Compact Native Code Generation for Dynamic Languages on Micro-core Architectures

Maurice Jamieson, Nick Brown

Micro-core architectures combine many simple, low memory, low power-consuming CPU cores onto a single chip. Potentially providing significant performance and low power consumption, this technology is not only of great interest in embedded, edge, and IoT uses, but also potentially as accelerators for data-center workloads. Due to the restricted nature of such CPUs, these architectures have traditionally been challenging to program, not least due to the very constrained amounts of memory (often around 32KB) and idiosyncrasies of the technology. However, more recently, dynamic languages such as Python have been ported to a number of micro-cores, but these are often delivered as interpreters which have an associated performance limitation. Targeting the four objectives of performance, unlimited code-size, portability between architectures, and maintaining the programmer productivity benefits of dynamic languages, the limited memory available means that classic techniques employed by dynamic language compilers, such as just-in-time (JIT), are simply not feasible. In this paper we describe the construction of a compilation approach for dynamic languages on micro-core architectures which aims to meet these four objectives, and use Python as a vehicle for exploring the application of this in replacing the existing micro-core interpreter. Our experiments focus on the metrics of performance, architecture portability, minimum memory size, and programmer productivity, comparing our approach against that of writing native C code. The outcome of this work is the identification of a series of techniques that are not only suitable for compiling Python code, but also applicable to a wide variety of dynamic languages on micro-cores.

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