In my previous post, I discussed how the CLR is handling various method calls, depending on exactly what we are doing ( interface dispatch, virtual method call, struct method call ).
That was all fun and games, but how can we actually practice this? Let us take a look at a generic method and how it is actually translated to machine code:
In the case of an interface, we got through the standard virtual stub to dispatch the method. In the case of a struct, the JIT was smart enough to inline the generic call.
I’ll let that sink in for a second. Using a struct generic argument, we were able to inline the call.
Remember the previous post when we talked about the cost of method dispatch, in number of instructions, in number of memory jumps and references? We now have a way to replace those invocation cost with inlinable code.
When is going to be useful? This technique is most beneficial when we are talking about code that is used a lot, is relatively small / efficient already, to the point where the cost of calling it is a large part of the execution time.
One situation that pop to mind that answer just this scenario is getting hash code and equality checks in a dictionary. The number of such calls that we have is in the many billions for second, and the cost of indirection here is tremendous. We have our own dictionary implementation (with different default and design guideline than the default one), but one who is also meant to be used with this approach.
In other words, instead of passing an EqualityComparer instance, we use an EqualityComparer generic parameter. And that allows the JIT to tune us to the Nth degree, allow us to inline the hash / equals calls. That means that in a very hot code path, we can drastically reduce costs.