Taras Tsugrii
Software Bits

Software Bits

Function call fusion.

Or avoiding wasted memory and repeated work.

Taras Tsugrii's photo
Taras Tsugrii
·Apr 28, 2021·

2 min read

Apache Arrow project uses regular expression matching to implement the LIKE predicate by translating SQL pattern into a regular expression pattern:

let re_pattern = pat.replace("%", ".*").replace("_", ".");

While this approach works it has issues:

  • replace function always allocates a new string, even if pat contains neither % nor _ leading to wasted memory and allocation overhead
  • each replace invocation results in a full scan of the pat resulting in unnecessary repeated work

It's a fairly common problem, so unsurprisingly it has a generic solution - function call fusion. Thanks to referential transparency this optimization has been available for Haskell developers. For example, map fusion transforms a composition of maps

map g . map f

is transformed into a map of compositions:

map (g . f)

which is more efficient since we iterate over input list and produce the output list only once. So what does it mean for the original problem with SQL pattern translation? To compare the efficiency, we'll fuse repeated replace invocations in the original implementation

pub fn naive_sql_to_re(input: &str) -> String {
    input.replace('%', ".*").replace('_', ".")

into a single function

pub fn sql_to_re(input: &str) -> String {
    let mut output = String::with_capacity(input.len());
    for c in input.chars() {
        match c {
            '%' => output.push_str(".*"),
            '_' => output.push_str("."),
            _ => output.push(c),

It's not the most efficient implementation but is sufficient to deliver significantly better performance for cases when there are and there are not any matches. Benchmarks

    fn bench_naive_sql_to_re_no_match(b: &mut Bencher) {
        b.iter(|| naive_sql_to_re("foobarbazz"))

    fn bench_naive_sql_to_re_with_match(b: &mut Bencher) {
        b.iter(|| naive_sql_to_re("foo%bar_bazz"))

    fn bench_sql_to_re_no_match(b: &mut Bencher) {
        b.iter(|| sql_to_re("foobarbazz"))

    fn bench_sql_to_re_with_match(b: &mut Bencher) {
        b.iter(|| sql_to_re("foo%bar_bazz"))

show almost 3X improvement for the case without matches and ~25% speed up for the case with matches even for a fairly short input strings, foobarbazz and foo%bar_bazz:

test tests::bench_naive_sql_to_re_no_match   ... bench:         193 ns/iter (+/- 35)
test tests::bench_naive_sql_to_re_with_match ... bench:         277 ns/iter (+/- 40)
test tests::bench_sql_to_re_no_match         ... bench:          71 ns/iter (+/- 11)
test tests::bench_sql_to_re_with_match       ... bench:         205 ns/iter (+/- 30)

Until your compiler supports fuse optimization, it's an important and useful technique for improving performance and efficiency.

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