Floating point performance issue

Ico ico@pruts.nl
Tue Dec 20 09:52:00 GMT 2011


I'm running the program below twice with different command line arguments. The
argument is used a a floating point scaling factor in the code, but does not
change the algorithm in any way.  I am baffled by the difference in run time of
the two runs, since the program flow is not altered by the argument.

$ gcc -O3 t.c

$ time ./a.out 0.1

real	0m7.300s
user	0m7.286s
sys	0m0.007s

$ time ./a.out 0.0001

real	0m0.060s
user	0m0.058s
sys	0m0.003s

The second run is about 120 times faster then the first.

I did some quick tests using the 'perf' profiling utility on Linux, and
it seems that the slow run has about 70% branch misses, which I guess
might kill performance drastically.

I am able to reproduce this on multiple i686 boxes using various gcc versions
(4.4, 4.6). Compiling on x86_64 does not show this behaviour.

Is anybody able to reproduce this issue, and how can this be explained ?



 * gcc -O3 test.c && ./a.out NUMBER

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

#define N 4000
#define S 5000

struct t {
        double a, b, f;

int main(int argc, char **argv)
        int i, j;
        struct t t[N];
        double f = atof(argv[1]);

        for(i=0; i<N; i++) {
                t[i].a = 0;
                t[i].b = 1;
                t[i].f = i * f;

        for(j=0; j<S; j++) {
                for(i=0; i<N; i++) {
                        t[i].a += t[i].b * t[i].f;
                        t[i].b -= t[i].a * t[i].f;

        return t[1].a;

processor	: 1
vendor_id	: GenuineIntel
cpu family	: 6
model		: 15
model name	: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU     T7500  @ 2.20GHz
stepping	: 11

Using built-in specs.
Target: i486-linux-gnu
Configured with: ../src/configure -v --with-pkgversion='Debian 4.6.2-7'
  --enable-languages=c,c++,fortran,objc,obj-c++,go --prefix=/usr
  --program-suffix=-4.6 --enable-shared --enable-linker-build-id
  --with-system-zlib --libexecdir=/usr/lib --without-included-gettext
  --enable-threads=posix --with-gxx-include-dir=/usr/include/c++/4.6
  --libdir=/usr/lib --enable-nls --enable-clocale=gnu --enable-libstdcxx-debug
  --enable-libstdcxx-time=yes --enable-plugin --enable-objc-gc
  --enable-targets=all --with-arch-32=i586 --with-tune=generic
  --enable-checking=release --build=i486-linux-gnu --host=i486-linux-gnu
Thread model: posix
gcc version 4.6.2 (Debian 4.6.2-7) 

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