Lush, OCaml and more

I took a long hard look at the OCaml functional (well, mostly) language this weekend. One of the many interesting aspects of OCaml, is that, in addition to offering an interpreted environment, it comes with a REALLY good compiler. So, you can sit there prototyping your latest numerical trick and when you’re happy, you can compile the code to a blazingly fast native binary.

So, whilst reading up on all this, I remembered a question from the Lush (a lisp-like scientific languages that can also be compiled) FAQ: “How does Lush compare to Matlab/Octave for speed?”. So the author then shows that Lush is like 50 billion times faster than Octave. (Go look.)

I implemented his little benchmark in Python, C, Octave and OCaml and tested the codes on a P4 2.4GHz running Ubuntu Linux. These were the performance figures for harmonic(1000000):

LanguageTime (seconds)
Octave 2.1.577.894
OCaml 3.08 interpreted0.229
OCaml 3.08 compiled0.021

For each benchmark, I obviously called the harmonic() in a loop with sufficient iterations to yield accurate timings. For the compiled tests, 300 iterations did the trick. For Octave, 3 was more than enough. You can find my implementations by clicking here.

This was really just for fun, in other words: DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY. Also, the OCaml snippet I wrote is mostly imperative. However, the results reflect what is also shown by The Great Computer Language Shootout: OCaml is a good contender when one needs to write very fast code in a more advanced language than C.

5 thoughts on “Lush, OCaml and more”

  1. I haven’t taken the time to figure out how to adapt the Lush code in the FAQ to do multiple loops and do timing over these loops, so I have no figures for it on my machine. If you have time to change the Lush code, I’ll be glad to try the code on the same test machine.

    FWIW, the Lush author’s benchmarks for Octave are roughly twice as slow as what I show, which means that my machine should do the Lush bench in about 0.025 seconds.

  2. I suspect that this is a biased test and that the research firm involved was paid a large amount of money to misrepresent statistics in a misguided effort to discredit Octave for personal financial gain.


  3. I get the following on a P4 2.6GHz, Mandrake 10.1 (gcc 3.4.1):

    Octave: 6.44s
    Python 2.3.4: 876-911ms
    Python-pyrex: 65ms
    Ocaml: 213ms
    Ocaml-opt: 17.7ms
    Lush: 816ms
    Lush(inlined): 16.6ms
    Lush(compiled): 16.6ms
    C: 16.7ms

    (see Lush’s documentation on the harmonic-function as it is used as an example in the introductory part)

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