Commons Math includes (in trunk and MATH_2_X branch) a FastMath class that is described as a “Faster, more accurate, portable alternative to StrictMath” and is implemented fully in Java (unlike java.lang.Math and java.lang.StrictMath). I am generally interested in faster math operations so I decided to investigate.

The first thing that I checked is if FastMath delegated to java.lang.Math or java.lang.StrictMath for any of its methods. It delegates to java.lang.Math for sqrt and random and to StrictMath for IEEEremainder. I found this interesting because I know that HotSpot includes intrinsic methods for many methods in java.lang.Math. Looking at vmSymbols.hpp, we can see that the following methods have intrinsics: abs, sin, cos, tan, atan2, sqrt, log, log10, pow, exp, min and max. Intrinsic methods are usually highly optimised (often involving assembly and sometimes CPU-specific instructions) and do not incur JNI overhead. I was interested in comparing all of FastMath’s methods with java.lang.Math and java.lang.StrictMath, but I was particularly interested in these ones.

Bill Rossi (the original author of FastMath) pointed me to a performance test in SVN, so I decided to run that (r1072209 from SVN trunk) on a Intel Core i7 CPU 860 2.80GHz using JDK 6 Update 25 early access release build 1 (includes HotSpot 20) and JDK 7 build 130 (includes HotSpot 21). I originally ran the test as it is in Commons Math with one addition but it has a few common micro-benchmarking mistakes (thanks to Aleksey for pointing them out in the comments). I fixed the issues (see here for the modified code) and ran the test again.

Since the relative results for the two JDKs did not differ much, I am only posting the charts for JDK 6 Update 25 early access release. The results for both JDKs are available in table form here. Note that the results are in milliseconds, so lower is better.

java.lang.Math does quite a bit better on tan, abs and log while FastMath does better on exp and cosh. The rest are similar.

FastMath does very well on hypot, pow, asin, acos, cbrt, sinh, tanh while java.lang.Math does well on log10 and log1p. java.lang.Math does so badly on hypot that it’s worth mentioning it again. Looks like it needs a bit of work.

As stated above, the results for JDK 7 are very similar with a few small improvements. Methods with an execution time reduction of 15% or higher were pow (202ms instead of 238ms), powII (125ms instead of 149ms) and atan (53ms instead of 66ms)

The usual disclaimers about benchmarks apply. The benchmark provided by commons-math is a good start, but I believe it should be fleshed out more so that common cases are measured separately (e.g. pow(x, 2) is much more common than the ones used in the test). Having said that, FastMath is a nice contribution and it seems like some methods in the JDK could be replaced by the ones in FastMath for better results. It also seems like FastMath could do better by delegating to the JDK for more of its methods.

Update: Some context for the contribution of FastMath to Apache Commons Math can be found here.

Update 2: I’ve updated the charts to use a modified test instead of the one in Commons Math as there were issues there. I had mentioned some suspicious scores, but thanks to Aleksey for pointing the issues out in the comments (they are common mistakes in micro-benchmarks).

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