Fusing loops by specializing on functions with SpecConstr?

Alexis King lexi.lambda at gmail.com
Sun Mar 29 08:38:31 UTC 2020

Hi all,

I have recently been toying with FRP, and I’ve noticed that
traditional formulations generate a lot of tiny loops that GHC does
a very poor job optimizing. Here’s a simplified example:

    newtype SF a b = SF { runSF :: a -> (b, SF a b) }

    add1_snd :: SF (String, Int) (String, Int)
    add1_snd = second add1 where
      add1 = SF $ \a -> let !b = a + 1 in (b, add1)
      second f = SF $ \(a, b) ->
        let !(c, f') = runSF f b
        in ((a, c), second f')

Here, `add1_snd` is defined in terms of two recursive bindings,
`add1` and `second`. Because they’re both recursive, GHC doesn’t
know what to do with them, and the optimized program still has two
separate recursive knots. But this is a missed optimization, as
`add1_snd` is equivalent to the following definition, which fuses
the two loops together and consequently has just one recursive knot:

    add1_snd_fused :: SF (String, Int) (String, Int)
    add1_snd_fused = SF $ \(a, b) ->
      let !c = b + 1
      in ((a, c), add1_snd_fused)

How could GHC get from `add1_snd` to `add1_snd_fused`? In theory,
SpecConstr could do it! Suppose we specialize `second` at the call
pattern `second add1`:

    {-# RULE "second/add1" second add1 = second_add1 #-}

    second_add1 = SF $ \(a, b) ->
      let !(c, f') = runSF add1 b
      in ((a, c), second f')

This doesn’t immediately look like an improvement, but we’re
actually almost there. If we unroll `add1` once on the RHS of
`second_add1`, the simplifier will get us the rest of the way. We’ll
end up with

    let !b1 = b + 1
        !(c, f') = (b1, add1)
    in ((a, c), second f')

and after substituting f' to get `second add1`, the RULE will tie
the knot for us.

This may look like small potatoes in isolation, but real programs
can generate hundreds of these tiny, tiny loops, and fusing them
together would be a big win. The only problem is SpecConstr doesn’t
currently specialize on functions! The original paper, “Call-pattern
Specialisation for Haskell Programs,” mentions this as a possibility
in Section 6.2, but it points out that actually doing this in
practice would be pretty tricky:

> Specialising for function arguments is more slippery than for
> constructor arguments. In the example above the argument was a
> simple variable, but what if it was instead a lambda term? [...]
> The trouble is that lambda abstractions are much more fragile than
> constructor applications, in the sense that simple transformations
> may make two abstractions look different although they have the
> same value.

Still, the difference this could make in a program of mine is so
large that I am interested in exploring it anyway. I am wondering if
anyone has investigated this possibility any further since the paper
was published, or if anyone knows of other use cases that would
benefit from this capability.


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