PaddlePaddle Fluid: Towards a Compiled Programming Language

As described in, when a Fluid application program runs, it generates a ProgramDesc protobuf message as an intermediate representation of itself. The C++ class Executor can run this protobuf message as an interpreter. This article describes the Fluid compiler.


Before we go deeper into the idea of compiled language, let us take a look at a simple example Fluid application.

import "fluid"

func paddlepaddle() {
  X =
  W = fluid.Tensor(...)
  Y = fluid.mult(X, W)

This program consists of a block of three operators -- read, assign, and mult. Its ProgramDesc message looks like the following

message ProgramDesc {
  block[0] = Block {
    vars = [X, W, Y],
    ops = [
      read(output = X)
      assign(input = ..., output = W)
      mult(input = {X, W}, output = Y)


We can write a transpiler program that takes a ProgramDesc, e.g., the above one, and outputs another ProgramDesc. Let us take some examples:

  1. Memory optimization transpiler: We can write a transpiler that inserts some FreeMemoryOps in the above example ProgramDesc so to free memory early, before the end of an iteration, so to keep a small memory footprint.

  2. Distributed training transpiler: We can write a transpiler that converts aProgramDesc into its distributed version of two ProgramDescs -- one for running by the trainer processes and the other for the parameter server.

In the rest of this article, we talk about a special kind of transpiler, Native code generator, which takes a ProgramDesc and generates a .cu (or .cc) file, which could be built by C++ compilers (gcc, nvcc, icc) into binaries.

Native Code Generator

For the above example, the native code generator transpiler, say, the CUDA code generator, should generate a main function:

void main() {
  auto X = fluid_cuda_read(...);
  auto W = fluid_cuda_create_tensor(...);
  auto Y = fluid_cuda_mult(X, W);

and the definitions of functions fluid_cuda_read, fluid_cuda_create_tensor, and fluid_cuda_mult. Please be aware that each function could just define a C++ instance of an operator and run it. For example

paddle::Tensor fluid_cuda_read(...) {
  paddle::Tensor t;
  paddle::operator::Read r(&t, ...);
  return t;

For computational operators that have multiple kernels, each for a specific hardware platform, for example, the mult operator, the generated code should call its CUDA kernel:

paddle::Tensor fluid_cuda_mult(const paddle::Tensor& a,
                               const paddle::Tensor& b) {
  paddle::Tensor t;
  paddle::operator::Mult m(a, b, ...);

where cuda_context could be a global variable of type paddle::CUDADeviceContext.

Multi-Block Code Generation

Most Fluid application programs may have more than one blocks. To execute them, we need to trace scopes.