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2012-12-20

How to make it fast?

On our forum, a clever question was posted about publishing some enhanced RTL functions for newer versions of Delphi - as we did for Delphi 7 and 2007.

I was looking for a faster IntToStr implementation and discovered SynCommons.pas.
(....)
That's really too bad, SynCommons.pas really does contain some seriously fast stuff, people would greatly benefit from it if it was made general-purpose.

In fact, it would not be enough to change the RTL function implementations.
IMHO, to write something scalable, you need to get rid of such functions.

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2012-10-06

Delphi XE3 is preparing (weak) reference counting for class instances

In Delphi, you have several ways of handling data life time, therefore several ways of handling memory:

  • For simple value objects (e.g.  byte integer double shortstring and fixed size arrays or record containing only such types), the value is copied in fixed-size buffers;
  • For more complex value objets (e.g. string and dynamic arrays or record containing such types), there is a reference counter handled by each instance, with copy-on-write feature and compiler-generated reference counting at code scope level (with hidden try..finally blocks);
  • For most class instances (e.g. deriving from TObject), you have to Create then Free each instance, and manage its life time by hand - with explicit try..finally blocks;
  • For class deriving from TInterfacedObject, you have a RefCount property, with _AddRef _Release methods (this is the reference-counted COM model), and you can use Delphi interface to work with such instances - see this blog article.
With Delphi XE3, we were told that some automatic memory handling at class level are about to be introduced at the compiler and RTL level.
Even if this feature is not finished, and disabled, there are a lot of changes in the Delphi XE3 Run Time Library which sounds like a preparation of such a new feature.

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2012-06-18

Circular reference and zeroing weak pointers

The memory allocation model of the Delphi interface type uses some kind of Automatic Reference Counting (ARC). In order to avoid memory and resource leaks and potential random errors in the applications (aka the terrible EAccessViolation exception on customer side) when using interface, a SOA framework like mORMot has to offer so-called Weak pointers and Zeroing Weak pointers features.

Note that garbage collector based languages (like Java or C#) do not suffer from this problem, since the circular references are handled by their memory model: objects lifetime are maintained globally by the memory manager. Of course, it will increase memory use, slowdown the process due to additional actions during allocation and assignments (all objects and their references have to be maintained in internal lists), and may slow down the application when garbage collector enters in action. In order to avoid such issues when performance matters, experts tend to pre-allocate and re-use objects: this is one common limitation of this memory model, and why Delphi is still a good candidate (like unmanaged C or C++ - and also Objective C) when it deals with performance and stability.

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2011-08-28

Multi-threading and Delphi

Writing working multi-threaded code is not easy - it's even hard, as as a Delphi expert just wrote in his blog.

In fact, the first step into multi-thread application development could be:

"protect your shared variables with locks (aka critical sections), because you are not sure that the data you read/write is the same for all threads".

The CPU per-core cache is just one of the possible issues, which will lead into reading wrong values. Another issue which may lead into race condition is two threads writing to a resource at the same time: it's impossible to know which value will be stored afterward.

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2011-06-16

Which Delphi compiler produces faster code?

After a question on StackOverflow, I wanted to comment about the speed of generated code by diverse Delphi compiler versions.

Since performance matters when we write general purpose libraries like ours, we have some feedback to propose:

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2011-05-20

How to write fast multi-thread Delphi applications

How to make your software run fast, especially in a multi-threaded architecture?

We tried to remove the Memory Manager scaling problems in our SynScaleMM. It worked as expected in a multi-threaded server environment. Scaling is much better than FastMM4, for some critical tests. But it's not ready for production yet...

To be honest, the Memory Manager is perhaps not the bigger bottleneck in Multi-Threaded applications.

Here are some (not dogmatic, just from experiment and knowledge of low-level Delphi RTL) advice if you want to write FAST multi-threaded application in Delphi.

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2010-12-04

SynScaleMM - a multi-thread scaling Memory Manager

We just released a new unit to the source code repository.

It's a simple, small and compact MM, built on top of the main Memory Manager(FastMM4 is a good candidate, standard since Delphi 2007), architectured in order to scale on multi core CPU's (which is what FastMM4 is lacking).

Original code is ScaleMM - Fast scaling memory manager for Delphi by André Mussche.

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When inlining works

It was told on this Blog that the Delphi memory manager (FastMM4 since Borland 2006 - but it was even worse with the previous "Borland's" MM), doesn't scale well on multi-code CPU. That is, if you have a multi-threaded application with a lot of memory handling (e.g. aString := aString+someString), the Delphi MM won't scale with multi cores. When I mean "don't scale", I mean that the optimistic though of "my CPU has 4 cores, therefore the same work run in 4 threads will be 4 times faster than with 1 thread" is false. It performs even worse with multiple threads than with 1 thread...

So we went into forking a nice project, named ScaleMM, and created our scalable optimized MM, named SynScaleMM. Our forked modifications were even included in the main ScaleMM branch.

During my profiling of our SynScaleMM, I discovered some very nice results with Delphi compiler inlining features.

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2010-08-24

Synopse SQLite3 Framework 1.9.1

The Synopse SQLite3 Database Framework was just released under version 1.9.1:
- internal SQLite3 database engine is updated to version 3.7.2;
- new TSQLRecordFTS3 record, for using FTS3 virtual tables, i.e. implementing full-text search;
- new SQLite3UIEdit unit, to edit table content with a dialog created from RTTI;
- new dedicated BLOB methods and JSON array serialization;
- a lot of fixes and speed enhancements (including our HTTP/1.1 RESTful server now using Thread Pool).

The new 3.7.2 version of the SQLite3 engine, which is mandatory according to SQLite3's authors, is included.

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2010-07-30

Compiler enhancement proposal: threadlocalvar

As I wrote in a previous post, Delphi string, dynamic array and memory manager don't like multi-core CPU.

My proposal is to add a threadlocalvar keyword, to be used instead of var in your code, to mark some variables to be used in only the current thread. Then the compiler and RTL won't have to use the LOCK instruction, and the application will be MUCH faster in multi-thread environment.

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2010-07-15

Delphi doesn't like multi-core CPUs (or the contrary)

If you're like me, you are proud of the new CPU your computer runs on - in my case a i7-720Q with 8 embedded cores...

But Delphi is not very multi-thread or multi-core friendly... guess why....

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