Functional Language Compiler Experiences at Intel

  • Leaf Petersen Intel
  • Neal Glew Intel
October 02, 2010 2:30 - 3:00 PM


For five years Intel's Programming Systems Lab (PSL) has been collaborating with an external partner on a new functional programming language designed for productivity on many-core processors. While the language is not yet public, this talk outlines motivations behind the language and describes our experiences in implementing it using a variety of functional languages. The reference interpreter is written in Haskell and compiled with GHC while PSL's performance implementation is written in SML and compiled with Mlton. We have also generated Scheme code compiled with PLT Scheme as part of a prototyping effort.

At several points, the project has had several contributors that did not have a background in functional languages working on the compiler and on writing benchmarks. We describe their experiences working in SML and with functional languages in general. Specifically:

A design principle of the implementation effort was to by default avoid the use of imperative features. Previous experience and review of the literature suggested that many parts of a compiler could be written as well or better using primarily functional code, but that restricting ourselves entirely to the functional fragment of SML was probably not reasonable. We describe our experiences with this, and the tradeoffs that we encountered. Specifically:

We also describe some of the features of SML that we found useful, and discuss some of the lack of features and quirks of SML that annoyed us. Specifically: