Parallel Programming in Multicore OCaml

This tutorial will help you get started with writing parallel programs in Multicore OCaml. All the code examples along with their corresponding dune file are available in the code/ directory. The tutorial is organised into the following sections:

Introduction

Multicore OCaml is an extension of OCaml with native support for Shared-Memory Parallelism (SMP) through Domains and Concurrency through Algebraic Effects. It is slowly, but steadily being merged to the OCaml trunk. Domains-only Multicore is expected to land first, followed by Algebraic Effects.

Concurrency is how we partition multiple computations such that they can run in overlapping time periods rather than strictly sequentially. Parallelism is the act of running multiple computations simultaneously, primarily by using multiple cores on a multicore machine. The Multicore Wiki has comprehensive notes on the design decisions and current status of Concurrency and Parallelism in Multicore OCaml.

The Multicore OCaml compiler ships with a concurrent major and a stop-the-world minor garbage collector (GC). The parallel minor GC doesn't require any changes to the C API, thereby not breaking any associated code with C API. The Multicore bits of the compiler are actively being integrated with the mainstream OCaml compiler with some PRs already merged into its trunk. OCaml 5.0 is expected to land with support for Shared-Memory Parallelism and Algebraic Effects in later releases. A historical variant of the Multicore minor garbage collector is the concurrent minor collector. Benchmarking experiments showed better results in terms of throughput and latency on the stop-the-world parallel minor collector, hence that's chosen to be the default minor collector on Multicore OCaml, and the concurrent minor collector is not actively developed. For the intrigued, details on the design and evaluation of the Multicore GC and compiler are in our academic publications.

The Multicore ecosystem also has the following libraries to complement the compiler:

  • Domainslib: data and control structures for parallel programming
  • Lockfree: lock-free data structures (list, hash, bag and queue)
  • Reagents: composable lock-free concurrency library for expressing fine grained parallel programs on Multicore OCaml
  • Kcas: multi-word compare and swap library

Find ways to profitably write parallel programs in Multicore OCaml. The reader is assumed to be familiar with OCaml. If not, they are encouraged to read Real World OCaml. The effect handlers' story is not covered here. For anyone interested, please check out this tutorial and some examples.

Installation

The latest Multicore compiler version (4.12) can be obtained from multicore-opam. Installation instructions for the Multicore compiler and parallel programming library domainslib can be found here.

It will also be useful to install utop on your Multicore switch by running opam install utop, which should work out of the box.

Compiler Variants and Compatibility

4.12.0+domains with support for domains-only Parallelism. This branch is close to whatโ€™s intended to be shipped with OCaml 5.0. It maintains compatibility with ppx and related libraries.

4.12.0+domains+effects with support for Parallelism and Algebraic Effects.

Domains

Domains are the basic unit of Parallelism in Multicore OCaml.

let square n = n * n

let x = 5
let y = 10

let _ =
  let d = Domain.spawn (fun _ -> square x) in
  let sy = square y in
  let sx = Domain.join d in
  Printf.printf "x = %d, y = %d\n" sx sy

Domain.spawn creates a new execution process that runs along with the current domain.

Domain.join d blocks until the domain d runs to completion. If the domain returns a result after its execution, Domain.join d also returns that value. If it raises an uncaught exception, that is thrown. When the parent domain terminates, all other domains also terminate. To ensure that a domain runs to completion, we have to join the domain.

Note that the square of x is computed in a new domain and that of y in the parent domain.

To create its corresponding dune file, run this code:

(executable
  (name square_domain)
  (modules square_domain))

Make sure to use a Multicore switch to build this and all other subsequent examples in this tutorial.

To execute the code:

$ dune build square_domain.exe
$ ./_build/default/square_domain.exe
x = 25, y = 100

As expected, the squares of x and y are 25 and 100.

Common Error Message

Some common errors while compiling Multicore code are:

Error: Unbound module Domain
Error: Unbound module Atomic
Error: Library "domainslib" not found.

These errors usually mean that the compiler switch used is not a Multicore switch. Using a Multicore compiler variant should resolve them.

Domainslib

Domainslib is a parallel programming library for Multicore OCaml. It provides the following APIs which enable easy ways to parallelise OCaml code with only a few modifications to sequential code:

  • Task: Work stealing task pool with async/await Parallelism and parallel_{for, scan}
  • Channels: Multiple Producer Multiple Consumer channels which come in two flavoursโ€”bounded and unbounded

Domainslib is effective in scaling performance when parallelisable workloads are available.

Task.pool

In the Domains section, we saw how to run programs on multiple cores by spawning new domains. We often find ourselves spawning and joining new domains numerous times in the same program, if we were to use that approach for executing code in parallel. Creating new domains is an expensive operation, so we should attempt to limit those when possible. Task.pool allows execution of all parallel workloads in the same set of domains spawned at the beginning of the program. Here is how they work:

Note: If you are running this on utop, run #require "domainslib" with the hash before this.

# open Domainslib

# let pool = Task.setup_pool ~num_additional_domains:3
val pool : Task.pool = <abstr>

We have created a new task pool with three new domains. The parent domain is also part of this pool, thus making it a pool of four domains. After the pool is setup, we can use it to execute all tasks we want to run in parallel. The setup_pool function requires us to specify the number of new domains to be spawned in the task pool. Ideally, the number of domains used to initiate a task pool will match the number of available cores. Since the parent domain also takes part in the pool, the num_additional_domains parameter should be one less than the number of available cores.

Although not strictly necessary, we highly recommended closing the task pool after execution of all tasks. This can be done as follows:

# Task.teardown_pool pool

This deactivates the pool, so it's no longer usable. Make sure to do this only after all tasks are done.

Parallel_for

In the Task API, a powerful primitive called parallel_for can be used to parallelise computations used in for loops. It scales well with very little change to the sequential code.

Consider the example of matrix multiplication.

First, write the sequential version of a function which performs matrix multiplication of two matrices and returns the result:

let matrix_multiply a b =
  let i_n = Array.length a in
  let j_n = Array.length b.(0) in
  let k_n = Array.length b in
  let res = Array.make_matrix i_n j_n 0 in
  for i = 0 to i_n - 1 do
    for j = 0 to j_n - 1 do
      for k = 0 to k_n - 1 do
        res.(i).(j) <- res.(i).(j) + a.(i).(k) * b.(k).(j)
      done
    done
  done;
  res

To make this function run in parallel, one might be inclined to spawn a new domain for every iteration in the loop, which would look like:

  let domains = Array.init i_n (fun i ->
    Domain.spawn(fun _ ->
      for j = 0 to j_n - 1 do
        for k = 0 to k_n - 1 do
          res.(i).(j) <- res.(i).(j) + a.(i).(k) * b.(k).(j)
        done
      done)) in
   Array.iter Domain.join domains

This will be disastrous in terms of performance, mostly because spawning a new domain is an expensive operation. Alternatively, a task pool offers a finite set of available domains that can be used to run your computations in parallel.

Arrays are usually more efficient compared with lists in Multicore OCaml. Although they are not generally favoured in functional programming, using arrays for the sake of efficiency is a reasonable trade-off.

A better way to parallelise matrix multiplication is with the help of a parallel_for.

let parallel_matrix_multiply pool a b =
  let i_n = Array.length a in
  let j_n = Array.length b.(0) in
  let k_n = Array.length b in
  let res = Array.make_matrix i_n j_n 0 in

  Task.parallel_for pool ~start:0 ~finish:(i_n - 1) ~body:(fun i ->
    for j = 0 to j_n - 1 do
      for k = 0 to k_n - 1 do
        res.(i).(j) <- res.(i).(j) + a.(i).(k) * b.(k).(j)
      done
    done);
  res

Observe quite a few differences between the parallel and sequential versions: The parallel version takes an additional parameter pool because the parallel_for executes the for loop on the domains present in that task pool. While it is possible to initialise a task pool inside the function itself, it's always better to have a single task pool used across the entire program. As mentioned earlier, this is to minimise the cost involved in spawning a new domain. It's also possible to create a global task pool to use across, but for the sake of reasoning better about your code, it's recommended to use it as a function parameter.

Let's examine the parameters of parallel_for. It takes in

  • pool, as discussed earlier
  • start and finish, as the names suggest, are the starting and ending values of the loop iterations
  • body contains the actual loop body to be executed

parallel_for also has an optional parameter: chunk_size, which determines the granularity of tasks when executing on multiple domains. If no parameter is given for chunk size, the program determines a default chunk size that performs well in most cases. Only if the default chunk size doesn't work well is it recommended to experiment with different chunk sizes. The ideal chunk_size depends on a combination of factors:

  • Nature of the Loop: There are two things to consider pertaining to the loop when deciding on a chunk_sizeโ€”the number of iterations in the loop and the amount of time each iteration takes. If the amount of time is roughly equal, then the chunk_size could be the number of iterations divided by the number of cores. On the other hand, if the amount of time taken is different for every iteration, the chunks should be smaller. If the total number of iterations is a sizeable number, a chunk_size like 32 or 16 is safe to use, whearas if the number of iterations is low, like 10, a chunk_size of 1 would perform best.

  • Machine: Optimal chunk size varies across machines, so it's recommended to experiment with a range of values to find out what works best on yours.

Speedup

Let's find how the parallel matrix multiplication scales on multiple cores.

Speedup

The speedup vs. core is enumerated below for input matrices of size 1024x1024:

Cores Time (s) Speedup
1 9.172 1
2 4.692 1.954816709
4 2.293 4
8 1.196 7.668896321
12 0.854 10.74004684
16 0.76 12.06842105
20 0.66 13.8969697
24 0.587 15.62521295

matrix-graph

We've achieved a speedup of 16 with the help of a parallel_for. It's very much possible to achieve linear speedups when parallelisable workloads are available.

Note that parallel code performance heavily depends on the machine. Some machine settings specific to Linux systems for obtaining optimal results are described here.

Properties and Caveats of parallel_for

Implicit Barrier

The parallel_for has an implicit barrier, meaning any other tasks waiting to be executed in the same pool will start only after all chunks in the parallel_for are complete, so we need not worry about creating and inserting barriers explicitly between two parallel_for loops (or some other operation) after a parallel_for. Consider this scenario: we have three matrices m1, m2, and m3. We want to compute (m1*m2) * m3, where * indicates matrix multiplication. For the sake of simplicity, let's assume all three are square matrices of the same size.

let parallel_matrix_multiply_3 pool m1 m2 m3 =
  let size = Array.length m1 in
  let t = Array.make_matrix size size 0 in (* stores m1*m2 *)
  let res = Array.make_matrix size size 0 in

  Task.parallel_for pool ~start:0 ~finish:(size - 1) ~body:(fun i ->
    for j = 0 to size - 1 do
      for k = 0 to size - 1 do
        t.(i).(j) <- t.(i).(j) + m1.(i).(k) * m2.(k).(j)
      done
    done);

  Task.parallel_for pool ~start:0 ~finish:(size - 1) ~body:(fun i ->
    for j = 0 to size - 1 do
      for k = 0 to size - 1 do
        res.(i).(j) <- res.(i).(j) + t.(i).(k) * m3.(k).(j)
      done
    done);

    res

In a hypothetical situation where parallel_for didn't have an implicit barrier, as in the example above, it's very likely that the computation of res wouldn't be correct. Since we already have an implicit barrier, it will perform the right computation.

Order of Execution

for i = start to finish do
  <body>
done

A sequential for loop, like the one above, runs its iterations in the exact same order, from start to finish. However, parallel_for makes the order of execution arbitrary and varies it between two runs of the exact same code. If the iteration order is important for your code, it's advisable to use parallel_for with some caution.

Dependencies Within the Loop

If there are any dependencies within the loop, such as a current iteration depending on the result of a previous iteration, odds are very high that the correctness of the code no longer holds if parallel_for is used. Task API has a primitive parallel_scan which might come in handy in scenarios like this.

Async-Await

A parallel_for loop easily parallelises iterative tasks. Async-Await offers more flexibility to execute parallel tasks, which is especially useful in recursive functions. Earlier we saw how to setup and tear down a task pool. The Task API also has the facility to run specific tasks on a task pool.

Fibonacci Numbers in Parallel

To calculate a Fibonacci Sequence in parallel, first write a sequential function to calculate Fibonacci numbers. The following is a naive Fibonacci function without tail-recursion:

let rec fib n =
if n < 2 then 1
else fib (n - 1) + fib (n - 2)

Observe that the two operations in recursive case fib (n - 1) and fib (n -2) do not have any mutual dependencies, which makes it convenient to compute them in parallel. Essentially, we can calculate fib (n - 1) and fib (n - 2) in parallel and then add the results to get the answer.

Do this by spawning a new domain for performing the calculation and joining it to obtain the result. Be careful to not spawn more domains than number of cores available.

let rec fib_par n d =
  if d <= 1 then fib n
  else
    let a = fib_par (n-1) (d-1) in
    let b = Domain.spawn (fun _ -> fib_par (n-2) (d-1)) in
    a + Domain.join b

We can also use task pools to execute tasks asynchronously, which is less tedious and scales better.

let rec fib_par pool n =
  if n <= 40 then fib n
  else
    let a = Task.async pool (fun _ -> fib_par pool (n-1)) in
    let b = Task.async pool (fun _ -> fib_par pool (n-2)) in
    Task.await pool a + Task.await pool b

Note some differences from the sequential version of Fibonacci:

  • pool โ€”> an additional parameter for the same reasons in parallel_for

  • if n <= 40 then fib n -> when the input is less than 40, run the sequential fib function. When the input number is small enough, it's better to perform the calculations sequentially. We've taken 40 as the threshold (above). Some experimentation would help find an acceptible threshold, below which the computation can be performed sequentially.

  • Task.async and Task.await -> used to run the tasks in parallel

    • Task.async executes the task in the pool asynchronously and returns a promise, a computation that is not yet complete. After the execution finishes, it result will be stored in the promise.

    • Task.await waits for the promise to complete its execution. Once it's done, it returns the result of the task. In case the task raises an uncaught exception, await also raises the same exception.

Channels

Bounded Channels

Channels act as a medium to communicate data between domains and can be shared between multiple sending and receiving domains. Channels in Multicore OCaml come in two flavours:

  • Bounded: buffered channels with a fixed size. A channel with the buffer size 0 corresponds to a synchronised channel, and buffer size 1 gives the MVar structure. Bounded channels can be created with any buffer size.

  • Unbounded: unbounded channels have no limit on the number of objects they can hold, so they are only constrained by memory availability.

open Domainslib

let c = Chan.make_bounded 0

let _ =
  let send = Domain.spawn(fun _ -> Chan.send c "hello") in
  let msg =  Chan.recv c in
  Domain.join send;
  Printf.printf "Message: %s\n" msg

In the above example, we have a bounded channel c of size 0. Any send to the channel will be blocked until a corresponding receive (recv) is encountered. So, if we remove the recv, the program would be blocked indefinitely.

open Domainslib

let c = Chan.make_bounded 0

let _ =
  let send = Domain.spawn(fun _ -> Chan.send c "hello") in
  Domain.join send;

The above example would block indefinitely because the send does not have a corresponding recv. If we instead create a bounded channel with buffer size n, it can store up to [n] objects in the channel without a corresponding receive, exceeding which the sending would block. We can try it with the same example as above by changing the buffer size to 1:

open Domainslib

let c = Chan.make_bounded 1

let _ =
  let send = Domain.spawn(fun _ -> Chan.send c "hello") in
  Domain.join send;

Now the send will not block anymore.

If you don't want to block in send or recv, send_poll and recv_poll might come in handy. They return a Boolean value, so if the operation was successful we get a true, otherwise a false.

open Domainslib

let c = Chan.make_bounded 0

let _ =
  let send = Domain.spawn(fun _ ->
          let b = Chan.send_poll c "hello" in
          Printf.printf "%B\n" b) in
  Domain.join send;

Here the buffer size is 0 and the channel cannot hold any object, so this program prints a false.

The same channel may be shared by multiple sending and receiving domains.

open Domainslib

let num_domains = try int_of_string Sys.argv.(1) with _ -> 4

let c = Chan.make_bounded num_domains

let send c =
  Printf.printf "Sending from: %d\n" (Domain.self () :> int);
  Chan.send c "howdy!"

let recv c =
  Printf.printf "Receiving at: %d\n" (Domain.self () :> int);
  Chan.recv c |> ignore

let _ =
  let senders = Array.init num_domains
                  (fun _ -> Domain.spawn(fun _ -> send c )) in
  let receivers = Array.init num_domains
                  (fun _ -> Domain.spawn(fun _ -> recv c)) in

  Array.iter Domain.join senders;
  Array.iter Domain.join receivers

(Domain.self () :> int) returns the id of current domain.

Task Distribution Using Channels

Now that we have some idea about how channels work, let's consider a more realistic example by writing a generic task distributor that executes tasks on multiple domains:

module C = Domainslib.Chan
let num_domains = try int_of_string Sys.argv.(1) with _ -> 4
let n = try int_of_string Sys.argv.(2) with _ -> 100

type 'a message = Task of 'a | Quit

let c = C.make_unbounded ()

let create_work tasks =
  Array.iter (fun t -> C.send c (Task t)) tasks;
  for _ = 1 to num_domains do
    C.send c Quit
  done

let rec worker f () =
  match C.recv c with
  | Task a ->
      f a;
      worker f ()
  | Quit -> ()

let _ =
  let tasks = Array.init n (fun i -> i) in
  create_work tasks ;
  let factorial n =
    let rec aux n acc =
        if (n > 0) then aux (n-1) (acc*n)
        else acc in
    aux n 1
  in
  let results = Array.make n 0 in
  let update r i = r.(i) <- factorial i in
  let domains = Array.init (num_domains - 1)
              (fun _ -> Domain.spawn(worker (update results))) in
  worker (update results) ();
  Array.iter Domain.join domains;
  Array.iter (Printf.printf "%d ") results

We have created an unbounded channel c which acts as a store for all tasks. We'll pay attention to two functions here: create_work and worker.

create_work takes an array of tasks and pushes all task elements to the channel c. The worker function receives tasks from the channel and executes a function f with the received task as a parameter. It keeps repeating until it encounters a Quit message, which indicates worker can terminate.

Use this template to run any task on multiple cores by running the worker function on all domains. This example runs a naive factorial function. The granularity of a task could also be tweaked by changing it in the worker function. For instance, worker can run for a range of tasks instead of single one.

Profiling Your Code

While writing parallel programs in Multicore OCaml, it's quite common to encounter overheads that might deteriorate the code's performance. This section describes ways to discover and fix those overheads. Within the Multicore runtime, Linux commands perf and eventlog are particularly useful tools for performance debugging. Let's do that with the help of an example:

Perf

The Linux perf tool has proven to be very useful when profiling Multicore OCaml code.

Profiling Serial Code

Profiling serial code can help identify parts of code that can potentially benefit from parallelising. Let's do it for the sequential version of matrix multiplication:

perf record --call-graph dwarf ./matrix_multiplication.exe 1024

This results in a profile showing how much time is spent in the matrix_multiply function, which we wanted to parallelise. Remember, if a lot more time is spent outside the function we'd like to parallelise, the maximum speedup possible to achieve would be lower.

Profiling serial code can help reveal the hotspots where we might want to introduce parallelism.

Samples: 51K of event 'cycles:u', Event count (approx.): 28590830181
  Children      Self  Command     Shared Object     Symbol
+   99.84%     0.00%  matmul.exe  matmul.exe        [.] caml_start_program
+   99.84%     0.00%  matmul.exe  matmul.exe        [.] caml_program
+   99.84%     0.00%  matmul.exe  matmul.exe        [.] camlDune__exe__Matmul__entry
+   99.32%    99.31%  matmul.exe  matmul.exe        [.] camlDune__exe__Matmul__matrix_multiply_211
+    0.57%     0.04%  matmul.exe  matmul.exe        [.] camlStdlib__array__init_104
     0.47%     0.37%  matmul.exe  matmul.exe        [.] camlStdlib__random__intaux_278

Overheads in Parallel Code

Linux perf can be helpful when identifying overheads in parallel code, which can improve the performance by removing overheads.

Parallel Initialisation of a Float Array with Random Numbers

Array initialisation using the standard library's Array.init is sequential. A program's parallel workloads scale according to the number of cores used, although the initialisation takes the same amount of time in all cases. This might become a bottleneck for parallel workloads.

For float arrays, we have Array.create_float to create a fresh float array. Use this to allocate an array and perform the initialisation in parallel. Let's do the initialisation of a float array with random numbers in parallel.

Naive Implementation

Below is a naive implementation that will initialise all array elements with a Random number:

open Domainslib

let num_domains = try int_of_string Sys.argv.(1) with _ -> 4
let n = try int_of_string Sys.argv.(2) with _ -> 100000
let a = Array.create_float n

let _ =
  let pool = Task.setup_pool ~num_additional_domains:(num_domains - 1) in
  Task.parallel_for pool ~start:0
  ~finish:(n - 1) ~body:(fun i -> Array.set a i (Random.float 1000.));
  Task.teardown_pool pool

Measure how it scales:

#Cores Time(s)
1 3.136
2 10.19
4 11.815

Although we expected to see speedup executing in multiple cores, the code actually slows down as the number of cores increase. There's something unnoticably wrong with the code.

Let's profile the performance with the Linux perf profiler:

$ perf record ./_build/default/float_init_par.exe 4 100_000_000
$ perf report

The perf report would look something like this:

perf-report-1

The overhead at Random bits is a whopping 87.99%! Typically there's no single cause that we can attribute to such overheads, since they are very specific to the program. It might need a little careful inspection to find out what is causing them. In this case, the Random module shares the same state amongst all domains, which causes contention when multiple domains are trying to access it simultaneously.

To overcome that, use a different state for every domain so there isn't any contention from a shared state.

module T = Domainslib.Task
let n = try int_of_string Sys.argv.(2) with _ -> 1000
let num_domains = try int_of_string Sys.argv.(1) with _ -> 4

let arr = Array.create_float n

let _ =
  let domains = T.setup_pool ~num_additional_domains:(num_domains - 1) in
  let states = Array.init num_domains (fun _ -> Random.State.make_self_init()) in
  T.parallel_for domains ~start:0 ~finish:(n-1)
  ~body:(fun i ->
    let d = (Domain.self() :> int) mod num_domains in
    Array.unsafe_set arr i (Random.State.float states.(d) 100. ))

We have created num_domains different Random States, each to be used by a different domain. This might come across as a hack, but if it helps achieve better performance, there is no harm in using them, as long as the correctness is intact.

Let's run this on multiple cores:

#Cores Time(s)
1 3.828
2 3.641
4 3.119

Examining the times, though it is not as bad as the previous case, it isn't close to what we expected. Here's the perf report:

perf-report-2

The overheads at Random bits is less than the previous case, but it's still quite high at 59.73%. We've used a separate Random State for every domain, so the overheads aren't caused by any shared state; however, if we look closely, the Random States are all allocated by the same domain in an array with a small number of elements, possibly located close to each other in physical memory. When multiple domains try to access them, they might be sharing cache lines, or false sharing. We can confirm our suspicion with the help of perf c2c on Intel machines:

$ perf c2c record _build/default/float_init_par2.exe 4 100_000_000
$ perf c2c report

Shared Data Cache Line Table     (2 entries, sorted on Total HITMs)
       ----------- Cacheline ----------    Total      Tot  ----- LLC Load Hitm -----  ---- Store Reference ----  --- Loa
Index             Address  Node  PA cnt  records     Hitm    Total      Lcl      Rmt    Total    L1Hit   L1Miss       Lc
    0      0x7f2bf49d7dc0     0   11473    13008   94.23%     1306     1306        0     1560      595      965        โ—†
    1      0x7f2bf49a7b80     0     271      368    5.48%       76       76        0      123       76       47

As evident from the report, there's quite a considerable amount of false sharing happening in the code. To eliminate false sharing, allocate the Random State in the domain that is going to use it, so the states will be allocated with memory locations far from each other.

module T = Domainslib.Task
let n = try int_of_string Sys.argv.(2) with _ -> 1000
let num_domains = try int_of_string Sys.argv.(1) with _ -> 4

let arr = Array.create_float n

let init_part s e arr =
    let my_state = Random.State.make_self_init () in
    for i = s to e do
      Array.unsafe_set arr i (Random.State.float my_state 100.)
    done

let _ =
  let domains = T.setup_pool ~num_additional_domains:(num_domains - 1) in
  T.parallel_for domains ~chunk_size:1 ~start:0 ~finish:(num_domains - 1)
  ~body:(fun i -> init_part (i * n / num_domains) ((i+1) * n / num_domains - 1) arr);
  T.teardown_pool domains

Now the results are:

Cores Time Speedup
1 3.055 1
2 1.552 1.968427835
4 0.799 3.823529412
8 0.422 7.239336493
12 0.302 10.11589404
16 0.242 12.62396694
20 0.208 14.6875
24 0.186 16.42473118

initialisation

In this process, we have essentially identified bottlenecks for scaling and eliminated them to achieve better speedups. For more details on profiling with perf, please refer these notes.

Eventlog

The Multicore runtime supports OCaml instrumented runtime. The instrumented runtime enables capturing metrics about various GC activities. Eventlog-tools is a library that provides tools to parse the instrumentation logs generated by the runtime. Some handy tools are described in the README.

Eventlog tools can be useful for optimizing Multicore programs.

Identify Large Pausetimes

Identifying and fixing events that cause maximun latency can improve the overall throughput of the program. ocaml-eventlog-pausetimes displays statistics from the generated trace files. For Multicore programs, every domain has its own trace file, and all of them need to be fed into the input.

$ ocaml-eventlog-pausetimes caml-10599-0.eventlog caml-10599-2.eventlog caml-10599-4.eventlog caml-10599-6.eventlog
{
  "name": "caml-10599-6.eventlog",
  "mean_latency": 78328,
  "max_latency": 5292643,
  "distr_latency": [85,89,104,231,303,9923,117639,145118,179488,692880,2728990]
}

Diagnose Imbalance in Task Distribution

Eventlog can be useful to find imbalance in task distribution in a parallel program. Imbalance in task distribution essentially means that not all domains are provided with equal amount of computation to perform, so some domains take longer than others to finish their computations, while the idle domains keep waiting. This can occur when a sub- optimal chunk_size is picked in a parallel_for.

Time periods show when an idle domain is recorded as domain/idle_wait in the eventlog. Here is an example eventlog generated by a program with unbalanced task distribution.

eventlog_task_imbalance

If we zoom in further, we see many domain/idle_wait events.

eventlog_task_imbalance_zoomed

So far we've only found an imbalance in task distribution in the code, so we'll need to change our code accordingly to make the task distribution more balanced, which could increase the speedup.


Performace debugging can be quite tricky at times, so if you could use some help in debugging your Multicore OCaml code, feel free to create an Issue in the Multicore OCaml issue tracker along with a minimal code example.

Parallel Programming In Multicore Ocaml

Tutorial on Multicore OCaml parallel programming with domainslib

Parallel Programming In Multicore Ocaml Info

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