[llvm-dev] Making loop guards part of canonical loop structure

Kit Barton via llvm-dev llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Tue May 28 16:37:33 PDT 2019

I just realized that inadvertently hit reply, instead of reply-all, when
replying to Philip. I'm going to summarize the conversation we have had
since, so everyone can see the direction we are thinking to go.

We'll start by adding a guard detection API as a loop utility that can
identify existing guards. The initial patch will be as simple as
possible, to establish the API. From there we can extend the detection
to get more difficult cases, and potentially modify some parts of loop
simplification (or other optimizations) to make the detection easier to
do, it it makes sense. At that point we will have experience and can
revisit this discussion if it still makes sense to do so.


Philip Reames <listmail at philipreames.com> writes:

> Kit,
> I'm a bit unsure about having the guarded loop be canonical form.  In
> particular, I'm hesitant about introducing a conditional branch on
> constant for loops which aren't found to have an obvious guard block. 
> (Note the distinction: no obvious guard does not imply no guard, just
> one we didn't find.)
> I'd suggest that we maybe start with a small step in this direction,
> rather than everything at once?
> Introducing utilities on Loop to return the loop guard block if one is
> available seems like a reasonable and necessary first step.  Once that's
> done, we could consider extending LoopSimplify to make guarded loops
> "more obvious" by moving code out of guarded blocks and the like.  Note
> that my "more obvious" here is about exposing existing guarded loops,
> and not introducing new guards. 
> I think we need both of these pieces if we were to go all the way
> towards your proposal right?  If so, let's start incremental and see if
> we have enough of a problem left to justify the canonicalization. 
> Philip
> On 5/28/19 6:46 AM, Kit Barton via llvm-dev wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> TL;DR: Should the loop guard branch be part of the canonical loop structure?
>> Background:
>> -----------
>> While working on the next set of improvements to loop fusion, we discovered that
>> loop rotation will put a guard around a loop if it cannot prove the loop will
>> execute at least once, as seen in the following (simplified) example:
>> entry:
>>   br i1 %cmp1, label %for.body.lr.ph, label %for.cond.cleanup
>> for.body.lr.ph:                                   ; preds = %entry
>>   br label %for.body
>> for.body:                                         ; preds = %for.body.lr.ph, %for.inc
>>   br label %for.inc
>> for.inc:                                          ; preds = %for.body
>>   br i1 %cmp, label %for.body, label %for.cond.for.cond.cleanup_crit_edge
>> for.cond.for.cond.cleanup_crit_edge:              ; preds = %for.inc
>>   br label %for.cond.cleanup
>> for.cond.cleanup:                                 ; preds = %for.cond.for.cond.cleanup_crit_edge, %entry
>>   br label %for.end
>> for.end:                                          ; preds = %for.cond.cleanup
>>   ret void
>> However, for loops that can be proven to execute at least once, there is no
>> guard.
>> This creates complications for several loop optimizations because they need to
>> handle both guarded loops and non-guarded loops. For example, the current loop
>> fusion pass needs to check whether two loops are control flow equivalent before
>> fusing them (i.e., if the first loop executes, the second loop is guaranteed to
>> execute). This is currently done by checking that the preheader of the first
>> loop dominates the preheader of the second loop, and the preheader of the second
>> loop post-dominates the preheader of the first loop. When one (or both) of the
>> loops have a guard, then this check no longer works. If the loop guard was part
>> of the canonical form, then this check could be done using the loop guard,
>> instead of the preheader.
>> Similarly, when checking for perfect loop nests, a loop guard around the inner
>> loop will make the nest appear imperfect. However, if the guard is considered to
>> be part of the inner loop, it is easier to prove a perfect nest.
>> Both of these examples have alternative ways to deal with the loop guards, if
>> they are present. However, I would like to have the discussion regarding making
>> guards part of the canonical loop structure. If people are supportive of this,
>> we can start doing the work to implement the guards and start modify loop
>> optimizations to deal with them appropriately. However, if this is not the
>> direction we want to go, we can deal with the guards in the specific
>> optimizations where they are relevant.
>> Proposed Solution:
>> ------------------
>> Ensure that all loops in canonical form have a guard branch that dominates the
>> preheader. If such a guard branch does not exist, a trivial guard will be
>> created.
>> I have not looked at the implementation of this
>> extensively yet because I wanted feedback on this direction first. However, my
>> initial thought is to modify LoopSimplify to add the concept of a loop guard,
>> and provide similar guarantees that it currently provides for preheaders and exit
>> blocks. Specifically, if a guard block is not found, one is created and inserted
>> immediately before the loop preheader to guarantee a structure similar to the
>> one in the example above. Note that as with the preheader and exit blocks, it is
>> possible that subsequent passes (e.g., SimplifyCFG) may remove these blocks thus
>> taking it out of canonical form. However, this is an existing situation that
>> loop optimizations already deal with.
>> Any comments/feedback are greatly appreciated.
>> Thanks,
>> Kit
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