osgx osgx - 2 months ago 11
C Question

learning sample of likely() and unlikely() compiler hints

How can I demonstrate for students the usability of

likely
and
unlikely
compiler hints (
__builtin_expect
)?

Can you write an sample code, which will be several times faster with these hints comparing the code without hints.

Answer

Here is the one I use, a really inefficient implementation of the Fibonacci numbers:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <inttypes.h>
#include <time.h>
#include <assert.h>

#define likely(x) __builtin_expect((x),1)
#define unlikely(x) __builtin_expect((x),0)

uint64_t fib(uint64_t n)
{
    if (opt(n == 0 || n == 1)) {
        return n;
    } else {
        return fib(n - 2) + fib(n - 1);
    }
}

int main(int argc, char **argv)
{
    int i, max = 45;
    clock_t tm;

    if (argc == 2) {
        max = atoi(argv[1]);
        assert(max > 0);
    } else {
        assert(argc == 1);
    }

    tm = -clock();
    for (i = 0; i <= max; ++i)
        printf("fib(%d) = %" PRIu64 "\n", i, fib(i));
    tm += clock();

    printf("Time elapsed: %.3fs\n", (double)tm / CLOCKS_PER_SEC);
    return 0;
}

To demonstrate, using GCC:

~% gcc -O2 -Dopt= -o test-nrm test.c
~% ./test-nrm
...
fib(45) = 1134903170
Time elapsed: 34.290s

~% gcc -O2 -Dopt=unlikely -o test-opt test.c
~% ./test-opt
...
fib(45) = 1134903170
Time elapsed: 33.530s

A few hundred milliseconds less. This gain is due to the programmer-aided branch prediction.

But now, for what the programmer should really be doing instead:

~% gcc -O2 -Dopt= -fprofile-generate -o test.prof test.c
~% ./test.prof 
...
fib(45) = 1134903170
Time elapsed: 77.530s  /this run is slowed down by profile generation.

~% gcc -O2 -Dopt= -fprofile-use -o test.good test.c
~% ./test.good
fib(45) = 1134903170
Time elapsed: 17.760s

With compiler-aided runtime profiling, we managed to reduce from the original 34.290s to 17.760s. Much better than with programmer-aided branch prediction!