrinsics the best way to ensure that the compiler does exactly
what you want? Well, sometimes. But the problem is that the
best instruction sequence today may not be the best instruction
sequence tomorrow. As the Power ISA moves forward, new
instruction capabilities appear, and the old code you wrote can
easily become obsolete. Then you start having to create
different versions of the code for different levels of the
Power ISA, and it can quickly become difficult to maintain.
Most often programmers use vector intrinsics to increase the
performance of loop kernels that dominate the performance of an
application or library. However, modern compilers are often
able to optimize such loops to use vector instructions without
having to resort to intrinsics, using an optimization called
autovectorization (or auto-SIMD). Your first focus when writing
loop kernels should be on making the code amenable to
autovectorization by the compiler. Start by writing the code
naturally, using scalar memory accesses and data operations, and
see whether the compiler autovectorizes your code. If not, here
are some steps you can try:
<emphasis role="underline">Check your optimization
level</emphasis>. Different compilers enable
autovectorization at different optimization levels. For
example, at this writing the GCC compiler requires
<code>-O3</code> to enable autovectorization by default.
<emphasis role="underline">Consider using
<code>-ffast-math</code></emphasis>. This option assumes
that certain fussy aspects of IEEE floating-point can be
ignored, such as the presence of Not-a-Numbers (NaNs),
signed zeros, and so forth. <code>-ffast-math</code> may
also affect precision of results that may not matter to your
application. Turning on this option can simplify the
control flow of loops generated for your application by
removing tests for NaNs and so forth. (Note that
<code>-Ofast</code> turns on both -O3 and -ffast-math in
<emphasis role="underline">Align your data wherever
possible</emphasis>. For most effective auto-vectorization,
arrays of data should be aligned on at least a 16-byte
boundary, and pointers to that data should be identified as
having the appropriate alignment. For example:
<programlisting> float fdata[4096] __attribute__((aligned(16)));</programlisting>
ensures that the compiler can use an efficient, aligned
vector load to bring data from <code>fdata</code> into a
vector register. Autovectorization will appear more
profitable to the compiler when data is known to be
You can also declare pointers to point to aligned data,
which is particularly useful in function arguments:
<programlisting> void foo (__attribute__((aligned(16))) double * aligned_fptr)</programlisting>
<emphasis role="underline">Tell the compiler when data can't
overlap</emphasis>. In C and C++, use of pointers can cause
compilers to pessimistically analyze which memory references
can refer to the same memory. This can prevent important
optimizations, such as reordering memory references, or
keeping previously loaded values in memory rather than
reloading them. Inefficiently optimized scalar loops are
less likely to be autovectorized. You can annotate your
pointers with the <code>restrict</code> or
<code>__restrict__</code> keyword to tell the compiler that
your pointers don't "alias" with any other memory
references. (<code>restrict</code> can be used only in C
when compiling for the C99 standard or later.
<code>__restrict__</code> is a language extension, available
in GCC, Clang, and the XL <phrase revisionflag="added">and
Open XL</phrase> compilers, that can be used without
restriction for both C and C++. See your compiler's user
manual for details.)
Suppose you have a function that takes two pointer
arguments, one that points to data your function writes to, and
one that points to data your function reads from. By
default, the compiler may believe that the data being read
and written could overlap. To disabuse the compiler of this
notion, do the following:
<programlisting> void foo (double *__restrict__ outp, double *__restrict__ inp)</programlisting>
<title>Use Portable Intrinsics</title>
If you can't convince the compiler to autovectorize your code,
or you want to access specific processor features not
appropriate for autovectorization, you should use intrinsics.
However, you should go out of your way to use intrinsics that
are as portable as possible, in case you need to change
compilers in the future.
This reference provides intrinsics that are guaranteed to be
portable across compliant compilers. In particular, the <phrase
revisionflag="changed">GCC, Clang, and Open XL</phrase>
compilers for Power implement the intrinsics in
this manual. The compilers may each implement many more
intrinsics, but the ones in this manual are the only ones
guaranteed to be portable. So if you are using an interface not
described here, you should look for an equivalent one in this
manual and change your code to use that.
Where an intrinsic may not be available from all compilers or at
all ISA levels, this information is called out in the
description of the intrinsic in <xref
linkend="VIPR.reference.vecfns" />.
There are also other vector APIs that may be of use to you (see
<xref linkend="VIPR.techniques.apis" />). In particular, the
Power Vector Library (see <xref
linkend="VIPR.techniques.pveclib" />) provides additional
portability across compiler and ISA versions, as well as
interfaces that hide cases where assembly language is needed.
<title>Use Assembly Code Sparingly</title>
Sometimes the compiler will absolutely not cooperate in giving
you the code you need. You might not get the instruction you
want, or you might get extra instructions that are slowing down
your ideal performance. When that happens, the first thing you
should do is report this to the compiler community! This will
allow them to get the problem fixed in the next release of the
compiler. See <xref linkend="VIPR.intro.reporting" /> if you
need to report an issue.
In the meanwhile, though, what are your options? As a
workaround, your best option may be to use assembly code. There
are two ways to go about this. Using inline assembly is
generally appropriate only for very small snippets of code (1-5
instructions, say). If you want to write a whole function in
assembly code, though, it is better to create a separate
<code>.s</code> or <code>.S</code> file. The only difference in
these two file types is that a <code>.S</code> file will be
processed by the C preprocessor before being assembled.
Assembly programming is beyond the scope of this manual.
Getting inline assembly correct can be quite tricky, and it is
best to look at existing examples to learn how to use it
properly. However, there is a good introduction to inline
assembly in <emphasis>Using the GNU Compiler
Collection</emphasis>, in section 6.47 at the time of this
writing. Felix Cloutier has also written a very nice guide.
See <xref linkend="VIPR.intro.links" />.
If you write a function entirely in assembly, you are
responsible for following the calling conventions established by
the ABI (see <xref linkend="VIPR.intro.links" />). Again, it is
best to look at examples. One place to find well-written
<code>.S</code> files is in the <phrase
revisionflag="changed">GNU C Library project (see <xref
linkend="VIPR.intro.links" />).</phrase> You can also
study the assembly output from your favorite compiler, which can
be obtained with the <code>-S</code> or similar option, or by
using the <emphasis role="bold">objdump</emphasis> utility:
<para revisionflag="added">
<programlisting> objdump -dr &lt;binary or object file&gt;</programlisting>
<section xml:id="VIPR.techniques.apis">
<title>Other Vector Programming APIs</title>
<para>In addition to the intrinsic functions provided in this
reference, programmers should be aware of other vector programming
API resources.</para>
<title>x86 Vector Portability Headers</title>
Recent versions of the <phrase revisionflag="changed">GCC,
Clang, and Open XL</phrase> compilers
for Power provide "drop-in" portability headers for portions
of the <phrase revisionflag="changed"><trademark
class="registered">Intel</trademark></phrase> Architecture
Instruction Set Extensions (see <xref
linkend="VIPR.intro.links" />). These headers mirror the APIs
of Intel headers having the same names. As of this writing,
support is provided for the MMX and SSE layers, up through
SSE3 and portions of SSE4. No support for the AVX layers is
envisioned. The portability headers are available starting
with GCC 8.1 and Clang 9.0.0.
The portability headers provide the same semantics as the
corresponding Intel APIs, but using VMX and VSX instructions
to emulate the Intel vector instructions. It should be
emphasized that these headers are provided for portability,
and will not necessarily perform optimally (although in many
cases the performance is very good). Using these headers is
often a good first step in porting a library using Intel
intrinsics to Power, after which more detailed rewriting of
algorithms is usually desirable for best performance.
Access to the portability APIs occurs automatically when
including one of the corresponding Intel header files, such as
<code>&lt;mmintrin.h&gt;</code>. <phrase
revisionflag="added">To enable the portability headers, you
must compile with
<section xml:id="VIPR.techniques.pveclib">
<title>The Power Vector Library (pveclib)</title>
<para>The Power Vector Library, also known as
<code>pveclib</code>, is a separate project available from
<phrase revisionflag="changed">GitHub</phrase> (see <xref
linkend="VIPR.intro.links" />). The
<code>pveclib</code> project builds on top of the intrinsics
described in this manual to provide higher-level vector
interfaces that are highly portable. The goals of the project
Providing equivalent functions across versions of the
Power ISA. For example, the <emphasis>Vector
Multiply-by-10 Unsigned Quadword</emphasis> operation
introduced in Power ISA 3.0 (POWER9) can be implemented
using a few vector instructions on earlier Power ISA
Providing equivalent functions across compiler versions.
For example, intrinsics provided in later versions of the
compiler can be implemented as inline functions with
inline asm in earlier compiler versions.
Providing higher-order functions not provided directly by
the Power ISA. One example is a vector SIMD implementation
for ASCII <code>__isalpha</code> and similar functions.
Another example is full <code>__int128</code>
implementations of <emphasis>Count Leading
Zeroes</emphasis>, <emphasis>Population Count</emphasis>,
and <emphasis>Multiply</emphasis>.