- Optimization of "Concrete Factories" (variations of the Pimpl idiom)
- Optimization by "Arena"
"In computing, optimization is the process of modifying a system to make some aspect of it work more efficiently or use fewer resources. The system may be a single computer program, a collection of computers, or even an entire network such as the Internet.
Although the word "optimization" shares the same root as "optimal", it is rare for the process of optimization to produce a truly optimal system. Often, there is no "one size fits all" design which works well in all cases, so engineers make trade-offs to optimize the attributes of greatest interest.
Donald Knuth made the following statement on optimization: "We should forget about small efficiencies, say about 97% of the time: premature optimization is the root of all evil." An alternative approach is to design first, code from the design, and then profile/benchmark the resulting code to see which parts should be optimized."
In this article, we will try to make our algorithms work faster using the methods of low-level optimization of memory allocation in C++. It should be clear that all methods described in this article should be used very carefully and just in the exceptional cases: usually, we have to pay for all low-level optimization elements that we use by flexibility, portability, clearness, or scalability of the resulting application.
But, if you have exactly that specific case and have no way back – then you’re welcome.
Optimization of "Concrete Factories"
I think that a lot of you have repeatedly met the classic "Factory" pattern, or the "Concrete Factory" in GoF. terminology:
virtual void DoIt()=0;
void CreateSmth(int iValue, std::auto_ptr <IObject> * pResult)
This pattern is great for avoiding endless if’s and switch’es throughout our code, but it has one unpleasant disadvantage. It is concerned with the excessive usage of dynamic memory that sometimes affects badly on the program performance. We will try to cure this pattern of it – with certain reservations, of course.
Let’s follow the factory usage process again:
We define some containers for the production, the place where the created object will be stored.
We create an object in this container by means of the factory.
We use the object via the defined interface.
mySuperContainer.Add( product );
Or pass the container ownership to somebody else.
To optimize the described life cycle of the production, we can use the following statements:
- The special form of the
new operator – placement new – enables to create objects in the custom "row" buffer. For example:
It is very useful taking into account the fact that we can allocate the buffer more effectively than the standard
new implementation does. But actually, using placement new also adds some difficulties to the developer’s life:
- The row buffer should be aligned by the platform-dependant range.
- The destructor of the created object should be implemented manually.
Stack is a great alternative for heap. It would be tempting to use a buffer on the stack as the container, i.e., to use:
MyWrapperAroundLocalBuffer<ObjectSize, IObject> product;
instead of the original:
The main problem of the container on the stack creation is that it’s impossible to allocate an object of custom (unknown while compiling) size in standard C++.
But as soon as our factory is a concrete one (and not an abstract) and we know about all of its production types, we certainly will be able to know the maximal size of the object-production on the compilation stage. For example, we can use the type lists:
template<class Head, class Tail>
We can develop a recursive compile-time function to calculate the maximal size of the object from the types in the list:
template <class List>
template <class Head, class Tail>
struct GetMaxSize<Node<Head, Tail> >
static const size_t TailSize = GetMaxSize<Tail>::Result;
static const size_t Result = (TailSize > sizeof(Head) ) ? TailSize : sizeof(Head);
static const size_t Result = 0;
Then, we can create the list of all possible production types for the factory
static const size_t MaxObjectSize = utils::GetMaxSize<ObjectList>::Result;
As a result, now we can be 100% sure that each produced object will be placed in a buffer of
MaxObjectSize (if we’ve developed the type list correctly, of course):
char buffer[ MaxObjectSize ];
It can be easily allocated in the stack.
As long as our container is able to store objects of different types, we have a right to expect some help from them in the form of the corresponding interface support:
virtual void DestroyObject(void * pObject)=0;
virtual void CreateAndSwap(void * pObject, int iMaxSize)=0;
virtual void CreateAndCopy(void * pObject, int iMaxSize)=0;
I.e., an object that wants to live in our container should be able to:
- Destroy the objects of its type by a certain address;
- Use the Create And Swap technology for passing object ownership (optional);
- Use the Create And Copy technology for object copy creation (optional).
The structure of the container can be represented in the following scheme:
I.e., our container includes a row buffer and two pointers to the different virtual bases of the object placed in the row buffer:
- Pointer to
IManageable for the management of the object life cycle;
- Pointer to the user interface
IObject whose methods the factory user, in fact, wants to call.
As long as we don’t want to spend efforts on adding support for the
IManageable interface to the each production class, it makes sense to develop the pattern manageable that will do it automatically:
const int allow_std_swap = 1;
const int allow_copy = 2;
const int allow_all = 3;
template<class ImplType, int iFlags>
class manageable:public IManageable, public ImplType
typedef manageable<ImplType, iFlags> ThisType;
virtual void DestroyObject(void * pObject)
void CreateAndSwapImpl(void * , int )
throw std::runtime_error("Swap method is not supported");
void CreateAndSwapImpl<allow_std_swap>(void * pObject, int )
ThisType * pNewObject = new(pObject)ThisType();
virtual void CreateAndSwap(void * pObject, int iMaxSize)
throw std::runtime_error("Object too large: swap method failed");
CreateAndSwapImpl<iFlags & allow_std_swap>(pObject, iMaxSize);
void CreateAndCopyImpl(void * , int )
throw std::runtime_error("Copy method is not supported");
void CreateAndCopyImpl<allow_copy>(void * pObject, int )
virtual void CreateAndCopy(void * pObject, int iMaxSize)
throw std::runtime_error("Object too large: copy method failed");
CreateAndCopyImpl<iFlags & allow_copy>(pObject, iMaxSize);
The pattern is parameterized by object type and flags that define what methods should be supported. For example, if we specify the
allow_copy flag, then the compiler will require the constructor to copy from the object for the
CreateAndCopy method implementation; similarly, if we specify the
allow_swap flag, then the
CreateAndSwap function will be generated – it will be based on the method of the
swap object that we should develop ourselves. So, our optimized factory now looks as follows:
typedef utils::Node<utils::manageable<CObject1, utils::allow_copy>,
static const size_t MaxObjectSize = utils::GetMaxSize<ObjectList>::Result;
typedef utils::CFastObject<MaxObjectSize, IObject> AnyObject;
void CreateSmth(int iValue, AnyObject * pResult)
And, it is as easy to use as the original one:
product.Copy( &another_product );
But the functioning of our creation will be much faster (see fast_object_sample in the attachments).
All source, examples, performance and Unit Tests can be found in the lib MakeItFaster in the attachments. There are also projects for VC++ 7.1 and VC++ 8.0.
See: cmnFastObjects.h, fast_object_sample.
Optimization by «Arena»
The second optimization method proposed is much simpler, but the scope of its application is a little bit smaller.
Let’s imagine that we have some iterative algorithms that repeat some action
int mega_algorithm(int N)
int Count =0;
for(int i =0 ; i<N; ++i)
Count += DoSmth1( );
Let’s suppose that two conditions are met:
- Algorithm doesn’t have any side effects;
- We can predict the maximal size of the dynamic memory allocated for an iteration (let’s name it
In this case, we can use the "Arena" pattern for its optimization. The essence of the pattern is rather simple. For its implementation, we:
- replace the standard
delete with our own ones;
- register some buffer-arena
pBuffer with a
MaxHeapUsage size before the algorithm starts and set the index pointing on the start of the free space
FreeIndex to 0;
- in the
new handlers, we allocate memory directly in the buffer by moving
FreeIndex on the allocation value; naturally, we return
((char *) pBuffer + oldFreeIndex);
FreeIndex to 0 after each iteration and so dispose all memory that the iteration has allocated for its needs;
- unregister our buffer-arena after the algorithm finishes.
It’s very simple and effective. It’s also a very dangerous pattern because it’s rather hard to guarantee the first condition fulfillment in the production code. But this pattern is good for calculation concerned tasks (for example, in the game development).
When using STL containers, the concrete instance of the arena can be referred to the container in such a way that the definition and usage of the container will be almost the same to those of the original one, for example:
utils::CGrowingArena<1024> >::result Map1_type;
for(int i = 0;i<iNumberOfElements;++i)
map1[i] = i+1;
In this example, all memory for the object
map1 is allocated in the extendable buffer
CGrowingArena. The allocated memory will be disposed in the destructor when destroying the object.
All source, examples, performance, and Unit Tests can be found in the lib MakeItFaster in the attachments. There are also projects for VC++ 7.1 and VC++ 8.0.
See: cmnArena.h/win32_arena_tests, win32_arena_sample.
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