Section: Scientific Foundations

Dynamic parallelization and optimization, virtual machine

Participants : Philippe Clauss, Alain Ketterlin, Vincent Loechner, Benoît Pradelle, Alexandra Jimborean.

This link in the programming chain has become essential with the advent of the new multicore architectures. Still being considered as secondary with mono-core architectures, dynamic analysis and optimization are now one of the keys for controling those new mechanisms complexity. From now on, performed instructions are not only dedicated to the application functionalities, but also to its control and its transformation, and so in its own interest. Behaving like a computer virus, such a process should rather be qualified as a “vitamin”. It perfectly knows the current characteristics of the execution environment and owns some qualitative information thanks to a behavior modeling process (issue 2). It appends a significant part of optimizing ability compared to a static compiler, while observing live resources availability evolution.

State of the art

Dynamic analysis and optimization, that is to say simultaneous to the program execution, have motivated a growing interest during the last decade, mainly because of the hardware architectures and applications growing complexity. Indeed, it has become more and more difficult to anticipate any program run simply from its source code, either because its control structures introduce some unknown objects before run (dynamic memory allocation, pointers, ...), or because the interaction between the target architecture and the program generates unpredictable behaviors. This is notably due to the appearance of more optimizing hardware units (prefetching units, speculative processing, code cache, branch prediction, etc.). With multicore architectures, this interest is growing even more. Works achieved in this area for mono-core processors have permitted to establish some classification of the so-called dynamic approaches, either based on the used methodologies or on the objectives.

The first objective for any dynamic approach is to extract some live information at runtime relying on a profiling process. This essential step is the main objective of issue 2 (see sub-section 3.3 ).

Identifying some “hotspots” thanks to profiling is then used for performance improvement optimizations. Two main approaches can be distinguished:

  • the profile-guided approach, where analysis and optimization of profile information are performed off-line, that is to say statically. A first run is only performed to extract information for driving a re-compilation. Related to this approach, iterative compilation consists in running a code that has been transformed following different optimization possibilities (nature and sequencing of the applied optimizations), and then in re-compiling the transformed code guided by the collected performance information, and so on until obtaining a “best” program version. In order to promote a rapid convergence towards a better solution, some heuristics or some machine learning mechanisms are used [22] , [64] , [63] . The main drawback of such approaches relates to the quality of the generated code which depends on the reference profiled execution, and more precisely on the used input data set, but also on the used hardware.

  • the on-the-fly approach consists in performing all steps at each run (profiling, analysis and transformation). The main constraint of this approach is that the time overhead has to be widely compensated by the benefits it generates. Several works propose such approaches dedicated to specific optimizations. We personally successfully implemented a dynamic data prefetching system for the Itanium processor [1] .

Although all these works provided some efficient dynamic mechanisms, their adaptation to multicore architectures yields difficult issues, and even challenges them. It is indeed necessary to control interactions between simultaneous tasks, imposing an additional complexity level which can be fateful for a dynamic system, while becoming too costly in time and space.

Some dynamic parallelizing techniques have been proposed in the last years. They are mainly focusing on parallelizing loop-nests, as programs generally spend most of their execution time in iterative structures.

The LRPD test [67] is certainly one of the foundation strategies. This method consists in speculatively parallelizing loops. Privatization and reduction transformations are applied to promote a successful application of the strategy. During execution, some tests are performed to verify the speculation validity. In case of invalid speculation, the targeted loop is re-executed sequentially. However, the application range is limited to loops accessing arrays; pointers cannot be handled. Moreover the method is not fully dynamic since an initial static analysis is needed.

In [34] , Cintra and Llanos present a speculative parallel execution mechanism for loops, where iteration chunks are executed in sliding windows of n threads. The loops are not transformed and the sequential schedule remains as a reference to define a total order on the speculative threads. In order to verify whether some dependencies are violated during the program run, all data structures qualified as speculative, that is to say those being accessed in read-write mode by the threads, are duplicated for each thread and tagged following those states: not accessed, modified, exposed loaded or exposed loaded and later modified. For example, a read-after-write dependency has been violated if a thread owns a data tagged as exposed loaded or exposed loaded and modified, and if a predecessor thread, following the sequential total order, owns the same data but tagged as modified or exposed loaded and modified, while this data has not yet been committed in main memory. Such an approach can be memory-costly as each shared data structure is duplicated. It can be tricky to adjust verification frequencies to minimize time overhead. Some other methods based on the same principle of verifying speculation relatively to the sequential schedule have been proposed recently as in [71] , where each iteration of a loop is decomposed into a prologue, a speculative body and an epilogue. The speculative bodies are performed in parallel and each body completion induces a verification. This approach seems to be only well suited for loops which bodies represent significant computation time.

Another recent work is the development of SPICE [66] which is a speculative parallelizing system where an entire first run of a loop is initially observed. This observation serves in determining the values reached by some variables during the run. During a next run of the loop, several speculative threads are launched. They consider as initial values of some variables the values that have been observed at the previous run. If a thread reaches the starting value of another thread, it stops. Thus each thread performs a different portion of the loop. But if the loop behavior changes and if another thread starting value is never reached, the run goes on sequentially until completion.

The main limits of these propositions are:

  • they do not alter the initial sequential schedule since always contiguous instruction blocks are speculatively parallelized;

  • their underlying parallelism is out of control: the characteristics of the generated parallel schedule are completely unknown since they randomly depend on the program instructions, their dependencies and the target machine. If bad performance is encountered, no other parallelization solution can be proposed. Moreover, the effective instruction schedule occurring at program run can significantly vary from one run to another, hence leading to a confusing performance inconsistency.

A strategy that would uniquely be based on a transactional memory mechanism, with rollbacks in the case of data races, yields a totally uncontrolable parallelism where performance can not be ensured and not even strongly expected.

While being based on efficient prediction mechanisms, a better control over parallelization will permit to provide solutions that are well suited to a varying execution context and to parallelize portions of code that can be parallelized only in some particular context. It is indeed crucial to maximize the potential parallelism of the applications to take advantage of the forthcoming processors comprising several tens of cores.

General objective: building a virtual machine

As it has already been mentioned, dynamic parallelization and optimization can take place inside a virtual machine. All the research objectives that are presented in the following are related to its construction.

Notice that the term of “virtual machine” is employed to group a set of dynamic analysis and optimization mechanisms taking as input a binary code, eventually enriched with specific instructions. We refer to a process virtual machine which main role is dynamic binary optimization from one instruction set to the same instruction set. The taxonomy given in [70] includes this kind of virtual machine.

Notice that this virtual machine can run in parallel on the processor cores during the four initial phases (see figure 2 ), but also simultaneously to the target application, either by sharing some cores with light processes, or by using cores that are useless for the target application. It will also support a transactional memory mechanism, if available. However the foreseen parallelizing strategies do not depend on such a mechanism since our speculative executions are supposed to be as reliable as possible thanks to efficient prediction models, and since they are supported by a specific and higher level rollback mechanism. Anyway if available, a transactional memory mechanism would allow to take advantage of “nearly perfect” prediction models.

The virtual machine takes as input an intermediate code expressing several kinds of parallelism on several code extracts. Those kinds of parallelism are either effective, that is to say that the corresponding parallel execution is obviously semantically correct, or hypothetical, that is to say that there is still some uncertainty on the parallelism correctness. In this case, this uncertainty will have to be resolved at run time. This intermediate “multi-parallel” code is generated by the static parallelization described subsection 3.2 . It also contains generic descriptions of parallelizing or optimizing transformations which parameters will have to be instanciated by the virtual machine, thanks to its knowledge about the target architecture and the program run-time behavior.

Figure 2. The virtual machine

Adaptation of the intermediate code to the target architecture

The virtual machine first phase is to adapt this intermediate code to the target multicore architecture. It consists in answering the following questions:

  • What is the suitable kind of parallelism?

  • What is the suitable parallel task granularity?

  • What is the suitable number of parallel tasks?

  • Can we take advantage of a specialized instruction set for some operations?

  • What are the parameter values for some parallelization or optimization?

The multi-parallel intermediate code exhibits different parameters allowing to adapt some parallelizing and optimizing transformations to the target architecture. For example, a loop unrolling will be parametrized by the number of iterations to be unrolled. This number will depend, for example, on the number of available registers and the size of the instruction cache. A parallelizing transformation will depend on several possible parallel instruction schedules. One or several schedules will be selected, for example, depending on the kind of memory hierarchy and the cache sharing among cores.

Concerning hypothetical parallelism, this first phase will reduce the number of these propositions to solutions that are well suited to the target architecture. This phase also instruments the intermediate code in order to install the dynamic mechanisms related to profiling and speculative parallel execution.

High level parallelization and native code creation

From these target architecture related adaptations, a parallel intermediate code is generated. It contains instructions that are specific to the dynamic optimizing and parallelizing mechanisms, i.e., instrumentation instructions to feed the profiling process as well as calls to speculative execution management procedures. A translation into native code executable by the target processor follows. This translation also allows to keep trace of the code extracts that have to be modified during the run.

Low level parallelization

The binary version of the code exhibits new parallelism and optimization sources that are specific to the instruction set and to the target architecture capabilities. Moreover, some dynamic optimizations are dedicated to specific instructions, or instruction blocks, as for example the memory reads which time performances can be dynamically improved by data prefetching [1] . Thus the binary code can be transformed and instrumented as well.

Distribution, execution and profiling

The so built executable code is then distributed among the processor cores to be run. During the run, the instrumentation instructions feed the profiler with information for execution monitoring and for behavior models construction (see subsection 3.3 ). An accurate knowledge of the binary code, thanks to the control of its generation, also permits at this step to dynamically control the insertion or deletion of some instrumentation instructions. Indeed it is important to manage execution monitoring through sampling based instrumentations in varying frequencies, following the changing behavior frequency (see in [1] and [76] a description of this kind of mechanism), as such instrumentations necessarily induce overheads that have to be minimized.

Re-parallelization, thread mutation or rollback

Depending on the information collected from instrumentation, and depending on the built prediction models, the profiling phase causes a re-transformation of some code parts, thus causing the mutation of the concerned threads. Such re-transformation is done either on the binary code whether it consists in low level and small modifications, as for example the adjustement of a data prefetching distance, or on the intermediate code if it consists in a complete modification of the parallelizing strategy. For example, such a processing will follow the observation of a bad performance, or of a change in the computing resources availability, or will be caused by the completion of a dependency prediction model allowing the generation of a speculative parallelization. From such a speculative execution, a re-transformation can consist in rolling back to a sequential execution version when the considered hypothetical parallelism, and thus the associated prediction model, has been evaluated wrong.