Through the Tile Compiler

The Tile compiler takes Tile code and produces symbolic descriptions of the hardware kernels needed to execute it. It sits between the PlaidML API, which interacts with a frontend to produce Tile code, and the Hardware Abstraction Layer, which converts kernel descriptions into compiled kernels for the available hardware.


When the PlaidML API invokes the Tile compiler, the function arrives in the form of a tile::proto::Program. This Program protobuf combines the function’s source code, a target device, and a description of the input and output tensors; it is analogous to a Invoker.

The PlaidML API also creates an Evaluator object for each device; the evaluator contains device settings and a ProgramCache. The ProgramCache determines for each given function whether a previously compiled executable exists or whether it needs to be compiled, then stores the compiled representation for later use.

The first time a function is executed, then, we must compile it. We begin by associating the tile::proto::Program with a specific device, yielding a tile::local_machine::Program. This adds parameters about device characteristics which the compiler will use for performance estimation, such as the number of registers and the maximum vector width, as defined in tile::hal::HardwareSettings.


Compilation begins by parsing the Tile language source code, using a standard lex-based lexer and yacc-based parser. Parser output is a tile::lang::Program, which is not the same as a tile::proto::Program, nor a tile::local_machine::Program. In this context, a Program is essentially a list of Op instances, plus lists of the input & output variables. An Op is essentially a line of Tile code in semi-symbolic form. While this Program functions at a level of abstraction similar to an AST, it is a list and not a tree. After parsing, the function’s representation as a Program looks like this:

function (
  X_I_0[X_I_0_0, X_I_0_1],
  X_I_1[X_I_1_0, X_I_1_1]
) -> (
) {
  X_T2 = log(X_I_0);
  _T1 = 3;
  X_T0[x : _T1] = +(X_T2[x, y] * X_I_1[x, y]);
  X_T3 = neg(X_T0);

The first two indented lines define the inputs, X_I_0 and X_I_1, with their index variables, and the second indented block defines the output, X_T3. The body of the function in the last indented block is its sequence of Op instances. With one output and zero or more inputs, Ops can be:

  • Constants, which have some fixed value
  • Functions, applied to each element of a tensor
  • Contractions, combining elements from two input tensors


After Tile code has been parsed into a list of ops, lang::GenerateProgram is used to construct lang::KernelInfo objects, which are symbolic descriptions of kernels. There is not an exact correspondence between ops and kernels (constants may be inlined, elementwise functions can be merged, etc), but especially for complex operations the produced kernels and the operations that generate them do roughly correspond.

Compiling Contractions

(See Writing Tile Code for more details about contraction semantics.)

One of the most involved compilation steps is creating kernels for contractions. A contraction traverses tensors using a multidimensional strided access pattern. It can traverse just one tensor, in which case it merely accesses values, or it can traverse two tensors, in which case it accesses pairs of values and combines them using a simple operation, such as addition or multiplication. If the contraction produces multiple values for a single output cell, it will aggregate the output values using some other simple reduction operation (such as sum or max). Finally, it writes the result to the output tensor.

lang::Compile analyzes the contractions and converts them into FlatContractions. The FlatContraction is a simplification of the generic Contraction access pattern, making assumptions which allow efficient code generation. The conversion process applies a series of transforms, including:

  • Iterating over fixed bounds for index variables, rather than using the representation “any integers which would be in bounds for all formulas”
  • Turning indices into single variables, rather than formulas, whenever possible
  • Reducing the number of multiple-index comparisons (expressions like i + 2*k < 9)
  • Disentangling output and input indices, allowing iteration over output indices in outer loops such that each index produces a single output


These simplifications make it possible to automatically generate specifications for a kernel for a FlatContraction. This includes using lang::TileOptimizer to simulate the performance of the kernel on the target device with varying tile sizes, thus enabling flat contractions to be automatically converted into performant kernels.

GenerateProgram also processes constants and elementwise functions, as well as special operations (e.g. psuedorandom number generation). It may produce additional kernels not explicitly specified in Tile (e.g. initializing tensors to zero). It looks for opportunities to reduce the number of kernels (e.g. if you are taking the log of the absolute value of a tensor those operations can generally happen in the same kernel).

GenerateProgram produces a lang::KernelInfo object for each kernel to be constructed. A KernelInfo describes the inputs and outputs for a single kernel, along with some execution shape parameters. It represents the body of the kernel not as a list of operations, but as a semantic tree, or “semtree”.

A semtree is an intermediate representation which describes each function in terms of its executable semantics. Its level of abstraction sits midway between an AST and the low-level LLVM IR. While the semtree representation is platform-independent, each semtree instance is device-specific, because lang::GenerateProgram generates code which is optimized for a specific piece of hardware.

The produced KernelInfos are rewritten via lang::Simplify to produce equivalent output via more efficient code. These are then combined with tensor type information describing the buffers which will be passed between kernels; together they form a lang::KernelList.

Compiler Output

The Tile compiler outputs semtrees encoded as a lang::KernelList. Code generation and execution are provided by the hardware support module.