[armedbear-devel] Proposed solution to the "too many functions in FASL" problem

Alessio Stalla alessiostalla at gmail.com
Wed Jan 12 14:22:57 UTC 2011

Hello all,

since my merge of the less-reflection branch with trunk[1], several of
you have been bitten by the new limitation in the number of functions
that can be contained in a FASL. The reflection-less scheme requires
creating a loader class because it needs to spell out in the bytecode
all the class names corresponding to compiled Lisp functions in the
FASL. Functions are numbered from 1 onwards and a method is created
that is a huge switch (actually a chain of if's) that returns the
right function given its index:

if(index >= 1 && index < 1024) {
  if(index == 1) return new function_1();
  if(index == 2) return new function_2();
} else if(index >= 1024 ...

In the presence of many functions, this method grows very large,
eventually surpassing the JVM's 64k method size limit.

A couple of days ago Erik and I discussed a bit about the issue and
how to solve it.
One option is to implement method splitting for the big FASL loader
method. Method splitting in general is hard (you'd need some form of
CPS conversion) but in this case it's quite easy. The current scheme,
though, has drawbacks: it's more complicated than it used to be, and
it's not that beneficial performance-wise - from a profiling I did a
while ago, its performance gains amounted to ~1% of our loading time,
which is completely dominated by I/O and UTF-8 decoding.
So, there's another option: go back to reflection-based loading. Using
reflection has the benefit of being simpler. On certain platforms
(e.g. mobile JVMs or similar, like Dalvik), reflection has a higher
cost, but we currently don't run satisfactorily on those platforms
anyway and we'd require multiple changes to do so.
After my discussion with Erik, a further refinement of this second
option came to my mind. As part of the no-reflection effort, the
compiler was changed to stop emitting calls to
loadCompiledFunction(className) in favor of generating `new
className()` bytecode for local functions, in accordance with the goal
of avoiding reflection as much as possible. A special classloader is
used to both resolve those local function references, and to load the
FASL loader class (and thus transitively all top-level functions). I
propose keeping the compilation of local function references as it is,
and thus the special classloader; and use it directly (via reflection)
to load top-level functions, instead of generating one big loader
method. This would result in slightly less reflection, but more
importantly in a clearer function loading scheme, and less development
effort compared to returning completely to the reflection-based scheme
also for local functions.

What do you think? If it's not clear, both Erik and I sponsor the
solution of returning to a reflection-based approach, but we'd like to
hear everyone's opinions.


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