Parallel Compilation

Most of the compiler is not parallel. This represents an opportunity for improving compiler performance. Much effort has been put into parallelizing rustc, but it is still pretty early days for this work. There is a lot of design and correctness work that needs to be done.

One can try out the current parallel compiler work by enabling it in the config.toml.

There are a few basic ideas in this effort:

  • There are a lot of loops in the compiler that just iterate over all items in a crate. These can possibly be parallelized.
  • We can use (a custom fork of) rayon to run tasks in parallel. The custom fork allows the execution of DAGs of tasks, not just trees.
  • There are currently a lot of global data structures that need to be made thread-safe. A key strategy here has been converting interior-mutable data-structures (e.g. Cell) into their thread-safe siblings (e.g. Mutex).

As of this writing, much of this effort is on hold due to lack of manpower. We have a working prototype with promising performance gains in many cases. However, there are two blockers:

  • It's not clear what invariants need to be upheld that might not hold in the face of concurrency. An auditing effort was underway, but seems to have stalled at some point.

  • There is a lot of lock contention, which actually degrades performance as the number of threads increases beyond 4.

Here are some resources that can be used to learn more (note that some of them are a bit out of date):