[Rd] GC: improving the marking performance for STRSXPs

Andreas Kersting r-deve| @end|ng |rom @ker@t|ng@de
Thu Oct 7 09:33:42 CEST 2021

Hi all,

in GC (in src/main/memory.c), FORWARD_CHILDREN() (called by PROCESS_NODES()) treats STRSXPs just like VECSXPs, i.e. it calls FORWARD_NODE() for all its children. I claim that this is unnecessarily inefficient since the children of a STRSXP can legitimately only be (atomic) CHARSXPs and could hence be marked directly in the call of FORWARD_CHILDREN() on the STRSXP.

Attached patch (atomic_CHARSXP.diff) implements this and gives the following performance improvements on my system compared to R devel (revision 81008):

Elapsed time for two full gc in a session after

x <- as.character(runif(5e7))[]

19sec -> 15sec.

This is the best-case scenario for the patch: very many unique/unmarked CHARSXP in the STRSXP. For already marked CHARSXP there is no performance gain since FORWARD_NODE() is a no-op for them.

The relative performance gain is even bigger if iterating through the STRSXP produces many cache misses, as e.g. after

x <- as.character(runif(5e7))[]
x <- sample(x, length(x))

Elapsed time for two full gc here: 83sec -> 52sec. This is because we have less cache misses per CHARSXP.

This patch additionally also assumes that the ATTRIBs of a CHARSXP are not to be traced because they are just used for maintaining the CHARSXP hash chains.

The second attached patch (atomic_CHARSXP_safe_unlikely.diff) checks both assumptions and calls gc_error() if they are violated and is still noticeably faster than R devel: 19sec -> 17sec and 83sec -> 54sec, respectively.

Attached gc_test.R is the script I used to get the previously mentioned and more gc timings.

Do you think that this is a reasonable change? It does make the code more complex and I am not sure if there might be situations in which the assumptions are violated, even though SET_STRING_ELT() and installAttrib() do enforce them.

Best regards,
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