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Whole-function vectorization and conditionals
Author:  Date: 2016-08-15 07:35
Thanks. I was considering the more general case of vectorizing arbitrary functions, including functions with side effects. There is no reason to restrict function-level vectorization to a few hand-written math functions, is it?
As the compiler does not know in general whether a particular function has side effects or can raise exceptions, my point is that the mask could be part of the ABI, just as vector length (implicitly) is. This would enable vectorization-agnostic composition of function calls.

By the way, have you considered the micro-architecture and compiler implications of using a subset of vector registers as masks? It seems to introduce quite a lot of complexity:

- Instructions take up 5 input operands from vector registers (RS, RT, RU, Mask, RD). The old register value RD is required to merge the result.
Supporting 5-input instructions in a wide out-of-order superscalar is out of question with the current state of technology: executing 3 masked vectors instructions/clock would require 15 read ports in the SIMD register file, plus the ports needed for the load/store unit. Worse, making the operation dependent on the former value of the architectural destination register defeats the purpose of register renaming: write-after-read dependencies are still there.
A more acceptable implementation would break down each masked instruction into 2 µops: first a computation on the whole vector, then a merge (I believe that is how Knights Landing and Skylake handle masked AVX-512 instructions). This has a serious performance impact, and still does not completely eliminate write-after-read dependencies.

- The dependency with the old destination value and the merging operation could be avoided when unused lanes are set to 0 instead of the old value. Unfortunately, that information is encoded in the contents of the mask register itself, so the hardware does not know it early enough.

- More generally, masks encode control flow information, while vector registers encode data flow information. They are not needed at the same stages in the pipeline. Execution logic does not need mask (except as an optimization for saving power), and control logic does not need data. Encoding control flow information and data flow information in the same registers makes decoupling these stages much harder.

- From the compiler perspective, having some instructions that can only access a subset of registers makes register allocation much harder.

 
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