Mill Computing, Inc. Forums The Mill Architecture switches Reply To: switches

Ivan Godard
Keymaster
Post count: 629

The compiler currently turns switches into a binary search branch tree. The case space is partitioned by lss-than compares down to the level at which equal-compares are better, and then equal-compares thereafter. The logic deals well with runs of consecutive values in a case, such as all alphabetic characters; less-than compares are cheap for that. We do not currently generate a jump table. Although early versions of the ISA had jump tables in the code adjacent the the instruction that used them, we took the operation out; code side jump tables seriously muck up the code data paths.

This strategy is tuned for the wide issue and multi-branch capability in larger Mill family members. For a member that is Silver or wider all the equal compares and their branches fit in one instruction, and a big hunk of the less-than tree will be in prior instructions of the same ebb. Consequently execution can get well down the tree before one of the branches is actually taken and search enters a sub-tree. As the whole ebb has only one prediction (where it will exit to) there are many fewer misses than would occur on a legacy architecture that does branch prediction in a search tree. A bit of arithmetic will show how many taken branches (on average) are necessary to get to the target case (assuming cases are equiprobable and sparse, which is the worst case) for any member configuration of ALU exu slots (for the compares) and branch flow lots (for the branches).

This works quite well for switches up to the size of say a lexer, but will obviously fail for something like a YACC grammar with cases in the thousands. For those we need to add a cost function and data-side dispatch tables (Mill branches already support label variables) to the specializer; we just haven’t gotten around to that yet.