Combinatorial Register Allocation and Instruction Scheduling

Roberto Castañeda Lozano, Mats Carlsson, Gabriel Hjort Blindell, Christian Schulte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article introduces a combinatorial optimization approach to register allocation and instruction scheduling, two central compiler problems. Combinatorial optimization has the potential to solve these problems optimally and to exploit processor-specific features readily. Our approach is the first to leverage this potential in practice: it captures the complete set of program transformations used in state-of-the-art compilers, scales to medium-sized functions of up to 1,000 instructions, and generates executable code. This level of practicality is reached by using constraint programming, a particularly suitable combinatorial optimization technique. Unison, the implementation of our approach, is open source, used in industry, and integrated with the LLVM toolchain.

An extensive evaluation confirms that Unison generates better code than LLVM while scaling to medium-sized functions. The evaluation uses systematically selected benchmarks from MediaBench and SPEC CPU2006 and different processor architectures (Hexagon, ARM, MIPS). Mean estimated speedup ranges from 1.1% to 10% and mean code size reduction ranges from 1.3% to 3.8% for the different architectures. A significant part of this improvement is due to the integrated nature of the approach. Executing the generated code on Hexagon confirms that the estimated speedup results in actual speedup. Given a fixed time limit, Unison solves optimally functions of up to 946 instructions, nearly an order of magnitude larger than previous approaches.

The results show that our combinatorial approach can be applied in practice to trade compilation time for code quality beyond the usual compiler optimization levels, identify improvement opportunities in heuristic algorithms, and fully exploit processor-specific features.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17
Pages (from-to)17:1-17:53
Number of pages53
JournalACM Letters on Programming Languages and Systems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Combinatorial optimization
  • instruction scheduling
  • register allocation


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