I was inspired by this paper and the following observations to sketch out a model of compositional optimizations that I thought I would share with the community.
- Simple interpretation can be faster than Julia’s per-function JIT for non-hot code paths.
- Julia has done a lot of work to make compilation transparent, but it’s still hard to control/compose directly how optimizations are applied.
- Optimizations are very much type-centric, i.e. dictated by types, rather than a combination of types and algorith/control flow.
I think the idea of using a lazy computation graph combined with scopes to declare and compose, which stops short of using a GUI to interactively apply high-level optimizations as in the paper, might be a viable long-term evolution path for Julia that:
- Addresses unnecessary compilation and the time to first plot issue, since unadorned code can simply be interpreted with Python-like performance.
- Prevents Julia turning into yet another opaque JIT like V8 that seems to be the current direction with interpretation + heuristic JIT application
- Allows domain knowledge to dictate what optimizations are applied at the top.
- Allows new optimizations to be packaged as libraries.
- Optimizations can be written in Julia itself as pattern matches applied to the computation graph.
- Does not intermix the mathematical/algorithmic description of programs versus their implementation using lower-level control flow primitives (for loops, etc.).
- Is more deliberate and avoids pathological cases of having to dig through
@code_warntypeto satisfy the compiler about type stability.
In a nutshell, I think types are a great first step towards giving developers a nice way to negotiate optimization with the compiler but they are not the whole solution.
A tiny code example showing the concept:
@with UnrollLoop(; n=16), ParallelLoop() z = Conv2D(x, y) # nested optimization scope @with OtherOptimization() ... end end
I have written a short blog post on the subject for more context if anyone is interested and would love to hear your thoughts and alternative ideas for extending Julia’s performance and expressiveness.