Best practices for performance

PWR034: avoid strided array access to improve performance

Issue #

Strided array access may impact performance.

Actions #

Consider using techniques like loop fusion, loop interchange, loop tiling or changing the data layout to avoid non-sequential access in hot loops.

Relevance #

Accessing an array using a non-unit stride is less efficient than accessing consecutive positions because the latter improves the  locality of reference. Note that C/C++ column-wise matrix access is an example non-unit stride, where the stride is the column width.

Code examples #

The following code shows a loop with a strided access to array a with stride 2. Avoiding it would require changing the data layout of the program, in general.

void example(float *a, unsigned size) {
  for (unsigned i = 0; i < size; i += 2) {
    a[i] = 0.f;

Another code with strided accesses is show below. In this case, both variables a and b have a stride LEN.

for (int i = 0; i < LEN; ++i) {
  for (int j = 1; j < LEN; j++) {
    a[j * LEN + i] = a[j * LEN + i - 1] + b[j * LEN + i];

Note that by using loop interchange, the loop order changes from ij to ji. The resulting code shown below has sequential accesses (i.e. stride 1) for variables ij and b in the scope of the innermost loop. Note in this case a code change solves the issue, no change in data layout is required.

for (int j = 1; j < LEN; ++j) {
  for (int i = 0; i < LEN; i++) {
    a[j * LEN + i] = a[j * LEN + i - 1] + b[j * LEN + i];

Related resources #

References #