C++ parallel range algorithms

Published Proposal,

This version:
SG9, SG1
ISO/IEC 14882 Programming Languages — C++, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC22/WG21


This paper proposes adding parallel algorithms that work together with the C++ Ranges library.

1. Motivation

Standard parallel algorithms with execution policies which set semantic requirements to user-provided callable objects were a good start for supporting parallelism in the C++ standard.

The C++ Ranges library - ranges, views, etc. - is a powerful facility to produce lazily evaluated pipelines that can be processed by range-based algorithms. Together they provide a productive and expressive API with the room for extra optimizations.

Combining these two powerful features by adding support for execution policies to the range-based algorithms opens an opportunity to fuse several computations into one parallel algorithm call, thus reducing the overhead on parallelism. That is especially valuable for heterogeneous implementations of parallel algorithms, for which the range-based API helps reducing the number of kernels submitted to an accelerator.

Earlier, [P2500R2] proposed to add the range-based C++ parallel algorithms together with its primary goal of extending algorithms with schedulers. We have decided to split those parts to separate papers, which could progress independently.

This paper is targeted to C++26.

2. Design overview

This proposal addresses absence of execution policy support for C++ range-based algorithms. In the nutshell, the proposal extends C++ range algorithms with overloads taking any standard C++ execution policy as a function parameter. These overloads are further referred to as parallel range algorithms.

2.1. Design summary

2.2. Coexistence with schedulers

We believe that adding parallel range algorithms does not have the risk of conflict with anticipated scheduler-based algorithms, because an execution policy does not satisfy the requirements for a policy-aware scheduler ([P2500R2]), a sender ([P3300R0]), or really anything else from [P2300R7] that can be used to specify such algorithms.

At this point we do not, however, discuss how the appearance of schedulers may or should impact the execution rules for parallel algorithms specified in [algorithms.parallel.exec], and just assume that the same rules apply to the range algorithms with execution policies.

2.3. Switch to parallel range algorithms with minimal changes

One of the goals is to require a minimal amount of changes when switching from the existing API to parallel range algorithms.

The C++17 parallel for_each call:

std::for_each(std::execution::par, v.begin(), v.end(), [](auto& x) { ++x; });

can be changed to one of the following:

// Using an iterator and a sentinel
std::ranges::for_each(std::execution::par, v.begin(), v.end(), [](auto& x) { ++x; });

// Switching to use a range
std::ranges::for_each(std::execution::par, v, [](auto& x) { ++x; });

If serial range algorithms are used in the code, switching to parallel version would look like in the example below.

The C++20 range-based for_each call:

std::ranges::for_each(v, [](auto& x) { ++x; });


std::ranges::for_each(std::execution::par, v, [](auto& x) { ++x; });

As you can see the changes are pretty simple:

2.4. Algorithm return types

We explored possible algorithm return types and came to conclusion that returning the same type as serial range algorithms is the preferred option to make the changes for enabling parallelism minimal.

We can consider the same example as in the previous paragraph.

// for_each_result<I, Fun> may be used instead of auto
auto res = std::ranges::for_each(v, [](auto& x) { ++x; });


// for_each_result<I, Fun> may be used instead of auto
auto res = std::ranges::for_each(std::execution::par, v, [](auto& x) { ++x; });

2.5. Non ADL-discoverable functions

We believe the proposed functions should be non-ADL discoverable same as serial range algorithms. Whether a serial version is implemented with the special compiler support or as a global callable object, adding overloads for the parallel version should not be a problem. Please see § 4.1 Possible implementation of a parallel range algorithm for more information.

2.6. Requiring random_access_iterator or random_access_range for parallel policies

C++17 parallel algorithms require LegacyForwardIterator for input data sequences. Although it might be useful for std::execution::seq policy, it does not make a lot of sense for an actual parallel implementation. We are not aware of an existing implementation supporting forward iterators well for any of unseq, par or par_unseq policies. oneAPI Data Parallel C++ library (oneDPL) supports forward iterators only for a very few algorithms, only for par and only in the implementation based on oneTBB.

We think that requiring random_access_iterator or random_access_range for unseq, par, and par_unseq policies will make the user experience better because it sets the right expectations from the very beginning. The seq policy would still require forward_iterator or forward_range.

2.7. const-callable parameter

We believe that parallel range algorithms should require function objects for predicates, comparators, functions expected by for_each, etc. to be const-callable . It seems important to add that requirement for the extra safety it gives when parallelism is introduced to existing serial code, providing compile-time diagnostics for mutable function objects which might be unsafe for parallel execution.

The following example works fine for serial code. While it compiles for parallel code, users should not assume that the semantics remains intact. Since the parallel version of for_each requires function object to be copyable, it is not guaranteed that all for_each iterations are processed by the same function object. Practically speaking, users cannot rely on accumulating any state modifications in a parallel for_each call.

struct callable
    void operator()(int& x)
        ++i; // race here for parallel code
    int get_i() const {
        return i;
    int i = 0;

callable c;

// serial for_each call
auto fun = std::for_each(v.begin(), v.end(), c);

// parallel for_each call
// The callable object cannot be read because parallel for_each version purposefully returns void
std::for_each(std::execution::par, v.begin(), v.end(), c);

// for_each serial range version call
auto [_, fun] = std::ranges::for_each(v.begin(), v.end(), c);

As we stated above we would like to preserve the return types of serial range algorithms, therefore the parallel std::ranges::for_each still returns a copy of the callable object. However, we propose it to fail to compile if the operator() of the callable is not marked as const:

// callable is used from the previous code snippet
// Fails to compile with our proposal because callable::operator() is not const-qualified
callable c;
auto [_, fun] = std::ranges::for_each(std::execution::par, v.begin(), v.end(), c);

Of course, that requirement is easy to overcome by wrapping the callable object. In that case, it is user’s responsibility to make sure that the code is free from data races. Please see the example below:

// callable is used from the previous code snippet
// Wrapping a callable objection with std::reference_wrapper compiles, but might result in data races
callable c;
auto [_, fun] = std::ranges::for_each(std::execution::par, v.begin(), v.end(), std::ref(c));

2.8. Parallel range algorithms are not customization points

We do not propose the parallel range algorithms to be customization points because it’s unclear which parameter to customize for. One could argue that customizations may exist for execution policies, but we expect custom execution policies to become unnecessary once the C++ algorithms will work with schedulers/senders/receivers.

2.9. Parallel range algorithms are not constexpr

We do not propose the new parallel algorithms to be constexpr. We are aware of [P2902R0] and might align with it in the future, however we don’t think that making parallel algorithms constexpr should be a primary design goal.

3. More examples

3.1. Less parallel algorithm calls and better expressiveness

Let’s consider the following example:

reverse(policy, begin(data), end(data));
transform(policy, begin(data), end(data), begin(result), [](auto i){ return i * i; });
auto res = any_of(policy, begin(result), end(result), pred);

It has three stages and eventually tries to answer the question if the input sequence contains an element after reversing and transforming it. The interesting considerations are:

Let’s make it better:

// With fancy iterators
auto res = any_of(policy,
                                          [](auto i){ return i * i; }),
                                          [](auto i){ return i * i; }),

Now there is only one parallel algorithm call, and any_of can skip unneeded work. However, this variation also has interesting considerations:

Let’s improve the example further with the proposed API:

// With ranges
auto res = any_of(policy, data | views::reverse | views::transform([](auto i){ return i * i; }),

The example above lacks the drawbacks described for the previous variations:

4. Proposed API

Note: std::ranges::for_each is used as a reference point. When the design is ratified, it will be spread across other algorithms.

// Policy-based API
template <class ExecutionPolicy, policy-dependent-iterator I, sentinel_for<I> S,
          class Proj = identity, indirectly_unary_invocable<projected<I, Proj>> Fun>
  ranges::for_each_result<I, Fun>
    ranges::for_each(ExecutionPolicy&& policy, I first, S last, Fun f, Proj proj = {});

template <class ExecutionPolicy, policy-dependent-range R, class Proj = identity,
         indirectly_unary_invocable<projected<iterator_t<R>, Proj>> Fun>
  ranges::for_each_result<ranges::borrowed_iterator_t<R>, Fun>
    ranges::for_each(ExecutionPolicy&& policy, R&& r, Fun f, Proj proj = {});

policy-dependent-iterator and policy-dependent-range are exposition only concepts defined as:

4.1. Possible implementation of a parallel range algorithm

// A possible implementation of std::ranges::for_each
namespace ranges
namespace __detail
struct __for_each_fn
    // ...
    // Existing serial overloads
    // ...

    // The dedicated overload for sequenced_policy. Requires forward_iterator
    template<forward_iterator I, sentinel_for<I> S,
             class Proj = identity, indirectly_unary_invocable<projected<I, Proj>> Fun>
    ranges::for_each_result<I, Fun>
    operator()(const std::execution::sequenced_policy&, I first, S last, Fun f,
               Proj proj = {}) const
        for (; first != last; ++first)
            std::invoke(f, std::invoke(proj, *first));
        return {std::move(first), std::move(f)};

    // The overload for unsequenced and parallel policies. Requires random_access_iterator
    template<class ExecutionPolicy, random_access_iterator I, sentinel_for<I> S,
             class Proj = identity, indirectly_unary_invocable<projected<I, Proj>> Fun>
                 requires is_execution_policy_v<std::remove_cvref_t<ExecutionPolicy>>
    ranges::for_each_result<I, Fun>
    operator()(ExecutionPolicy&& exec, I first, S last, Fun f, Proj proj = {}) const
        // properly handle execution policy; for the reference, a serial
        // implementation is provided
        for (; first != last; ++first)
            std::invoke(f, std::invoke(proj, *first));
        return {std::move(first), std::move(f)};

    template<class ExecutionPolicy, forward_range R, class Proj = identity,
             indirectly_unary_invocable<projected<iterator_t<R>, Proj>> Fun>
    ranges::for_each_result<ranges::borrowed_iterator_t<R>, Fun>
    operator()(ExecutionPolicy&& exec, R&& r, Fun f, Proj proj = {}) const
        return (*this)(std::forward<ExecutionPolicy>(exec), std::ranges::begin(r),
                       std::ranges::end(r), f, proj);
}; // struct for_each
} // namespace __detail
inline namespace __for_each_fn_namespace
inline constexpr __detail::__for_each_fn for_each;
} // __for_each_fn_namespace
} // namespace ranges

5. Further exploration

5.1. Thread-safe views examination

We need to understand better whether using some views with parallel algorithms might result in data races. At first glance, requiring iterators and ranges to provide random access should be sufficient to prevent such issues, but we want to be sure.

5.2. Absence of some serial range-based algorithms

We understand that some useful algorithms, for example, most of generalized numeric operations [numeric.ops] do not yet exist in std::ranges even in a serial version. It is supposed to be addressed either by this or by a complementary paper.

5.3. Output for parallel range algorithms

Serial range algorithms take only output_iterator as the result. In other words, there is no overload (for example, for copy_if algorithm) that takes both input and output as range. We would like to explore whether it’s worth adding such an overload for parallel range algorithms because it might be more useful to have both input and output as ranges, for safety and performance reasons.

copy_if is a good example also because it doesn’t require both input and output sequence to have the same size. But for parallelization purpose it is useful to know the size of passed sequences in advance. If the output for copy_if is an iterator, not a range we don’t know the output sequence size and we cannot rely on the input sequence size.


Informative References

Eric Niebler, Michał Dominiak, Georgy Evtushenko, Lewis Baker, Lucian Radu Teodorescu, Lee Howes, Kirk Shoop, Michael Garland, Bryce Adelstein Lelbach. `std::execution`. 21 April 2023. URL: https://wg21.link/p2300r7
Ruslan Arutyunyan, Alexey Kukanov. C++ parallel algorithms and P2300. 15 October 2023. URL: https://wg21.link/p2500r2
Oliver Rosten. constexpr 'Parallel' Algorithms. 17 June 2023. URL: https://wg21.link/p2902r0
Bryce Adelstein Lelbach. C++ Asynchronous Parallel Algorithms. URL: https://wg21.link/p3300r0