Branch Prediction and the Performance of Interpreters - Don't Trust Folklore

Erven Rohou 1 Bharath Narasimha Swamy 1 André Seznec 1
1 ALF - Amdahl's Law is Forever
Inria Rennes – Bretagne Atlantique , IRISA-D3 - ARCHITECTURE
Abstract : Interpreters have been used in many contexts. They provide portability and ease of development at the expense of performance. The literature of the past decade covers analysis of why interpreters are slow, and many software techniques to improve them. A large proportion of these works focuses on the dispatch loop, and in particular on the implementation of the switch statement: typically an indirect branch instruction. Conventional wisdom attributes a significant penalty to this branch, due to its high misprediction rate. We revisit this assumption, considering current interpreters, and modern predictors. Using both hardware counters and simulation, we show that the accuracy of indirect branch prediction is no longer critical for interpreters. We also compare the characteristics of these interpreters and analyze why the indirect branch is less important than before.
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Erven Rohou, Bharath Narasimha Swamy, André Seznec. Branch Prediction and the Performance of Interpreters - Don't Trust Folklore. [Research Report] RR-8405, INRIA. 2013, pp.23. ⟨hal-00911146⟩

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