J3/04-123
Date: December 12, 2003
To: J3
From: Aleksandar Donev
Subject: F2+: Allowing Multiple Nonzero-Rank Part References for
Structure Components
Reference: "Multiple Nonzero-rank Part References", A. Donev, Fortran
Forum, December 2002, pp 2-10.
J3/03-253, J3/03-007R1
**************************************************
Number:
Title: Multiple Nonzero-Rank Part References
Submitted By: J3 (Aleksandar Donev)
Status: For Consideration
References: J3/03-253
Basic Functionality:
__________________________
I propose to delete the constraint that prohibits multiple nonzero rank
part-refs:
"In a data-ref, there shall be no more then one part-ref with nonzero
rank." There is no justification for this constraint, and removing it
would unleash a most useful capability which Fortran is uniquely capable
of with its ability to deal with non-contiguous arrays.
The constraint that "A part-name to the right of a part-ref with nonzero
rank shall not have the ALLOCATABLE or POINTER attribute" should remain
as this prohibits skewed arrays, which cannot be implemented with
regular array descriptors. However, structure components with multiple
nonzero rank part-refs *can* be implemented with regular array
descriptors.
______________________________________
Extended Example
______________________________________
Here is an illustration of the expressivity and power of the proposed
feature:
! A type hierarchy of meterological data:
TYPE :: Hourly_Record
REAL (KIND=r_wp) :: temperature (3) = 0.0
! Three temperature readings (water, air, soil)
LOGICAL (KIND=l_byte) :: synny = .TRUE.
END TYPE
TYPE :: Daily_Record
TYPE (Hourly_Record), DIMENSION (24) :: hourly_records
INTEGER (KIND=i_sp) :: sunrise = 7, sunset = 18
END TYPE
TYPE :: Weekly_Record
TYPE (Daily_Record), DIMENSION (7) :: daily_records
REAL (KIND=r_sp) :: forecast_success (5)
END TYPE
! Weather data over a grid of observation points:
INTEGER, PARAMETER :: n_x = 100, n_y = 50
TYPE (Weekly_Record), DIMENSION (n_x, n_y), TARGET :: weekly_records
... ! Assign values to the weather data, do calculations, etc...
! Select the second temperature reading on Mondays and Wednesdays
! at 9:00 and 15:00 hours at grid point (3,1):
WRITE (*,*) "The selected temperatures are:", &
weekly_records(3,1)%daily_records(1:3:2)%hourly_records(9:15:6)%temperature(2)
Rationale:
__________________________
Many will agree with me that arrays are one of the biggest strengths of
Fortran over other languages. One essential aspect of this strength is
the ability to deal with strided arrays very naturally, i.e., the
built-in ability to deal with regular array sections. This strength
relies on the use of array descriptors to describe regular but
noncontiguous ways of storing the array data. The full power of this
ability built into every Fortran compiler and optimizer is not fully
realized yet---the ability to use derived types with high-rank
components by simply referencing the data as a multi-dimensional array
is missing. I believe it is high time this functionality, originally
discussed during the design of Fortran 90, be finally integrated into
the language. The proposed functionality gives two gains:
1) It allows for a kind of separation between the implementation of
operations on data and the way the data is actually stored which is
unpresedented in other languages. This kind of separation is much more
flexible and easy to use then inheritance-based methods (but is more
limited in that only data, not methods, are covered). An example
includes the ability to code a computational geometry package which
operates on a collection of points, without specifically indicating how
the coordinates of the points are stored---in a simple multidimensional
array, or inside some complicated hierarchy of derived types.
2) It allows the use of all the powerful array syntax and intrinsics for
data stored inside derived types.
Take the simple example:
TYPE Point3D
! A point in 3D
REAL :: coordinates(3), data(2)
END TYPE Point3D
TYPE(point3D), DIMENSION(10) :: points
! A collection of points
In Fortran,
points[1:2]%coordinates[1]
produces a strided rank-1 array section (I will use this term more
liberally then the actual standard) which contains the x coordinates of
the first two points. This can, for example, be used as a target of a
rank-1 array pointer.
However, the reference
points[1:2]%coordinates[:]
is not allowed. In a user's mind, this would reference the xyz
coordinates of the first two points, and can be thought of as an "array
of arrays". But in fact, it can just as well be thought of as a rank-2
array of shape (/3,2/).
This is more then just a convenient convention. In fact, the memory
layout of the collection of real numbers (coordinates) referenced by
this array of array can be described by a regular strided array section,
so that in fact it is almost trivial for any existing F95 compiler to
implement the following nonstandard assignment of a rank-2 array pointer
to this "array of arrays":
REAL, DIMENSION(:,:) :: selected_coordinates
selected_coordinates=>points[1:2]%coordinates[:]
Yet no compiler known to the author implements such an extension. It
should be obvious to the reader that this kind of functionality would
indeed be useful. For example, finding the centroid of the selected
points would be performed with,
WRITE(*,*) "The centroid is", SUM(points%coordinates, DIM=2)
which requires no loops.
Even more useful would be the ability to pass the coordinates of the
selected points to a procedure (note that this procedure need not know
that the coordinates came from an array of derived type point3D) as an
actual argument associated with an assumed-shape array dummy argument.
This is a very important kind of separation of the implementation from
the way the data is stored.
Estimated Impact:
__________________________
The edits needed to implement this are small and localized to Section
6.1.2 (examples are given under Specification). References with multiple
non-zero part-refs are treated in all respects like data-refs with just
a single non-zero part ref, namely, they are array sections. Therefore I
estimate that no other part of the standard will need to be changed.
The implementation of this feature does require some nontrivial work.
However, the steps involved are very similar to the way current
data-refs are handled. It is only that a higher-rank descriptor for the
data-ref needs to be constructed, very similar to the one used when
higher rank array sections appear. Therefore I believe the same
optimizations as currently used will be applicable immediately, and only
the construction of the array descriptor is a new addition. Also, the
debugger interfaces and such will be affected. I believe adding this
to the language will be more of an integration effort than an addition:
most of the needed material is in the front end, in optimizers, in
the RTLs.
I have implemented extensions for the three compilers I use to be able to
use such structure components in only a hundred lines of Fortran+C code.
I essentially use low-level C code which manipulates the compiler's
array descriptors to create an higher rank array pointer to the
data-refs I need, and then I can use the array pointer when I need to
access the data as a multi-rank array (see my Fortran Forum article)
Detailed Specification:
__________________________
The main edits needed are the following:
Delete "In a data-ref, there shall be no more then one part-ref with
nonzero rank". Then add constraint
_______________________
The rank of a data-ref is the sum of the ranks of the part-refs with
nonzero rank, if any; otherwise, the rank is zero.
...
Cxxx: The maximum rank of a data-ref shall be 7.
_______________________
and change the way the rank of data-refs is determined. The following
proposal is somewhat controversial and I justify it in detail below:
_______________________
The rank and shape of a nonzero rank part-ref are determined as follows.
If the part-ref has no section-subscript-list, the rank and shape are
those of part-name. Otherwise, the rank is the number of subscript
triplets and vector subscripts in section-subscript-list, and the shape
is the rank-1 array whose i-th element is the number of integer values
in the sequence indicated by the i-th subscript triplet or vector
subscript. If any of these sequences is empty, the corresponding element
in the shape is zero.
In an array-section, the rank of the array is the sum of the ranks of
the nonzero rank part-refs. The shape of the array is the rank-1 array
obtained by concatenating the shapes of the nonzero rank part-refs, in
backward order, i.e., starting from the last one. If the shape has an
element with the value of zero, the array section has size zero.
_______________________
There are some other edits that will be needed, mostly in Section 6.1.2.
______________________________________
The Shape of the data-ref
______________________________________
A problem in the proposal as described above is that the Fortran order
of specifying components, structure%component, as opposed to the
alternative component%structure, is the opposite of the order of
concatenation of the shapes of the non-zero rank references. For
example, the reference:
level1(1:4,1:5,1:6)%level2(1:2,1:3)%level3(1:1)
represents an array section of shape (/1,2,3,4,5,6/), and not
(/4,5,6,2,3,1/) as might be thought at first. This is likely to cause a
"steep learning curve" and errors by programmers when first using the
feature.
However, I argue below that this is the best choice, for both the
compiler and the standard and the user, despite the extra cost of having
to be careful with indices in certain situations. I believe the wrong
choice was made when component references were chosen to follow the
C-style ordering of object%component instead of component%object. This
cannot be changed now without introducing a whole new syntax and the
associated cost for users and implementors. Instead, we should choose
the proposed shape for the data-ref that I describe here and accept the
loss of simplicity in the syntax as unavoidable due to past mistakes.
1. This is the best choice for compilers/vendors:
Take the previous example:
points[1:2]%coordinates[1:3]
In this reference, the 3 coordinates of the first point are stored
contigously, and then the ones for the second point:
X1 Y1 Z1 X2 Y2 Z2
The above proposal says that the shape of the above data-ref is (/3,2/),
not (/2,3/). Had the shape been (/2,3/), we would have an array in which
rows are contiguous, while there is a stride along the columns. There is
no such array in Fortran at present, and I believe implementations are
not ready to deal with them. For example, all Fortran compilers assume
that it is best to keep column-wise references in innermost loops, so
that the memory stride between successive references is minimized (for
cache performance reasons). Now different optimizations would need to be
used for these new arrays. More importantly, current array descriptors
may not be equiped to deal with such C-order arrays, and changing the
descriptors or augmenting them has a high cost for vendors, portability,
and users.
2. This is the best choice for the standard:
Consider 12.4.1.5 Sequence association. "... The element sequence
consists of the storage units beginning with the first storage unit of
the actual argument and continuing to the end of the array."
Note that if the above reference had shape (/2,3/) then the array
element order (which we define to be column-wise) would jump in memory,
rather then be stored in sequence (even if not contiguously). The
standard would need some major surgery to allow for such a novel array
element ordering in storage.
3. This is the best for users.
The main argument put forth by critics is that it is much easier for the
users to concatenate the shapes in the order they appear in the syntax.
I argue however that there are costs to the users which are much more
significant, in particular, dummy argument association:
Consider the following example: I am writing a computational geometry
routine to calculate the convex hull of a collection of points in 3D. So
the input should be an array with the coordinates of the N points. I
want to make this routine as independent from the way that the
coordinates of the points are actually stored in memory as possible--to
avoid copy in/out costs. It is clear the input should be an
assumed-shape array (in present Fortran, I claim the optimal choice is
dummy array argument of shape (3,:), but this is not legal as of yet). I
have two choices:
--Assume the input is an array of shape (3,N)
--Assume the input is an array of shape (N,3)
I claim that almost all Fortran programmers will choose the first
option. Since most algorithms reference all coordinates of a point
together, for optimization purposes it is best to keep them contiguous
in memory. Note that this is not a high-level choice. Either choice
seems equally good at a high level. But practically any routine such
ever written will expect the points to be the columns of the input
array.
So now, another user writes a code which deals with points. However, the
coordinates of the points are stored inside a derived type, as in our
example above. So the user wants to call the convex hull procedure with
the data-ref
points[1:N]%coordinates[1:3]
as an actual. Since the dummy is of shape (3,N), it is clear what the
shape of the data-ref should be. Making the shape of the data-ref be
(N,3) will make it necessary to do a manual copy in/out into an array of
shape (3,N) just to invoke the convex hull procedure. Note that in
almost all compilers I know:
CALL Sub(TRANSPOSE(A))
will actually cause a copy-in/out of A! If the committee wants to change
this and allow one to transpose array sections and pass them as dummy
arguments without copy-in/out, I would not object, but this would have a
high implementation cost.
So we would have actually destroyed much of the usefulness of the
feature if we had chosen a different shape for the data-ref than what I
propose here! I believe that in most practical situations the code
dealing with multi-dimensional arrays will be separate from the code
using the derived-type hierarchies, and that the mixing will occur using
argument association. So the above problem is very significant in
practice.
History:
Many debates during the design of F8x...