Google Research

Vectorized and performance-portable Quicksort

Software: Practice and Experience (2022) (to appear)


Recent works showed that implementations of Quicksort using vector CPU instructions can outperform the non-vectorized algorithms in widespread use. However, these implementations are typically single-threaded, implemented for a particular instruction set, and restricted to a small set of key types. We lift these three restrictions: our proposed vqsort algorithm integrates into the state-of-the-art parallel sorter ips4o, speeding it up by a factor of 1.5 to 1.8. The same implementation works on seven instruction sets (including SVE and RISC-V V) across four platforms. It also supports floating-point and 16-128 bit integer keys. To the best of our knowledge, this is the fastest sort for non-tuple keys on CPUs, up to 20 times as fast as the sorting algorithms implemented in standard libraries. This paper focuses on the practical engineering aspects enabling the speed and portability, which we have not yet seen demonstrated for a Quicksort implementation. Furthermore, we introduce compact and transpose-free sorting networks for in-register sorting of small arrays, and a vector-friendly pivot sampling strategy that is robust against adversarial input.

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