Boost logo

Boost :

Subject: Re: [boost] Abstract STL Container Adaptors
From: Neil Groves (neil_at_[hidden])
Date: 2013-03-14 17:31:48

On Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 9:10 PM, Andy Jost <Andrew.Jost_at_[hidden]> wrote:

> From: Boost [mailto:boost-bounces_at_[hidden]] On Behalf Of Nevin
> Liber
> >> On 14 March 2013 12:20, Andy Jost <Andrew.Jost_at_[hidden]> wrote:
> >>
> >> In some cases, particularly when compile times are more critical than
> >> execution times, it would be preferable to let the caller choose the
> >> set implementation without losing the advantages of separate
> compilation.
> >
> > Do you have any benchmarks to show this isn't in the noise?
> What isn't in the noise? Compile times?
> >> It seems the implementation of this would be a straightforward
> >> application of type erasure. It seems too easy, in fact, which makes
> >> me wonder whether I'm missing something.
> >>
> >
> >*Every* operation becomes slow. Algorithms become really slow, if
> callable at all.
> I don't see how this is justified. The virtual call certainly adds
> overhead, but compared to a normal inlined function it's not a huge amount.
> Algorithms should become slower by a small constant factor.
Virtual functions calls add very appreciable overhead relative to the
numerous small functions that would need runtime polymorphism for the idiom
to work. The overhead is particularly severe with super-scalar processor
architectures. To some this won't be important of course.

It is a justified comment since there have been many older solutions that
used classic runtime polymorphism for containers and iterators. An example
is the ACE containers and iterators. I believe it is widely believed that
this design decision was sub-optimal. The runtime polymorphism on
components such as STL containers would occur at very poorly chosen regions
of the interface.

I suspect the real solution to your problem is to cluster together groups
of classes tightly to the standard library classes, and have these loosely
coupled together as components of your system. This is likely to yield much
better compile-time improvements without sacrificing runtime performance.

> > For instance, if you had a "wrapper" that models a sequence >container,
> what iterator category do you pick for it?
> The iterator category would exactly match that of the underlying
> container. The goal is *not* to abstract away the differences between
> different containers; it is to abstract away the differences between
> different implementations of the same container. So std::std and
> tr1::unordered_set and std::set<...,MyAllocator> can be used
> interchangeably, but not std::set and std::vector.
> >> In any case, is this a good idea?
> >>
> > I can't think of a case I've ever had for choosing the container at run
> time.
> That's not the point. The aim is to compile the algorithm only once. As
> a real-world example (not to far from my scenario) say your project takes
> five minutes on 20 CPUs to compile, and the algorithm in question consumes
> less than 0.0001% of the overall execution time. Wouldn't you take a 10x
> hit in algorithm performance to improve the compile time?
No! My experience is that superior compile-time improvements are available
by other means. It won't give you the best improvement in compile-time and
it will impact runtime performance. This is definitely something we should
discourage as opposed to supporting and implementing in my opinion.

My recommendations for increasing the speed of compilation are:
1. Consider the interface boundaries and the module coupling
2. Check the include directories since bad compile times can be due to an
include path to a network folder or some other horror that is easily
remedied but might go unsuspected.
3. Consider tools such as CCache, DistCC, Icecream
4. Consider changing compiler. The variation in compile-time performance is
huge between different compilers
5. Consider compiler flags and build flags particularly to maximise use of
cores. It is often best to exceed the number of processing cores due to the
ratio of sleep to running times of the tasks.

> -Andy
Neil Groves

Boost list run by bdawes at, gregod at, cpdaniel at, john at