Library level optimization

We love inlining

In GHC-land, inlining a function is a big deal for performance.

Function application might be cheap:

foo = toUpper

myUpper1 = map foo

But not applying a function at all has to be cheaper:

myUpper2 = map toUpper

List traversal

Here are a couple of classic definitions from the Prelude:

all :: (a -> Bool) -> [a] -> Bool
all p = and . map p

and :: [Bool] -> Bool
and = foldr (&&) True

There's an efficiency problem with the definition of all. Can you spot it?

A rewrite

Why is this more efficient than its predecessor?

all' p = go
where go (x:xs)
| p x = go xs
| otherwise = False
go _ = True

A rewrite

Why is this more efficient than its predecessor?

all' p = go
where go (x:xs)
| p x = go xs
| otherwise = False
go _ = True

The answer: in the original definition, map generates an "intermediate" list that and immediately consumes.

all :: (a -> Bool) -> [a] -> Bool
all p = and . map p

Our rewrite does away with the intermediate list. This can make a big difference to performance.

Back to the inliner

If the inliner can see the body of all', it can expand both all' and p at the callsite.

Given a definition like this:

allUpper = all' isUpper

The inliner could turn it into:

allUpper = go
  where go (x:xs) 
           | isUpper x = go xs
           | otherwise = False
        go _           = True

That's about as efficient as we could hope for.


This business of getting rid of intermediate data structures is called deforestation.

Notice that although our manually deforested loop is efficient, it's harder to follow than this:

allUpper = all' isUpper

Fortunately for us, GHC can do some deforestation automatically.

The build function

For almost 20 years, GHC has been able to deforest compositions of foldr-style primitive recursion.

It does so using a special building block function:

build :: (forall b. (a -> b -> b) -> b -> b) -> [a]
build g = g (:) []

This is called a list producer, and it's never used in real code. Instead, it's a hint to GHC's inliner.

Controlling the inliner

We use a special pragma to give instructions to GHC's inliner:

{-# INLINE [1] build #-}

The simplifier is run repeatedly to perform Core-to-Core transformations.

Each run of the simplifier has a different phase number. The phase number decreases towards zero.

You can use -dverbose-core2core to see the sequence of phase numbers for successive runs of the simplifier.

So INLINE[k] f means "do not inline f until phase k, but from phase k down to zero, be very keen to inline it".

foldr and the inliner

There's a pragma associated with the definition of foldr too:

{-# INLINE [0] foldr #-}

This ensures that foldr will not be inlined until the last stage of the simplifier.

Why would we care about that?

Enter the rewrite rule

GHC allows us to take advantage of Haskell's purity in a novel way: it exposes a rewrite engine that we can use.

{-# RULES "map/map"
forall f g xs. map f (map g xs) = map (f.g) xs

This tells GHC:

Thus we eliminate an intermediate list. Nice!

A rewrite rule for map

{-# RULES "map" [~1]
forall f xs.
map f xs = build $ \c n -> foldr (mapFB c f) n xs

The ~ phase annotation is new. INLINE[~k] f means "be very keen to inline f until (but not including) phase k, but from phase k onwards do not inline it".

(Rewrite rules and the inliner use the same phase annotations.)

What's mapFB?

Η (eta) expansion and mapFB

There's a really simple equivalence we've never talked about:

\x -> f x  == f

This is called η-equivalence (Greek letter "eta").

mapFB :: (elt -> lst -> lst) 
-> (a -> elt)
-> a -> lst -> lst
mapFB c f = \x ys -> c (f x) ys
{-# INLINE [0] mapFB #-}

This mapFB function has the x and ys parameters η-expanded out, and the (:) constructor replaced with c.

(If my recollection is correct) we care about the η-expansion of x and ys because the rewrite engine needs to see all arguments to an expression before it will fire a rule.

The rewrite rule for mapFB

Once we've rewritten map to mapFB, we can fuse repeated map-based traversals together.

{-# RULES "mapFB" 
forall c f g.
mapFB (mapFB c f) g = mapFB c (f.g)

And back to a list again

{-# RULES "mapList" [1] 
forall f.
foldr (mapFB (:) f) [] = map f

This reverses the foldr/mapFB rule from a few slides back.

Okay, but where are we going with all this?

The foldr/build rule

Here's the critical rule to make this rewrite stuff work.

{-# RULES "foldr/build"
forall k z (g :: forall b. (a -> b -> b) -> b -> b) .
foldr k z (build g) = g k z

By now we've seen 4 rewrite rules spread across even more slides. Confused yet? You ought to be!

How it all works

The rules for map work like this (straight from the GHC commentary, no less).

This same pattern is followed by many other functions: append, filter, iterate, repeat, etc.

A worked example, 1

Let's manually apply our rewrite rules to this expression:

map toUpper (map toLower xs)

Applying "map" to the inner expression:

map toUpper (map toLower xs)

-- RULES "map"

map toUpper (build (\c n -> foldr (mapFB c toLower) n xs))

Applying "map" again, this time to the outer expression:

map toUpper (build (\c n -> foldr (mapFB c toLower) n xs)) =

-- RULES "map"

build (\c1 n1 ->
foldr (mapFB c1 toUpper) n1
(build (\c0 n0 ->
foldr (mapFB c0 toLower) n0 xs)))

A worked example, 2

Applying "foldr/build":

build (\c1 n1 -> 
foldr (mapFB c1 toUpper) n1
(build (\c0 n0 ->
foldr (mapFB c0 toLower) n0 xs)))

-- RULES "map"

build (\c1 n1 -> (\c0 n0 -> foldr (mapFB c0 toLower) n0 xs)
(mapFB c1 toUpper) n1)

-- Substitute for c0 and n0

build (\c1 n1 -> foldr (mapFB (mapFB c1 toUpper) toLower) n1 xs)

A worked example, 3

Applying "mapFB":

build (\c1 n1 -> foldr (mapFB (mapFB c1 toUpper) toLower) n1 xs)

-- RULES "mapFB"

build (\c1 n1 -> foldr (mapFB c1 (toUpper . toLower) n1 xs)

Inlining build:

build (\c1 n1 -> foldr (mapFB c1 (toUpper . toLower) n1 xs)) (:) []

-- INLINE build

foldr (mapFB (:) (toUpper . toLower) [] xs)

Applying "mapList":

foldr (mapFB (:) (toUpper . toLower) [] xs)

-- RULES "mapList"

map (toUpper . toLower) xs


This foldr/build business is pretty sweet, BUT... only works for foldr-style loops.'s pretty fragile.

But we know that (strict) left folds are actually very common:

So what's to be done?


A list is an inductively-defined type:

It tells us how to produce more data.

Turning data upside down: coinduction

Here's another way of dealing with the data:

{-# LANGUAGE Rank2Types #-}

data Stream a =
forall s. Stream
(s -> Step s a) -- observer function
!s -- current state

data Step s a = Done
| Skip !s
| Yield !a !s

The Stream type is coinductive. It tells us how to consume more data.

The implementor of the Stream type provides two things:

From lists to streams, and back again

It's easy to convert between lists and streams.

streamList :: [a] -> Stream a
streamList s = Stream next s
where next [] = Done
next (x:xs) = Yield x xs

{-# INLINE [0] streamList #-}
unstreamList :: Stream a -> [a]
unstreamList (Stream next s0) = unfold s0
where unfold !s = case next s of
Done -> []
Skip s' -> unfold s'
Yield x s' -> x : unfold s'

{-# INLINE [0] unstreamList #-}

Left folds over streams

Not only can we easily write a right fold:

{-# LANGUAGE BangPatterns #-}

foldr :: (Char -> b -> b) -> b -> Stream Char -> b
foldr f z (Stream next s0) = go s0
go !s = case next s of
Done -> z
Skip s' -> go s'
Yield x s' -> f x (go s')

{-# INLINE [0] foldr #-}

We can just as simply write a left fold:

foldl' :: (b -> a -> b) -> b -> Stream a -> b
foldl' f z0 (Stream next s0) = go z0 s0
go !z !s = case next s of
Done -> z
Skip s' -> go z s'
Yield x s' -> go (f z x) s'

{-# INLINE [0] foldl' #-}

Streams vs lists

This stream representation is used internally by several modern Haskell packages:

But why?


We use rewrite rules to eliminate intermediate conversions.

stream :: Text -> Stream Char
{-# INLINE [0] stream #-}

unstream :: Stream Char -> Text
{-# INLINE [0] unstream #-}

{-# RULES "STREAM stream/unstream fusion"
forall s.
stream (unstream s) = s

Mapping once again

The map function for Text is defined in terms of the map function over a Stream Char.

import qualified Data.Text.Fusion as S

map :: (Char -> Char) -> Text -> Text
map f t = unstream ( f (stream t))
{-# INLINE [1] map #-}

Why? So we can fuse the intermediate data structures away.

{-# RULES "STREAM map/map fusion" 
forall f g s. f ( g s) = (\x -> f (g x)) s

But why?

We can turn multiple traversals, with intermediate data structures, into a single traversal, with no intermediate structures.

The keys to good performance with streams

We have to get the inliner and rewrite rules firing at exactly the right times, or we lose these nice properties.

That's a subtle business. Fortunately, it's the library writer's job, not that of the user of the library.

On the other hand, users of the library will see the best performance if they know how to exploit its behaviour.

Is stream fusion awesome? Coding

The programming model is most definitely a pain in the ass.

data I s = I1 !s
| I2 !s {-# UNPACK #-} !Char
| I3 !s

intersperse :: Char -> Stream Char -> Stream Char
intersperse c (Stream next0 s0) = Stream next (I1 s0)
next (I1 s) = case next0 s of
Done -> Done
Skip s' -> Skip (I1 s')
Yield x s' -> Skip (I2 s' x)
next (I2 s x) = Yield x (I3 s)
next (I3 s) = case next0 s of
Done -> Done
Skip s' -> Skip (I3 s')
Yield x s' -> Yield c (I2 s' x)
{-# INLINE [0] intersperse #-}

Is stream fusion awesome? Performance

In quite a few cases, for the text library, I ended up writing hand-rolled loops because GHC wasn't doing a good enough job at eliminating heap allocation.

For instance:

drop :: Int -> Text -> Text
drop n t@(Text arr off len)
| n <= 0 = t
| n >= len = empty
| otherwise = loop 0 0
where loop !i !cnt
| i >= len || cnt >= n = Text arr (off+i) (len-i)
| otherwise = loop (i+d) (cnt+1)
where d = iter_ t i
{-# INLINE [1] drop #-}

"TEXT drop -> fused" [~1]
forall n t.
drop n t = unstream (S.drop n (stream t))

"TEXT drop -> unfused" [1]
forall n t.
unstream (S.drop n (stream t)) = drop n t