Code generation for structural proxies

In the latest in the long series of slightly half-assed projects of mine that never really approach anything near completion, I’ve been tinkering with runtime code generation for structural types.

Scala’s structural types are implemented using reflection. Reflection on the JVM is unfortunately quite slow, but the dynamic language community have put a fair bit of work into figuring out how to work around these issues. So, I wondered how we could apply those lessons to Scala’s structural typing.

Which, of course, explains why I didn’t bother to so much look as what they did and went off and did my own thing. :-)

The basic idea behind my design is that for a structural type

  { def foo : Bar; 
    def baz : Bif; 

we generate an interface

  trait StructuralType$$namemanglingblargh{ 
    def foo : Bar; 
    def baz : Bif; 

And for each class we want to call using the structural type we generate an adapter class for it. So if I call a method using a structural type I first box it in an adapter class that implements StructuralType$$namemanglingblargh and use that to do the method call.

However, rather than generating these classes at compile time I’m experimenting with generating them at runtime. Why? Because runtime code generation is fun. :-) Also because it makes it easier to use from Java and other languages that don’t have a Scala compiler handy.

So far I’ve only done the code for generating these wrappers. I suspect I’m going to stall horribly when it comes to actually integrating it with the compiler, so I’m going to work on how to make it as usable as possible as a library first.

Initial performance tests suggest that it’s currently only slightly faster than the standard structural types if you create a wrapper at every invocation but that if you can cache the wrapper (which happens for free if you e.g. have a recursive structural method). However these tests are totally unscientific and probably wrong, so take them with a pinch of salt.

You can get the code from here:

It’s not currently the prettiest of things, but it seems to work. Mostly.

Edit: As usual, I fail at ad hoc performance testing. The current probably wrong figures are that it’s about twice as fast as the structural types if you don’t cache the wrapper class.

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