Performance: Metaprogramming


Spatial is an embedded DSL in the Scala language. This document discusses the primary differences between Spatial and vanilla Scala, as well as how to leverage Scala to create more complex and powerful constructs in Spatial.


import spatial.dsl._

object Utils {
  def utilityFunc(...)(implicit state: argon.State) = {
    // Branches, vars, etc. outside of @spatial are not transformed
    if (something) {
    } else {
      other value

@spatial object Thing extends SpatialApp {
  def main(args: Array[String]): Unit = {
object Utils {
  def copy[T](reader: (I32 => T), writer: ((I32, T) => Void), lower: Int, upper: Int): Void = {
    (lower to (upper - 1)) foreach {
      index => writer(I32(index), reader(I32(index)))

@spatial object Example extends SpatialApp {
  def main(args: Array[String]): Unit = {
    Accel {
      val sram = SRAM[T](N)
      val rf = RegFile[T](N)
        {ind: I32 => sram(ind)},
        {(ind, val): (I32, T) => rf(ind) := val}
// Array values
val values = Array(1.125, 2.25, 1.3125, 2.75)

// Proper S, I, F format can be easily computed from the data.

val sign = values.exists { _ < 0 }
val integer = (values map {x => if (x > 0) log2(x) else log2(-x + 1)}).max
val frac = (Stream.from(0).find {
  shift => values forall {
    value =>
      val low_prec = (value << shift).round / pow(2, shift)
      abs(low_prec - value) < error
// Note that quasiquoting + eval essentially discards all compiler type-checking between the quasiquoted portion and the rest of the program.

import scala.reflect.runtime.currentMirror
import scala.reflect.runtime.universe._

def createFixPt(sign: Boolean, integer: Int, fractional: Int, value: Double): FixPt[_, _, _] = {
  val toolbox = currentMirror.mkToolBox()
  val signType = TypeName(if (sign) "TRUE" else "FALSE")
  val intName = TypeName(s"_$integer")
  val fracName = TypeName(s"_$fractional")
  val qq = tq"spatial.lang.FixPt[$signType, $intName, $fracName]"

  val constant = Literal(Constant(value))

  ).asInstanceOf[FixPt[_, _, _]]


The embedding for Spatial in Scala happens in two major stages. First, language-level changes are performed by re-writing structures tagged with @spatial. Then, Scala-level overrides occur through the definition of new functions, objects, and implicits.

Compiler Rewrites

For objects and classes tagged with @spatial, the compiler makes code-level changes. These are documented in forge.tags.Virtualizer. Of particular note is that if-else and var are transformed, and as a result do not behave as you would normally expect in Scala. As a result, any code which uses these constructs (among others) should be moved into utility classes/objects which are not tagged with @spatial.

Currently, there do not appear to be vim plugins or traditional IDEs which can intelligently reason about these changes. As a result, bugs due to rewriting are quite difficult to trace.

Scala-level overrides

In addition to the compiler rewrites, Spatial also contains overrides of common constructs. Note here that there are two "versions" of spatial at play here: spatial.dsl and spatial.libdsl. These differ in that spatial.dsl shadows many common Scala names, such as Array, String, etc. The full list of these can be found in spatial.lang.Aliases.

Extra Silliness

Scala's implicit lookup rules mean that if you have a function defined which takes argon.State as an implicit (which is necessary for all of the operations tagged @stateful, consisting of almost everything), you end up pulling in argon.lang.api.Implicits, which includes IntWrapper, which converts range expressions like 1 until 3 into argon.lang.Series[I32] objects instead of scala.collections.immutable.Range. The current workaround is to avoid using x until y in favor of x to (y - 1).

Building a Spatial Graph

Once outside the clutches of spatial.dsl._, we are empowered to use standard Scala constructs, provided we have the right implicits. These implicits are either provided by the application (in particular argon.State) or from general implicits (such as conversions). In the code example, the state implicit is used to construct the corresponding Spatial Graph.

Note that if we were operating outside a scope where the original types are available (such as when creating a type-parameterized utility function), a large block of implicit parameters are necessary to pull in all of the associated data in order to create the operations. We currently do not have a workaround for this problem.

Interfacing Between Different Storage Types

In order to easily handle differences between different storage structures such as different DRAM dimensions, SRAMs, Scala arrays of Reg, etc., we need a common interface across dramatically different types. Note that in this environment, Spatial and Scala constants can be almost interchanged.

// Scala int to spatial value
spatial_value = uconst[T](FixedPoint.fromInt(scala_int))

// Spatial value back to Scala value (FixedPoint becomes a Scala BigInt)
scala_value = spatial_value.c.get.asInstanceOf[emul.FixedPoint].value

Note that in the example above, we need to know how the actual type of the value (emul.FixedPoint).

In order to build this interface, we can consider reading from a data store to have the signature (IndexType => ValueType), and writing to have the signature (IndexType, ValueType) => argon.Void.

Note that since these techniques are simply Scala at this point, we can use almost arbitrary constructs inside of the access functions with the catch that functions defined inside of the @spatial object are still subject to the compiler rewrites.

Type-ical Metaprogramming

One thing to note is that all metaprogramming so far is done at the Scala level, meaning that while we have flexibility on the computation, we do not have the ability to directly interact with the types involved.

This problem arises when we wish to do a data-dependent generation of types. For example, if we know that a particular array is to be loaded into a SRAM, then we can size the individual elements to be precisely the correct precision.

However, since we represent numerical formats by type (i.e. FixPt[TRUE, _3, _13]), we are unable to actually create such a value. However, with a fair bit of magic we can make this happen.