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Posted 17 Jan 2016

.NET Methods Inlining and Loops

, 24 Jan 2016
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This article dives into .NET method inlining topic and shed some light on one particular case when CLR is more likely to inline method - looping.

Introduction

As you possibly know, function (method) inlining is an optimization technique performed by almost all modern language compilers. In essence, method inlining is when the compiler decides to replace your function call with the body of the function. The compiler does this to save the overhead of actually making a function call, which would involve pushing each parameter on to the stack, function prologue, function epilogue, etc. .NET is not an exception. But bear in mind that it is not C# or VB.NET compiler but JIT compiler who is responsible for making decisions whether to inline method or not. Thus, let's look at what affects its decision.

To Inline Or Not To Inline

According to Sasha's Goldstein article http://blogs.microsoft.co.il/sasha/2012/01/20/aggressive-inlining-in-the-clr-45-jit/, the JIT won’t inline:

  • Methods marked with MethodImplOptions.NoInlining
  • Methods larger than 32 bytes of IL
  • Virtual methods
  • Methods that take a large value type as a parameter
  • Methods on MarshalByRef classes
  • Methods with complicated flowgraphs
  • Methods meeting other, more exotic features

But it turns out that the same method could be inlined in one context and remains not inlined in another. Let's consider legacy JIT-x86 and create a simple method:

public static class Utils
{
    public static bool TryParse(char c, out int val)
    {
        if (c < '0' || c > '9')
        {
            val = 0;
            return false;
        }
        val = (c - '0');
        return true;
    }
}

This method just checks whether a character is a digit or not and returns converted character as an output parameter. If we try to invoke this method:

var key = System.Console.ReadKey();
int val = 0;
if (Utils.TryParse(key.KeyChar, out val))
{
    Console.WriteLine("Parsed");
}

and investigate JIT-compiled assembly code, we'll see the following code fragment (you can use Visual Studio or WinDBG to delve into jitted machine code).

0000001e  xor      edx,edx
00000020  mov      dword ptr [ebp-10h],edx
00000023  movzx    ecx,word ptr [ebp-0Ch]
00000027  lea      edx,[ebp-10h]
0000002a  call     dword ptr ds:[00944D4Ch]
00000030  test     eax,eax
00000032  je       0000003F

We see call instruction at 0000002a address. That is method TryParse was not inlined. It is likely due to output parameter presence.

For Loops

Now, let's modify method's invocation code so that TryParse method is called from inside a for loop.

var key = System.Console.ReadKey();
int val = 0;
for (int i = 0; i < 1; i++)
{
     if (Utils.TryParse(key.KeyChar, out val))
     {
          Console.WriteLine("Parsed");
      }
}

And here is the assembly code generated from C# snippet above:

00000024  xor         esi,esi
00000026  movzx       eax,word ptr [ebp-10h]
0000002a  cmp         eax,30h
0000002d  jl          00000034
0000002f  cmp         eax,39h
00000032  jle         0000003D
00000034  xor         edx,edx
00000036  mov         dword ptr [ebp-14h],edx
00000039  xor         eax,eax
0000003b  jmp         00000048
0000003d  add         eax,0FFFFFFD0h
00000040  mov         dword ptr [ebp-14h],eax
00000043  mov         eax,1
00000048  test        eax,eax
0000004a  je          00000057

It is obvious that in that case the method was inlined. I highlighted comparison and jump instructions which correspond to if statement below:

if (c < '0' || c > '9')

The conclusion is that when method is called inside a for loop, it is more likely that JIT will inline it. But what about other kinds of loops?

While Loops

Let's look at while loop example:

var key = System.Console.ReadKey();
int val = 0;
int i = 0;
while (i < 1)
{
   i++;
   if (Utils.TryParse(key.KeyChar, out val))
   {
     Console.WriteLine("Parsed");
   }
}
You can try to investigate jitted assembly code yourself and make sure that while loop behaves the same way as for loop, that is JIT inlines TryParse method in that case.

Endless Loops

But not all loops behave the same way as inlining is concerned. Let's look at functionally equivalent endless for loop that breaks after its first iteration:

var key = System.Console.ReadKey();
int val = 0;
for (;;)
{
    if (Utils.TryParse(key.KeyChar, out val))
    {
        Console.WriteLine("Parsed");
    }
    break;
}

Magically, in that case JIT decides not to inline TryParse method in spite of the fact, that this loop is exactly the same as the previous ones from a logical point of view. What about foreach loop?

foreach loop

List<int> l = new List<int> { 0 };
int val = 0;
foreach (var i in l)
{
     var key = System.Console.ReadKey();
     if (Utils.TryParse(key.KeyChar, out val))
     {
          Console.WriteLine("Parsed");
     }
}

JIT emerged pretty complicated assembly code as you can see from the code snippet below:

s00000039 lea         edi,[ebp-4Ch]
0000003c  xorps       xmm0,xmm0
0000003f  movq        mmword ptr [edi],xmm0
00000043  movq        mmword ptr [edi+8],xmm0
00000048  mov         dword ptr [ebp-4Ch],esi
0000004b  mov         dword ptr [ebp-48h],edx
0000004e  mov         eax,dword ptr [esi+10h]
00000051  mov         dword ptr [ebp-44h],eax
00000054  mov         dword ptr [ebp-40h],edx
00000057  lea         edi,[ebp-3Ch]
0000005a  lea         esi,[ebp-4Ch]
0000005d  movs        dword ptr es:[edi],dword ptr [esi]
0000005e  movs        dword ptr es:[edi],dword ptr [esi]
0000005f  movs        dword ptr es:[edi],dword ptr [esi]
00000060  movs        dword ptr es:[edi],dword ptr [esi]
00000061  lea         ecx,[ebp-3Ch]
00000064  call        70C2F368
00000069  test        eax,eax
0000006b  je          000000B4
0000006d  lea         ecx,[ebp-2Ch]
00000070  xor         edx,edx
00000072  call        713461AC
00000077  movzx       eax,word ptr [ebp-2Ch]
0000007b  cmp         eax,30h
0000007e  jl          00000085
00000080  cmp         eax,39h
00000083  jle         0000008E

But it is simple to find cmp and jump (jl and jle) instructions which correspond to already familiar if statement from TryParse method. That is, foreach loop increases the possibility that JIT will inline method called inside it.

ForEach method

There is a ForEach method of Lst<T> class which is functionally equivalent as foreach loop. But if we replace foreach with ForEach method:

int val;
List<int> l = new List<int> { 0 };
l.ForEach((i) =>
{
     var key = System.Console.ReadKey();
     if (Utils.TryParse(key.KeyChar, out val))
     {
           Console.WriteLine("Parsed");
     }

});

no inlining will occur.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that invoking a method from inside a loop increases the possibility that JIT will inline a method, not all kind of loops and loop-like constructs behave the same way. We covered only x32 version of JIT and you may ask about x64 JIT if its behaviour differes from x32 version. Good question. I asked the same question myself. And the answer is that x64 JIT hehaves exactly the same way. The following table summarizes what we have seen above.

Method invocation x32 JIT x64 JIT
For loop Inlined Inlined
While loop Inlined Inlined
Endless loop Not inlined Not inlined
Foreach loop Inlined Inlined
ForEach method Not inlined Not inlined

It may be possible that new RyuJIT behaves slightly different. You can examine it yourself if you are interested and share your findings.

History

  • Version 1 - January 2016
  • Version 2 - January 2016. x64 JIT version was also covered

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Dmitry Orzhevsky
Technical Lead
Russian Federation Russian Federation
No Biography provided

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Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionAggressiveInlining Pin
shatl20-Jan-16 5:48
membershatl20-Jan-16 5:48 
AnswerRe: AggressiveInlining Pin
Dmitry Orzhevsky20-Jan-16 7:48
memberDmitry Orzhevsky20-Jan-16 7:48 

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