[llvm-dev] [RFC] Lanai backend

Sean Silva via llvm-dev llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Tue Feb 9 23:50:16 PST 2016

On Tue, Feb 9, 2016 at 11:01 PM, Pete Cooper via llvm-dev <
llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org> wrote:

> On Feb 9, 2016, at 10:24 PM, Chandler Carruth <chandlerc at google.com>
> wrote:
> You've raised an important point here Pete, and while I disagree pretty
> strongly with it (regardless of whether Lanai makes sense or not), I'm glad
> that you've surfaced it where we can clearly look at the issue.
> The idea of "it really should have users outside of just the people who
> have access to the HW" I think is deeply problematic for the project as a
> whole. Where does it stop?
> While I may have the theoretical ability to get access to an AVR, Hexagon,
> MSP430, SystemZ, or XCore processor... It is a practical impossibility.
> There is no way that I, or I suspect 95% of LLVM contributors, will be able
> to run code for all these platforms. And for some of them, I suspect it is
> already the case that their only users have access to specialized, quite
> hard to acquire hardware (both Hexagon[1] and SystemZ come to mind).
> You’re right.  I don’t even have access to a 486 which we probably support.
> My point was just that I thought this would be our first backend for which
> it is impossible for anyone to use.  It may be hard for me to get an
> MSP430, but I *can*.

This actually got me curious really how difficult it is for each of LLVM's
backends, so I did an `ls` in lib/Target and here is what I know of as far
as getting a machine that you can run your own code on:

AArch64/ - obvious
AMDGPU/ - obvious
ARM/ - obvious
AVR/ - just get an arduino (e.g.
BPF/ - run linux on most any hardware I think?
CppBackend/ - can we delete this :)
Hexagon/ - e.g. https://developer.qualcomm.com/hardware/dragonboard-810
MSP430/ - e.g. https://store.ti.com/msp-exp430fr5969.aspx (< $20)
Mips/ - e.g. https://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoBoardYun or even your
friendly WRT54GL router.
NVPTX/ - obvious
PowerPC/ - lots of stuff in the embedded space for relatively cheap (e.g.
100's of $). If you have deep enough pockets you can buy servers.
Sparc/ - If you have deep enough pockets Oracle will sell you servers. You
can probably find something workstation-y on ebay (talk to netbsd folks
apparently http://wiki.netbsd.org/ports/sparc/
http://wiki.netbsd.org/ports/sparc64/). You can also probably synthesize
OpenSPARC for an FPGA setup in the <$10,000 range.
SystemZ/ - If you have deep enough pockets IBM will sell you one.
WebAssembly/ - You can probably pull some sort of bleeding edge V8 or
Mozilla repo. (being developed in the open, so "obvious" I guess)
X86/ - obvious
XCore/ - There are dev boards for <$200

This ignores all the issues of ISA subsets that we support. E.g. right now
I don't think it's possible to buy an x86 with AVX512 (but Skylake server
is coming soon), and some of the more esoteric ISA subsets for e.g. the
supercomputer PPC stuff or the high-end MIPS stuff (e.g. the chips used in
cellular base stations) are probably in SystemZ territory to get ahold of.

-- Sean Silva

>  I can’t get a Lanai, possibly ever.
> Now maybe you’re right, and Hexagon, or one of the other backends you
> mention, is unable to be useful in practice to the community.  If that is
> the case then the precedent has already been set that we as a community are
> happy to work with (great) contributors who also provide some code we may
> not get a direct benefit from and occasionally have to help maintain with
> changes to common code.
> I just didn’t want Lanai (or any other backend) to set that precedent
> without a discussion.  And it sure looks like we have got that discussion.
> I definitely never wanted to imply anything negative about Lanai or the
> folks who work on it.
> But I really don't think we want to kick any of these backends out of
> LLVM, or that they were a mistake to include in the first place.
> Nor do I.
> So the question really is whether the lack of *theoretical* access matters
> substantially more than lack of *practical* access.
> Again, depends if this point is what matters, but maybe its already been
> answered by other backends.
> This policy would also set an extremely alarming precedent to me at least,
> maybe one that you're not even intending: what's the difference between
> hardware and an operating system? I don't think we want to limit the
> operating system support of Clang to those which are readily accessible.
> Lots of folks don't have a practical ability to use Apple's operating
> system because they don't own any of Apple's hardware. And the reverse is
> of course true -- I think if you work at Apple and only own Apple hardware,
> you probably shoudn't be expected to boot Windows or Linux and debug
> something.
> I’m not really sure how this applies to the OS.  Do you mean not accepting
> patches which allow clang to run on an OS outside of the common ones?  If
> so, yeah, that would be a problem, and not something I want to see.  But
> there’s also a difference.  Much of the OS code is #defined, whereas any
> backend which isn’t experimental is something of a burden.  I’m not saying
> the burden isn’t worth it, but it is one nonetheless as your DAG combine
> example below is a great example of.
> We have a growing history of support diverse platforms, both hardware and
> software. And when we do this, we rely on the community contributors who
> care deeply about those platforms to bridge the gap and support those
> developers who don't have ready access to the platform. I don't want to see
> this change, as I think it has been absolutely critical to the community
> growing and thriving over the past few years. My best memory of this is
> with AMDGPU (which is why I brought it up, I agree with others that MSP430
> or XCore are perhaps better examples here). I was making a change to a DAG
> combine of some form and it ended up regressing the AMDGPU (R600 at the
> time) regression tests. I was completely lost. While in theory, I could go
> pick up such a GPU and install it in a machine to test things out, in
> practice I'm never going to do that. If that were the requirement, I would
> just have to abandon such changes. But instead, Tom and Matt bent over
> backwards to help me out, looked at all the test case updates I sent them
> and helped verify that indeed, the changes were harmless or even helpful. I
> didn't need hardware, an emulator, or even an ISA spec. And I think this is
> *awesome*.
> I’ve had a similar experience just a couple of weeks ago with someone (who
> i’d never had any interaction with before) who took my reverted patches and
> debugged and fixed the reason they broke on Windows with MSVC.  Its awesome
> to be part of this.  I’m not expecting anyone to have access to even a tiny
> fraction of the platforms we target, but personally I would prefer that
> they can have access to those platforms.
> So regardless of what we do with Lanai, I feel really strongly that we
> don't want to use "have other users" or "can run the code" as the bar for
> supporting platforms.
> Personally I do want to set the bar there, but it seems I might be the
> only one, so i’m not going to keep forcing people to follow along with an
> ever increasing email chain.
> Cheers,
> Pete
> But all that really doesn't mean we should necessarily adopt Lanai. I
> think this is probably the nearest tradeoff the community has looked at
> (that's actually one reason I worked internally to see if we could
> contribute the backend). And it is definitely is a tradeoff.
> IMO, it is worth the tradeoff, just like it was for BPF, AMDGPU, and
> others. Our goal should be to get more upstream contributors and LLVM
> developers, and to the extent that we can do that by encouraging people
> working on new (to the community) platforms, whether software or hardware,
> to work on them upstream and in-tree, I think we should.
> Personally, I'm not concerned about how encumbered in any sense SystemZ is
> or isn't (I have no idea about such things). I don't care that I'm
> completely unlikely to be able to get a SystemZ system, or even an
> emulator. I'm probably not going to spend a whole lot of time trying to
> read the entire ISA spec. To me, while those things would *help* motivate
> the issue, they're not the operative factor in my decision. Instead, the
> fact that IBM contributed SystemZ, maintained it, and was able to do more
> work in-tree was justification enough.
> My 2 cents, sorry I took so many words to express them. =]
> -Chandler
> [1] Yes, I know Hexagon chips are present all over Android devices, but I
> have no idea how one would go about actually programming most of them.
> Maybe it's actually much easier than I imagine, if so, apologize. My
> impression has just been that Qualcomm (the producer of the Hexagon chips)
> is by far the largest user of the backend if not the exclusive user. None
> of this is a criticism of course! =]
> On Tue, Feb 9, 2016 at 9:35 PM Pete Cooper via llvm-dev <
> llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org> wrote:
>> On Feb 9, 2016, at 9:15 PM, Hal Finkel <hfinkel at anl.gov> wrote:
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Pete Cooper via llvm-dev" <llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org>
>> To: "Sean Silva" <chisophugis at gmail.com>
>> Cc: "llvm-dev" <llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org>
>> Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2016 10:59:58 PM
>> Subject: Re: [llvm-dev] [RFC] Lanai backend
>> Hi Sean
>> I think you’ve summed it up really well here.
>> Personally I don’t think we should accept backends for which there is
>> no way to run the code. The burden (however small) on the community
>> to having an in-tree backend they can’t use is too high IMO.
>> As you point out ‘no way to run the code’ may mean not having access
>> to HW, or having HW but no API.
>> Out of curiosity, would the existence of some kind of open-source
>> emulator affect your opinion on this? Or does it need to be actual hardware?
>> I guess hardware isn’t even the correct term given we have BPF which I
>> think is a virtual ISA of some kind.
>> I’d be ok with targeting an emulator, but with the caveat that people are
>> actually using the emulator.  An emulator which exists purely to get this
>> backend in to LLVM isn’t useful, but one which people do use for education
>> or otherwise is useful.  But it really should have users outside of just
>> the people who have access to the real HW.
>> Perhaps this can be an experimental backend to give time for an emulator
>> and community to grow around it, and then we can decide later whether to
>> promote to a first class backend?  Then we still have options, including
>> just continuing as an experimental backend for longer if thats best.
>> As a small digression, I would say that this has raised a very valid
>> discussion about the code that ends up in LLVM and is built as standard.  I
>> don’t know, nor am I going to look, but I think the same could (should?) be
>> applied to other code like passes.  If a pass isn’t used by anyone in tree
>> then should it be in tree?
>> Pete
>> -Hal
>> NVPTX is a good example. Now you can take the output from LLVM and
>> run it on HW. It may or may not be how Nvidia do it in their code,
>> but that doesn’t matter, you can do it. Same for AMDGPU.
>> So -1 from me to having backends we can’t make use of.
>> Finally, one option is to have perpetually experimental backends.
>> Then all the code is in tree but no-one in tree should ever be
>> expected to update it. That does have the big advantage that all of
>> the code is there to discuss and the maintainers can make
>> contributions to common code and gain/provide help in the community.
>> They can also be involved in discussions which impact them such as
>> changes to common code.
>> Cheers,
>> Pete
>> On Feb 9, 2016, at 4:18 PM, Sean Silva via llvm-dev <
>> llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org > wrote:
>> One data point (IIRC) is that the NVPTX backend sat in tree for a
>> long time without a way to actually use them. But lately this has
>> been opening up (e.g. http://llvm.org/docs/CompileCudaWithLLVM.html
>> ). However, the obstacle for NVPTX was mostly a software
>> proprietary-ness (no way to plug it into the driver stack really,
>> except via nvidia's own proprietary software), whereas the actual
>> hardware was available. For the Lanai stuff, it seems like the
>> hardware is fundamentally not available for purchase.
>> The reverse situation is with e.g. Apple's GPU backends, where the
>> devices are readily available, but (AFAIK) even if the backend were
>> open-source you couldn't run the code produced by the open-source
>> compiler.
>> Or to put it in matrix form (this is all heavily prefixed by "AFAIK";
>> corrections welcome):
>> AMDGPU: InTree:Yes DevicesAvailable:Yes CanIRunTheCode:Yes
>> NVPTX: InTree:Yes DevicesAvailable:Yes CanIRunTheCode :Yes
>> Lanai: InTree:? DevicesAvailable:No CanIRunTheCode :No
>> Apple GPU's: InTree:No DevicesAvailable:Yes CanIRunTheCode :No
>> I couldn't come up with a good name for "Can I Run The Code" column.
>> Basically it means: "assuming the backend were in open source, could
>> I actually run the code produced by the open source backend
>> somehow?".
>> I had a quick look at lib/Target and it seems like every backend we
>> have has "CanIRunTheCode:Yes" in theory.
>> IIRC, the NVPTX stuff used to actually be "No" though?
>> Anyway, just a random thought. Not sure what the conclusion is.
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>> --
>> Hal Finkel
>> Assistant Computational Scientist
>> Leadership Computing Facility
>> Argonne National Laboratory
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