Developer Guide and Reference

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SIMD-Enabled Function Pointers

SIMD-enabled functions (formerly called elemental functions) are a general language construct to express a data parallel algorithm. A SIMD-enabled function is written as a regular C/C++ function, and the algorithm within describes the operation on one element, using scalar syntax. The function can then be called as a regular C/C++ function to operate on a single element or it can be called in a data parallel context to operate on many elements.
In some cases it is desirable to have a pointer for SIMD-enabled functions, but without special effort, the vector nature of a function will be lost: function pointers will point to the scalar function and there will be no way to call the short vector variants existing for this scalar function.
In order to support indirect calls to vector variants of SIMD-enabled functions, SIMD-enabled function pointers were introduced. A SIMD-enabled function pointer is a special kind of pointer incompatible with a regular function pointer. They refer to an entire set of short vector variants as well as the scalar function. This incompatibility incurs the risk of inappropriate misuse, especially in C++ code. Therefore vector function pointer support is disabled by default.

How SIMD-Enabled Function Pointers Work

When you write a SIMD-enabled function, the compiler generates short vector variants of the function that you requested, which can perform your function's operation on multiple arguments in a single invocation. The short vector variants may be able to perform multiple operations as fast as the regular implementation performs just one such operation by utilizing the vector instruction set architecture (ISA) in the CPU. When a call to SIMD-enabled function occurs in a SIMD loop or another SIMD-enabled function, the compiler replaces the scalar call with the best fit short vector variant of the function among those available.
Indirect SIMD-enabled function calls are handled similarly, but the set of available variants should be associated with the function pointer variable, not the target function, because actual call targets are unknown at the indirect call. That means all SIMD-enabled functions to be referenced by a SIMD-enabled function pointer should have a set of variants that match the set of variants declared for the pointer.

Declaring a SIMD-Enabled Function Pointer Variable

In order for the compiler to generate a pointer to a SIMD-enabled function, you need to provide an indication in your code.
Windows*:
Use the
__declspec(vector (
clauses
))
attribute, as follows:
__declspec(vector (clauses)) return_type (*function_pointer_name) (parameters)
Linux:
Use the
__attribute__((vector (
clauses
)))
attribute, as follows:
__attribute__((vector (clauses))) return_type (*function_pointer_name) (parameters)
Alternately, you can use OpenMP*
#pragma omp declare simd
, which requires the
[q or Q]openmp
or
[q or Q]openmp-simd
compiler option.
The clauses are described in the previous topic on SIMD-enabled functions.

Usage of Vector Function Attributes on Pointers

You may associate several vector attributes with one SIMD-enabled function pointer which reflects all the variants available for the target functions to be called through the pointer. The attributes usually reflect a possible use of the function pointer in the loops. Encountering an indirect call, the compiler matches the vector variants declared on the function pointer with the actual parameter kinds and chooses the best match. Matching is done exactly the same way as with direct calls (see the previous topic on SIMD-enabled functions). Consider the following example of the declaration of vector function pointers and loops with indirect calls.
Example: OpenMP*
// pointer declaration #pragma omp declare simd // universal but slowest definition matches the use in all three loops #pragma omp declare simd linear(in1) linear(ref(in2)) uniform(mul) // matches the use in the first loop #pragma omp declare simd linear(ref(in2)) // matches the use in the second and the third loops #pragma omp declare simd linear(ref(in2)) linear(mul) // matches the use in the second loop #pragma omp declare simd linear(val(in2:2)) // matches the use in the third loop int (*func)(int* in1, int& in2, int mul); int *a, *b, mul, *c; int *ndx, nn; ... // loop examples for (int i = 0; i < nn; i++) { c[i] = func(a + i, *(b + i), mul); // in the loop, the first parameter is changed linearly, // the second reference is changed linearly too // the third parameter is not changed } for (int i = 0; i < nn; i++) { c[i] = func(&a[ndx[i]], b[i], i + 1); // the value of the first parameter is unpredictable, // the second reference is changed linearly // the third parameter is changed linearly } #pragma omp simd for (int i = 0; i < nn; i++) { int k = i * 2; // during vectorization, private variables are transformed into arrays: k->k_vec[vector_length] c[i] = func(&a[ndx[i]], k, b[i]); // the value of the first parameter is unpredictable, // the second reference and value can be considered linear // the third parameter has unpredictable value // (the __declspec(vector(linear(val(in2:2)))) will be chosen from the two matching variants) }
Before any use in a call, the function pointer should be assigned either the address of a function or another function pointer. Just as with function pointers, vector function pointers should be compatible at assignment and initialization. The compatibility rules are described below.

Vector Function Pointer Compatibility

Pointer assignment compatibility is defined as following:
  1. If a SIMD-enabled function pointer is assigned the address of a function, the function should be compatible with the pointer in the usual C/C++ sense, it should be SIMD-enabled, and the set of vector variants declared for the function should be a superset of those declared for the pointer. This includes initializations and passing addresses of SIMD-enabled functions as parameters.
  2. If a SIMD-enabled function pointer is assigned another function pointer, the source pointer should be compatible with the destination function pointer in the general C/C++ sense, it should be SIMD-enabled, and the set of vector variants declared for the source pointer should be exactly the same as those declared for destination pointer. This includes initializations and passing SIMD-enabled function pointers as parameters.
  3. If a regular (non-SIMD-enabled) function pointer is assigned the address of a SIMD-enabled function, the address of a scalar function is assigned. Vector variants cannot be called through the pointer and it cannot be reinterpreted as or converted into a SIMD-enabled function pointer as discussed in rule 2.
  4. If a regular (non-SIMD-enabled) function pointer is assigned a SIMD-enabled function pointer matching in the C/C++ sense, the implicit dynamic casting of the right-hand side of the assignment (RHS) is performed by extracting the address of a scalar function and this address is assigned. Vector variants cannot be called through these pointers and it cannot be reinterpreted as or converted into a SIMD-enabled function pointer as discussed in rule 2.
SIMD-enabled function pointers and regular function pointers are binary-incompatible and handled differently. Mixing them may lead to severe unpredictable results. The compiler does its best to check compatibility where it is allowed by C/C++ language standards, but in certain cases it cannot check, such as passing function pointers to undeclared functions or as variable arguments. It is best to refrain from using SIMD-enabled function pointers in these contexts. Additional complexities with respect to the C++ type system are described in the
SIMD-Enabled Function Pointers and the C++ Type System
section below.
A SIMD-enabled function pointer may be assigned to a scalar function pointer with a cast as described in rule 4 above, but a SIMD-enabled function pointer cannot refer to a scalar function pointer.
Examples of Declarations and Assignments: OpenMP*
// pointer declarations #pragma omp declare simd int (*ptr1)(int*, int); #pragma omp declare simd int (*ptr1a)(int*, int); #pragma omp declare simd #pragma omp declare simd linear(a) typedef int (*fptr_t2)(int* a, int b); typedef int (*fptr_t3)(int*, int); fptr_t2 ptr2, ptr2a; fptr_t3 ptr3; // function declarations #pragma omp declare simd int func1(int* x, int b); #pragma omp declare simd #pragma omp declare simd linear(x) int func2(int* x, int b); #pragma omp declare simd #pragma omp declare simd linear(x) int func3(float* x, int b); //-------------------------------------- // allowed assignments ptr1 = func1; // same prototype and vector spec ptr2 = func2; // same prototype and vector spec ptr1a = ptr1; // same prototype and vector spec ptr1a = func2; // same prototype vector spec on function includes all vector spec on pointer ptr3 = func1; // scalar pointer with same prototype - use scalar func1 ptr3 = func2; // scalar pointer with same prototype - use scalar func2 ptr3 = ptr1; // scalar pointer with same prototype - implicit conversion from vector to scalar pointer ptr3 = ptr2; // scalar pointer with same prototype - implicit conversion from vector to scalar pointer // disallowed assignments ptr2 = func1; // vector spec on function does not have all specs on pointer ptr2 = func3; // prototype mismatch although vector spec matched ptr1 = func3; // prototype mismatch although vector spec matched ptr3 = func3; // prototype mismatch ptr1 = ptr2; // pointers should have the same vector spec ptr2 = ptr3; // pointers should have the same vector spec

Call Sequence

Unlike regular function calls, which transfer control to a target function, the call target of an indirect call depends on the dynamic content of the function pointer. In a loop, call targets may be different on different iterations of a vectorized loop or on different lanes of a SIMD-enabled function executing the call. When vectorized, such an indirect call may involve multiple calls to different targets within a single SIMD chunk. This works as follows:
  1. If the vector function pointer is uniform
    (refer to the OpenMP* specification)
    or if it can be determined to be uniform by the compiler, then multiple calls are not needed. The compiler makes a single indirect call to a matched vector variant accessible by the pointer.
  2. If the vector function pointer is not known to be uniform at compile time, all values of the pointer in a SIMD chunk may still be the same. This is checked at run time and a single indirect call to a matched vector variant is invoked.
  3. Otherwise, lanes sharing the same function pointer value (call target) are masked-in and a masked vector variant corresponding to the matched one is invoked in the loop for each unique call target. If the masked variant is not provided for the matching vector variant and the function pointer is not proven to be uniform by compiler the match will be rejected and the compiler may serialize the call, or in other words, generate several scalar calls.
Example: OpenMP*
// pointer typedefs #pragma omp declare simd typedef int (*fptr_t1)(int*, int); // function declarations #pragma omp declare simd int func1(int* x, int b); // uses of vector function pointers fptr_t1 *fptr_array; // array of vector function pointers void foo(int N, int *x, int y){ fptr_t1 ptr1 = func1; #pragma omp simd for (int i = 0; i < N; i++) { ptr1(x+i, y); // ptr1 is uniform by OpenMP rule. fptr_t1 ptr1a = ptr1; ptr1a(x+i, y); // compiler can prove ptr1a is uniform. fptr_t1 ptr1b = fptr_array[i]; ptr1b(x+i,y); // ptr1b may or may not be uniform. } }

SIMD-Enabled Function Pointers and the C++ Type System

Use caution when using SIMD-enabled function pointers in modern C++: C++ imposes strict requirements on compilation and execution environments which may not compose well with semantically-rich language extensions such as SIMD-enabled function pointers. Vector specifications on SIMD-enabled function pointers are attributes in C++11 sense and so are not part of a pointer type even though they make that pointer binary incompatible with another pointer of the same type but without the attribute. Vector specifications are not bound to a pointer type, but instead are bound to the variable or function argument (which is an instance of a pointer type) itself. For a given function pointer, the type of the pointer is the same with or without SIMD-enabled function pointer decoration. This has the following important implications:
  • Vector attributes put on a function argument are not reflected in C++ name mangling, so the functions differ only in the vector attributes of a functional pointer argument (or lack thereof) will have the same name and will be treated the same by the C++ linker. This may result in a parameter of incorrect vectorness (having the vector attribute or not) being passed into the function. In some cases there is no way for the compiler to detect this situation, so you're strongly encouraged to distinctly name functions having SIMD-enabled function pointers as parameters.
  • The incorrect interpretation of function pointers is extremely dangerous because it may lead to the execution of unwanted code or non-code. To identify these situations the compiler issues the following warning if a vector function pointer is used as a C++ function parameter:
    Warning #3757: this use of a vector function type is not fully supported
    . If you are sure that no ambiguity is possible—for example, the function accepting the vector function pointer has a distinct name and is fully declared before all uses—you may ignore this warning. Otherwise, ensure that no ambiguity is possible.
  • Template instantiations having SIMD-enabled pointer types as template parameters won't catch vector attributes. The template will be instantiated a parameter matching the non-SIMD-enabled pointer type. All variables, class members, and function arguments bound to the template argument type will be regular function pointers. The use of such templates with a SIMD-enabled function pointer as a template function parameter, template class method parameter, or RHS of template class member assignment will lead to a dynamic cast to the non-SIMD-enabled function pointer and loss of vectorness.
  • There is no way to overload or achieve template specialization by the vector attributes of a functional pointer
  • There is no way to write functional traits to capture vector attributes for the sake of template metaprogramming.
Examples: OpenMP*
// pointer typedefs and pointer declarations typedef int (*fptr_t)(int*, int); #pragma omp declare simd typedef int (*fptr_t1)(int*, int); #pragma omp declare simd #pragma omp declare simd linear(x) typedef int (*fptr_t2)(int* a, int b); fptr_t ptr fptr_t1 ptr1 fptr_t2 ptr2 // function prototype that only differs in SIMD-enabled function decoration // All these will have identical mangled names. void foo(fptr_t); void foo(fptr_t1); void foo(fptr_t2); // template instantiation template <typename T> void bar(T); … bar(fptr); // bar<fptr_t> bar(fptr1); // bar<fptr_t> bar(fptr2); // bar<fptr_t>

Indirect Invocation of a SIMD-Enabled Function with Parallel Context

Typically, the invocation of a SIMD-enabled function directly or indirectly provides arrays wherever scalar arguments are specified as formal parameters.
The following invocations will give instruction-level parallelism by having the compiler issue special vector instructions.
Example: OpenMP*
#pragma omp declare simd float (**vf_ptr)(float, float); //operates on the whole extent of the arrays a, b, c a[:] = vf_ptr[:] (b[:],c[:]); // use the full array notation construct to also specify n // as an extend and s as a stride a[0:n:s] = vf_ptr[0:n:s] (b[0:n:s],c[0:n:s]);
The array notation syntax, as well as calling the SIMD-enabled function from the regular
for
loop, results in invoking the short vector variant in each iteration and utilizing the vector parallelism but the invocation is done in a serial loop, without utilizing multiple cores.

Product and Performance Information

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Performance varies by use, configuration and other factors. Learn more at www.Intel.com/PerformanceIndex.