David.Chase@Eng.Sun.COM (David Chase)
Sat, 4 May 91 09:19:29 PDT

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Inlining David.Chase@Eng.Sun.COM (1991-05-04)
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Newsgroups: comp.compilers
From: David.Chase@Eng.Sun.COM (David Chase)
Keywords: optmize, design
Organization: Compilers Central
References: <> <>
Date: Sat, 4 May 91 09:19:29 PDT

First, there is some literature. Anne Holler recently finished a
dissertation at U Virginia studying inlining, when it works, when it
doesn't (I must confess that I have only read a draft in serious detail).
So there is literature. Mary Wolcott Hall at Rice also spent some time
studying inlining ("compiler torture" is how I heard it described), so
Preston Briggs has some inside information.

But, the conclusion is that *with current register allocation technology*,
register pressure is the big risk, not code bloat in the cache. This
doesn't mean code bloat doesn't happen -- it just means that register
pressure happens first.

In discussions of technology, it is important to separate theory from
practice. Daniel Weise argues that register pressure is no reason to damn
inlining; perhaps the fault lies in the register allocators. It does.
Unfortunately, right now they're the only allocators that we've got, and
improved allocators are of no use to code that has already been compiled.
Register allocators will improve, so these decisions must be reexamined in
the future.

For a real datapoint, the Sun compilers just released do make use of
(automatic) inlining at -O4, and it does help performance (generally --
see below), and tuning it to avoid compiler explosion was not trivial. (I
didn't do this -- I watched Kurt Goebel and Chris Aoki do this.)

Note that the Sparc, if used in the manner described in the ABI, has
features that tend to favor inlining. Inlining (and tail-call
elimination, and leaf-routine optimization) all help reduce churning of
register windows. Also, the SAVE and RESTORE instructions operate on
blocks of 16 (integer) registers, whether you use them or not. Until all
the registers are used, inlining adds no additional (integer) register
pressure (i.e., nothing else needs to be spilled in the procedure prologue
or restored in the epilogue -- this is a slightly different sense of
"register pressure", but I think the idea is clear).

Other architectures probably benefit from inlining for other reasons. The
point is that the exact effects and costs may be very architecture (and
calling-convention) dependent.

If it isn't obvious already, there are so many knobs to twiddle in
compiler and architecture design that few results in the field are
timeless, or even necessarily general.

David Chase

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