[llvm-dev] [RFC][SVE] Supporting SIMD instruction sets with variable vector lengths

Graham Hunter via llvm-dev llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Fri Jun 15 09:19:38 PDT 2018

Hi David,

Responses below.


On 11 Jun 2018, at 22:19, David A. Greene <dag at cray.com<mailto:dag at cray.com>> wrote:

Graham Hunter <Graham.Hunter at arm.com<mailto:Graham.Hunter at arm.com>> writes:

1. Types

To represent a vector of unknown length a boolean `Scalable` property has been
added to the `VectorType` class, which indicates that the number of elements in
the vector is a runtime-determined integer multiple of the `NumElements` field.
Most code that deals with vectors doesn't need to know the exact length, but
does need to know relative lengths -- e.g. get a vector with the same number of
elements but a different element type, or with half or double the number of

In order to allow code to transparently support scalable vectors, we introduce
an `ElementCount` class with two members:

- `unsigned Min`: the minimum number of elements.
- `bool Scalable`: is the element count an unknown multiple of `Min`?

For non-scalable vectors (``Scalable=false``) the scale is considered to be
equal to one and thus `Min` represents the exact number of elements in the

The intent for code working with vectors is to use convenience methods and avoid
directly dealing with the number of elements. If needed, calling
`getElementCount` on a vector type instead of `getVectorNumElements` can be used
to obtain the (potentially scalable) number of elements. Overloaded division and
multiplication operators allow an ElementCount instance to be used in much the
same manner as an integer for most cases.

This mixture of compile-time and runtime quantities allow us to reason about the
relationship between different scalable vector types without knowing their
exact length.

How does this work in practice?  Let's say I populate a vector with a
splat.  Presumably, that gives me a "full length" vector.  Let's say the
type is <scalable 2 x double>.  How do I split the vector and get
something half the width?  What is its type?  How do I split it again
and get something a quarter of the width?  What is its type?  How do I
use half- and quarter-width vectors?  Must I resort to predication?

To split a <scalable 2 x double> in half, you'd use a shufflevector in much the
same way you would for fixed-length vector types.

  %sv = call <scalable 1 x i32> @llvm.experimental.vector.stepvector.nxv1i32()
  %halfvec = shufflevector <scalable 2 x double> %fullvec, <scalable 2 x double> undef, <scalable 1 x i32> %sv

You can't split it any further than a <scalable 1 x <ty>>, since there may only be
one element in the actual hardware vector at runtime. The same restriction applies to
a <1 x <ty>>. This is why we have a minimum number of lanes in addition to the
scalable flag so that we can concatenate and split vectors, since SVE registers have
the same number of bytes and will therefore decrease the number of elements per
register as the element type increases in size.

If you want to extract something other than the first part of a vector, you need to add
offsets based on a calculation from vscale (e.g. adding vscale * (min_elts/2) allows you
to reach the high half of a larger register).

If you check the patch which introduces splatvector (https://reviews.llvm.org/D47775),
you can see a line which currently produces an error if changing the size of a vector
is required, and notes that VECTOR_SHUFFLE_VAR hasn't been implemented yet.

In our downstream compiler, this is an ISD alongside VECTOR_SHUFFLE which
allows a shuffle with a variable mask instead of a constant.

If people feel it would be useful, I can prepare another patch which implements these
shuffles (as an intrinsic rather than a common ISD) for review now instead of later;
I tried to keep the initial patch set small so didn't cover all cases.

In terms of using predication, that's generally not required for the legal integer types;
normal promotion via sign or zero extension work. We've tried to reuse existing
mechanisms wherever possible.

For floating point types, we do use predication to allow the use of otherwise illegal
types like <scalable 1 x double>, but that's limited to the AArch64 backend and does
not need to be represented in IR.

Ths split question comes into play for backward compatibility.  How
would one take a scalable vector and pass it into a NEON library?  It is
likely that some math functions, for example, will not have SVE versions

I don't believe we intend to support this, but instead provide libraries with
SVE versions of functions instead. The problem is that you don't know how
many NEON-size subvectors exist within an SVE vector at compile time.
While you could create a loop with 'vscale' number of iterations and try to
extract those subvectors, I suspect the IR would end up being quite messy
and potentially hard to recognize and optimize.

The other problem with calling non-SVE functions is that any live SVE
registers must be spilled to the stack and filled after the call, which is
likely to be quite expensive.

Is there a way to represent "double width" vectors?  In mixed-data-size
loops it is sometimes convenient to reason about double-width vectors
rather than having to split them (to legalize for the target
architecture) and keep track of their parts early on.  I guess the more
fundamental question is about how such loops should be handled.

For SVE, it's fine to generate IR with types that are 'double size' or larger,
and just leave it to legalization at SelectionDAG level to split into multiple
legal size registers.

Again, if people would like me to create a patch to illustrate legalization sooner
rather than later to help understand what's needed to support these types, let
me know.

What do insertelement and extractelement mean for scalable vectors?
Your examples showed insertelement at index zero.  How would I, say,
insertelement into the upper half of the vector?  Or any arbitrary
place?  Does insertelement at index 10 of a <scalable 2 x double> work,
assuming vscale is large enough?  It is sometimes useful to constitute a
vector out of various scalar pieces and insertelement is a convenient
way to do it.

So you can insert or extract any element known to exist (in other words, it's
within the minimum number of elements). Using a constant index outside
that range will fail, as we won't know whether the element actually exists
until we're running on a cpu.

Our downstream compiler supports inserting and extracting arbitrary elements
from calculated offsets as part of our experiment on search loop vectorization,
but that generates the offsets based on a count of true bits within partitioned
predicates. I was planning on proposing new intrinsics to improve predicate use
within llvm at a later date.

We have been able to implement various types of known shuffles (like the high/low
half extract, zip, concatention, etc) with vscale, stepvector, and the existing IR

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