In many disciplines engineers rely on performance characteristic reference tables of the materials and structures they work with. For a host of reasons these aids are lacking in the field of engineering application software. In the previous article in this series I introduced DS_Benchmark, an open source project for benchmarking F# data structure performance. Now I’m rolling out the first performance tables constructed with this tool. At the same time I’m launching the F# Data Structures pages as a centralized source of information on data structures across all available sources.
But won’t performance vary on different systems?
Of course. That has long been a problem with benchmarks represented in terms of how much time operations take. I am using a different approach, which is to compare operations in terms of their relative speed. Running tests on a 32 and 64-bit system I found the performance ratios remarkably consistent despite big differences in absolute performance.
Loading Data Structures
The Initial Data Performance tables rank data structures, originating data source, and data loading action from fastest to slowest for data sizes ranging from 1 to 106. The column “TIME REL TO BEST” reports how many times longer a given combination takes compared to the top ranked.
Naturally you will be interested in specific comparisons. At the scale 105 it is not surprising loading a List from another List of ascending integers is ranked the fastest for the “Init” action (
List.ofList), but say your interest is in comparing performance of FSharpx DList to FSharpx PersistentVector when loading from an integer Array? Read down the chart until you find
The initial load performance of DList is 96.1 times as long as the top ranked, so divide Persistent Vector’s number by this to learn that it’s performance is 2.1 times slower than DList.
While the tables comparing performance across data structures will probably be your go to tables, there are also tables comparing performance within a data structure, one for comparing across different methods of loading data (there are some surprising results) as well as actual performance when scaling up data sizes.
Pathologies and other observations
Reasoning about any kind of software performance is notoriously hard. Modern CPU pipelining architectures and instruction and memory caches make it darn near impossible. And there are many considerations to take into account regarding the choice of language. You need to do your own profiling. These performance tables are no substitute, but meant to be a guide. Here are some interesting things that come to light with the performance tables:
- Structures you would expect to display a more or less O(n) data loading performance seldom do. It’s much more common to display better performance up to some threshold (often 104) and then perform worse than O(n).
- The Power Pack library’s HashMultiMap structure loads significantly faster using the AddOne action (a
For...doloop) than the
new()constructor up to scale 105 where performance becomes roughly the same.
- FSharpx’s RealTimeQueue will stack overflow at scale 105 on both the 32 and 64-bit systems I tested on.
- FSharpx’s BootstrappedQueue scales remarkably well when loading from a List. (Of course if you looked at the code for this structure you would understand why.) And so the AddOne action scales badly in comparison to Init at scale 105.
- Not only is Array generally the fastest structure to initialize at all scales. It is often the fastest structure as the source for loading another structure.
It’s important to remember the data load performance charts are the result of the performance interplay of the source and target data structures. If you are loading from I/O or some other “neutral” source consider comparing performance characteristics of Array loads, since Array seems to be consistently fast, and therefore somewhat neutral.
You will also see some strange blips at certain scales and for certain data and ordering characteristics. While I can’t vouch for every one, the oddities I looked at were consistently repeatable. I was still doing some development work while compiling these statistics. There is the possibility of bad data, and I eventually intend to re-compile all these stats. I deemed it more important to publish what I have and move forward with the next phases of my data structure performance survey.
Still to come
Still a lot of data structures to add to the data structure pages, and I still have to compile performance charactistics on common actions, like lookup, update, append, iterate. So I’ll have my head down working on this for a while. Please send comments, suggestions, and requests.
Here are some more .NET related performance benchmarks, also using the ratio comparison method.