Sunday, March 23, 2008

Optimizing CL

This blog is about mechanically optimizing CL code. We will not discuss optimizing algorithms; instead we'll transform the code in rote ways to improve performance. To illustrate these techniques, we'll re-implement Perl's core Text::Soundex function in CL. Let's start with the Perl code, straight from the 5.8.8 distribution.
$soundex_nocode = undef;

sub soundex
{
local (@s, $f, $fc, $_) = @_;

push @s, '' unless @s; # handle no args as a single empty string

foreach (@s)
{
$_ = uc $_;
tr/A-Z//cd;

if ($_ eq '')
{
$_ = $soundex_nocode;
}
else
{
($f) = /^(.)/;
tr/AEHIOUWYBFPVCGJKQSXZDTLMNR/00000000111122222222334556/;
($fc) = /^(.)/;
s/^$fc+//;
tr///cs;
tr/0//d;
$_ = $f . $_ . '000';
s/^(.{4}).*/$1/;
}
}

wantarray ? @s : shift @s;
}
We do not implement the auxiliary behavior of the Perl version, namely we do not optionally accept a list of strings, nor do we support overriding the NIL return case. Both would be easy to implement but would be tangential to this blog entry. We port the rest of the functionality as faithfully as possible, though, so that the Perl can serve as a useful performance benchmark.

Perl's soundex uses regular expressions and string substitution operators heavily, some having analogues in CL and some not. For example, CL lacks Perl's tr/// operator, so we implement a crude version:
(defparameter *ascii-table* (let ((table (make-array '(256) :element-type 'character)))
(loop
for i below 256
do (setf (aref table i) (code-char i)))
table))

(defun tr (string from-table to-table)
"Crude version of Perl's tr/// operator."
(let ((table (copy-seq *ascii-table*)))
(loop
for from-char across from-table
and to-char across to-table
do (setf (aref table (char-code from-char)) to-char))
(map 'string
#'(lambda (c) (aref table (char-code c)))
string)))
Our TR supports only the limited case needed by SOUNDEX (i.e., mapping one set of characters to another). The Perl version can do more, such as removing letters that don't appear in the first set, and removing duplicates. In fact, the Perl soundex relies on that ability to remove duplicates, so we implement a function to do that as well.
(defun uniq! (seq)
(cond
((> (length seq) 1)
(do* ((cur 0)
(cur-elt (elt seq cur) (elt seq cur))
(next 1 (1+ next)))
((>= next (length seq)) (subseq seq 0 (1+ cur)))
(let ((next-char (elt seq next)))
(unless (eql cur-elt next-char)
(incf cur)
(setf (elt seq cur) next-char)))))
(t seq)))
UNIQ! coalesces adjacent duplicate items into one item. CL's built-in DELETE-DUPLICATES doesn't work because it coalesces all duplicates, not just adjacent ones.

These two utility functions make porting the rest of the soundex easy. The following shows the CL equivalents of each important line of soundex:
PerlWhat It DoesCL Equivalent
$_ = uc $_;Uppercase the string(string-upcase ...)
tr/A-Z//cd;Remove any non-upper-alpha characters(remove-if-not 'alpha-char-p string)
($f) = /^(.)/;Gets the first character of the string(char s 0)
tr/AE.../00.../;Map letters to digits values(tr s "AE..." "00...")
s/^$fc+//;Remove leading copies of the character in $fc(string-left-trim (vector fc) s2)
tr///cs;Remove adjacent duplicates(uniq! ...)
tr/0//d;Delete any '0' characters(delete #\0 ...)
$_ = $f . $_ . '000';Concatenate, plus ensure length of at least 4(concatenate 'string ...)
s/^(.{4}).*/$1/;Strip off all but the first 4 characters(subseq ... 0 4)

Here is the actual code:
(defun soundex (string)
(let ((s (string-upcase (remove-if-not 'alpha-char-p string))))
(when (plusp (length s))
(let ((f (char s 0)))
(let* ((s2 (tr s "AEHIOUWYBFPVCGJKQSXZDTLMNR" "00000000111122222222334556"))
(fc (char s2 0)))
(setf s2 (delete #\0
(uniq! (string-left-trim (vector fc) s2))))
(subseq (concatenate 'string (vector f) s2 "000") 0 4))))))

Now let's see if it works. Using SLIME, type C-c C-k to compile the file. Then try SOUNDEX at the CL prompt:
CL-USER> (soundex "supercalifrag")
"S162"
If you try the Perl version, you'll find it returns the same thing (I tried other test cases, as well, but they are not relevant to this blog).

At this point you might be feeling rather proud of yourself, after all you ported that Perl code pretty quickly, right? And I bet it even performs better already; after all Perl is interpreted and CL is compiled! Let's verify that assumption using the TIME macro built in to CL:
CL-USER> (time (dotimes (i 100000) (soundex "supercalifrag")))
Evaluation took:
2.644 seconds of real time
2.640165 seconds of user run time
0.012001 seconds of system run time
[Run times include 0.076 seconds GC run time.]
0 calls to %EVAL
0 page faults and
207,987,480 bytes consed.
Now let's compare that to the Perl code's performance:
$ time ./soundex-bench.pl 100000
real 0m1.069s
user 0m1.064s
sys 0m0.008s
D'oh! The Perl code kicked our ass! It's more than twice as fast as our CL! How could this have happened to us? Maybe we forgot to turn on some optimizations? We add:
(declaim (optimize (speed 3) (safety 0)))
to the top of our file and recompile. Now let's see the results:
CL-USER> (time (dotimes (i 100000) (soundex "supercalifrag")))
Evaluation took:
2.061 seconds of real time
2.040128 seconds of user run time
0.020001 seconds of system run time
[Run times include 0.1 seconds GC run time.]
0 calls to %EVAL
0 page faults and
183,988,752 bytes consed.
Ok, that's a little better, but come on, it is still approximately twice as slow as the Perl! And look at how much memory is allocated ("consed") in the course of doing only 100,000 calls: that's approximately 175 megabytes (admittedly not all at once, but still, that's just plain embarrassing!)

Now before diving into optimization, let us review a good approach to optimizing CL.
  1. Measure first.
  2. Avoid guessing!
  3. Fix your algorithm(s) first (not shown in this blog entry).
  4. Fix memory consumption next.
  5. Then go after CPU consumption, primarily by adding type information.
Remember, this blog is not about algorithmic optimizations; we will pretend (for the sake of illustration only!) that you've already ruled out the need, in order to focus on mechanical optimization.

Following step one from the above strategy, start by profiling. Define a function, MANY-SOUNDEX that performs our TIME loop from above. Also define a function PROFILE-SOUNDEX that employs SBCL's sb-profile package to profile the functions involved in implementing SOUNDEX, including some built-ins that it calls. To profile a function, pass its name to SB-PROFILE:PROFILE. After exercising the code, call SB-PROFILE:REPORT, which prints timing information. Call SB-PROFILE:RESET between runs unless you want the results to accumulate (we don't, in this case).
(defun many-soundex ()
(time
(dotimes (i 100000)
(soundex "supercalifrag"))))

(defun profile-soundex ()
;; Don't accumulate results between runs.
(sb-profile:reset)
;; Calling this every time through in case any of the user-defined
;; functions was recompiled.
(sb-profile:profile soundex soundex-tr uniq!
concatenate make-string subseq
string-left-trim delete-if-not
tr delete string-upcase nsubseq)
(many-soundex)
(sb-profile:report))
If you notice some unfamiliar functions there, don't worry, they're going to be defined later; for the purposes of this blog I just want to define this function once, even though in real life I modified it many times.

Let's see what it produces:
CL-USER> (profile-soundex)
3.713 seconds of real time
3.160197 seconds of user run time
0.548034 seconds of system run time
[Run times include 0.08 seconds GC run time.]
0 calls to %EVAL
0 page faults and
200,022,056 bytes consed.
seconds | consed | calls | sec/call | name
-----------------------------------------------------------
1.394 | 140,115,928 | 100,000 | 0.000014 | TR
0.618 | 26,230,456 | 100,000 | 0.000006 | CONCATENATE
0.210 | 661,840 | 100,000 | 0.000002 | REMOVE-IF-NOT
0.170 | 3,864,248 | 100,000 | 0.000002 | DELETE
0.164 | 9,865,784 | 100,000 | 0.000002 | SOUNDEX
0.131 | 0 | 100,000 | 0.000001 | UNIQ!
0.130 | 9,274,680 | 100,000 | 0.000001 | STRING-UPCASE
0.058 | 10,012,888 | 100,003 | 0.000001 | SUBSEQ
0.000 | 0 | 7 | 0.000000 | STRING-LEFT-TRIM
-----------------------------------------------------------
2.878 | 200,025,824 | 800,010 | | Total
This shows that we probably should optimize TR for memory consumption first. What's wrong with TR? Every call to TR copies *ASCII-TABLE* into the TABLE local variable, which will later be used to map each character to a (potentially) different one. The inefficiency is that TABLE only varies based on the 2nd and 3rd arguments (FROM-TABLE and TO-TABLE). Since SOUNDEX always passes in the same thing for those two arguments every time, it is wasteful to continually recreate the same TABLE. To fix it use a closure that "closes over" a single instance of TABLE:
(defun make-tr-fn (from-table to-table)
(let ((table (copy-seq *ascii-table*)))
(loop
for from-char across from-table
and to-char across to-table
do (setf (aref table (char-code from-char)) to-char))
(lambda (string)
(declare ((simple-array character) string))
(map-into string
#'(lambda (c) (aref table (char-code c)))
string))))

(defparameter *soundex-tr-fn* (make-tr-fn "AEHIOUWYBFPVCGJKQSXZDTLMNR" "00000000111122222222334556"))

(defun soundex-tr (string)
(funcall *soundex-tr-fn* string))
This is an example of the sort of rote transformations you often need to do in order to speed up performance.
  1. Separate out the part of the function that varies dynamically into a LAMBDA.
  2. Return the LAMBDA instead of the original value so that it can be reused over and over again.
This is something you often do in Java, too, where the pattern goes:
  1. Create a class.
  2. Have the constructor do the stuff that only needs to happen once (equivalent to the part outside of the LAMBDA.)
  3. Create a method that does the dynamic part.
The main difference the CL and Java is that the Java would be more verbose.

You may notice another difference between MAKE-TR-FN and TR; it's now calling MAP-INTO instead of MAP, which avoids making a copy of the result, thus reducing the memory consumption further. Now this particular optimization does change the semantics of the function to modify its argument. In this case it's ok because we've already made a copy of the string passed to SOUNDEX, but do not use this technique without thinking through the consequences. Also, the DECLARE statement fixes a minor compiler warning caused by the change. DECLARE is discussed later.

When originally doing this work, I re-ran PROFILE-SOUNDEX after making each change, to see if it helped. That is not shown here in order to save space, but obviously you'd want to do the same thing. Let's now move on to the next biggest offender in the list, CONCATENATE. It's called towards the end of SOUNDEX in order to ensure that the return value is at least 4 characters (right-padded with '0' characters). This was a direct port of the Perl code (or at least as direct as you can get without using CL-PPCRE), and it's inefficient. Since the return value is always a 4-character string, we need only allocate a fixed-size string (using MAKE-STRING), prefilled with '0', and then copy in the (up to) 4 characters we need. We no longer need SUBSEQ which allocates a copy of its result (note: most of the memory consumed by SUBSEQ comes from it being called by UNIQ!).

In fact, since SUBSEQ is next on our list of memory hogs, let's find a way to fix it. When UNIQ! calls it, it's operating on a so-called "garbage" sequence (S2 from SOUNDEX); i.e., an intermediate result that is not used outside of the bowels of SOUNDEX. As such, we could modify it, so it is a shame to use SUBSEQ on it within UNIQ!. CL has a loosely-followed convention that "destructive" (non-copying) version of functions begin with the letter N. There is no built-in NSUBSEQ but a quick Google search finds one that works for our purposes:
;; From http://darcs.informatimago.com/lisp/common-lisp/utility.lisp
(defun nsubseq (sequence start &optional (end nil))
"
RETURN: When the SEQUENCE is a vector, the SEQUENCE itself, or a displaced
array to the SEQUENCE.
When the SEQUENCE is a list, it may destroy the list and reuse the
cons cells to make the subsequence.
"

(if (vectorp sequence)
(if (and (zerop start) (or (null end) (= end (length sequence))))
sequence
(make-array (- (if end
(min end (length sequence))
(length sequence))
start)
:element-type (array-element-type sequence)
:displaced-to sequence
:displaced-index-offset start))
(let ((result (nthcdr start sequence)))
(when end
(setf (cdr (nthcdr (- end start -1) sequence)) nil))
result)))
We'll call this from UNIQ! and that should take care of that 10MB of allocations. The last bit of memory we're going to take care of is that allocated by STRING-UPCASE and REMOVE-IF-NOT. Now we have to be careful here because we want one copy of the argument to SOUNDEX; it would be rude to transform the caller's argument unexpectedly. So we actually relying on either STRING-UPCASE or REMOVE-IF-NOT making a copy of STRING. As such, we have to pick one to optimize. Since REMOVE-IF-NOT has a destructive equivalent, DELETE-IF-NOT, we will use that instead. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as just dropping in DELETE-IF-NOT. If you read the CLHS entry you'll discover that STRING-UPCASE is allowed to return the same string it was passed in (i.e., not a copy) if it doesn't need to change it (e.g., all the letters are already uppercase). We account for this by calling REMOVE-IF-NOT in the case where STRING-UPCASE does this by seeing if the return value is EQ (same object) to the original string. You can see this in the new code listing, which has certain key optimizations highlighted for your convenience:
(defparameter *ascii-table* (let ((table (make-array '(256) :element-type 'character)))
(loop
for i below 256
do (setf (aref table i) (code-char i)))
table))

(defun make-tr-fn (from-table to-table)
(let ((table (copy-seq *ascii-table*)))
(loop
for from-char across from-table
and to-char across to-table
do (setf (aref table (char-code from-char)) to-char))
(lambda (string)
(declare ((simple-array character) string))
(map-into string
#'(lambda (c) (aref table (char-code c)))
string))))

(defparameter *soundex-tr-fn* (make-tr-fn "AEHIOUWYBFPVCGJKQSXZDTLMNR" "00000000111122222222334556"))

(defun soundex-tr (string)
(funcall *soundex-tr-fn* string))

(defun uniq! (seq)
(cond
((> (length seq) 1)
(do* ((cur 0)
(cur-elt (elt seq cur) (elt seq cur))
(next 1 (1+ next)))
((>= next (length seq)) (nsubseq seq 0 (1+ cur)))
(let ((next-char (elt seq next)))
(unless (eql cur-elt next-char)
(incf cur)
(setf (elt seq cur) next-char)))))
(t seq)))

(defun soundex (string)
(let ((s (let ((maybe-a-copy (string-upcase string)))
;; STRING-UPCASE can return original string if no changes
;; were needed.
(if (eq maybe-a-copy string)
;; REMOVE-IF-NOT makes a copy
(remove-if-not 'alpha-char-p maybe-a-copy)
;; DELETE-IF-NOT doesn't
(delete-if-not 'alpha-char-p maybe-a-copy)))))
(when (plusp (length s))
(let ((f (char s 0)))
(let* ((s2 (soundex-tr s))
(fc (char s2 0))
(result (make-string 4 :initial-element #\0)))
(setf s2 (delete #\0 (uniq! (string-left-trim (vector fc) s2))))
(setf (char result 0) f)
(loop
for i from 0 below (min (length s2) 4)
do (setf (char result (1+ i)) (char s2 i)))
result)))))
As mentioned above, in the course of actually doing this work I ran PROFILE-SOUNDEX many times, but I don't show the intermediate results here in order to save space. Now that we've completed a major chunk of work, however, let's see how we're doing:
CL-USER> (many-soundex)
Evaluation took:
0.464 seconds of real time
0.460029 seconds of user run time
0.0 seconds of system run time
[Run times include 0.008 seconds GC run time.]
0 calls to %EVAL
0 page faults and
22,402,176 bytes consed.
We run MANY-SOUNDEX here in a fresh instance of SBCL to remove any injected profiling code or other stuff that might affect the results. It also has speed optimizations turned on. As you can see, the benefit of simply removing memory allocations is significant. The new code is a whopping 4.4 times faster! It's also now more than twice as fast as the Perl code.

We could continue to to whittle away at the memory allocation, as you can see we're still at around 21MB of memory allocated. However, since we have to copy the argument to SOUNDEX no matter what, 21MB is only about twice the minimum (if you look at the profiling results, we can't do better than the memory allocated by STRING-UPCASE). To keep this blog entry to a reasonable length we shall deem this acceptable.

On to CPU optimization. SBCL automatically detects certain performance problems when you up SPEED to 3. Fix these first, as it makes little sense to manually search out problems when the compiler has already found some. Using SLIME makes it easy:
  1. Put
    (declaim (optimize (speed 3) (debug 0) (safety 0)))
    at the top of the file.
  2. Type C-c C-k to compile the file.
  3. Hit M-n and M-p to get SLIME to highlight the next (or previous) compiler warning.
I won't go through all of the compiler warnings I got when I did this, but instead will highlight some of them.
(defun soundex-tr (string)
(funcall *soundex-tr-fn* string))
; note: unable to
; optimize away possible call to FDEFINITION at runtime
; due to type uncertainty:
; The first argument is a (OR FUNCTION SYMBOL), not a FUNCTION.
This example seems a little strange at first, if, say, you're used to primitive type systems such as Java's. CL types can be defined in sophisticated ways that deserve a blog entry of their own. In this particular case, the compiler has inferred the type of *SOUNDEX-TR-FN* to be (OR FUNCTION SYMBOL), meaning it isn't sure if it could sometimes be null (figuring that out would require "global" analysis to ensure that *SOUNDEX-TR-FN* is never modified by any function anywhere, which is still, apparently, beyond the scope of most compilers). We can fix the warning with a THE expression. THE is one of CL's ways of adding manual static typing (which you may be familiar with from more primitive languages such as Java) into your code. Although CL implementations such as SBCL perform type inference, the compiler occasionally needs your help:
(funcall (the function *soundex-tr-fn*) ...)
Since we're sure that *SOUNDEX-TR-FN* is effectively constant (it's all private code under our own control, after all), it is safe to add in this THE.

Another interesting set of warnings comes from NSUBSEQ:
(defun nsubseq (sequence start &optional (end nil))
(if (vectorp sequence)
(if (and (zerop start) (or (null end) (= end (length sequence))))
sequence
(make-array (- (if end
(min end (length sequence))
(length sequence))
start)
:element-type (array-element-type sequence)
:displaced-to sequence
:displaced-index-offset start))
(let ((result (nthcdr start sequence)))
(when end
(setf (cdr (nthcdr (- end start -1) sequence)) nil))
result)))
; in: DEFUN NSUBSEQ
; (ZEROP START)
; ==>
; (= START 0)
;
; note: unable to
; open-code FLOAT to RATIONAL comparison
; due to type uncertainty:
; The first argument is a NUMBER, not a FLOAT.
;
; note: unable to
; optimize
; due to type uncertainty:
; The first argument is a NUMBER, not a (COMPLEX SINGLE-FLOAT).
;
; note: unable to
; optimize
; due to type uncertainty:
; The first argument is a NUMBER, not a (COMPLEX DOUBLE-FLOAT).
...blah blah blah...
Those warnings go on for a while. What they all boil down to, though, is that the compiler doesn't know the type of START or END. Now here is a key point. Should you find yourself in this sort of situation, always remember what the great computer scientist Igor Stravinsky once said, "Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal." In other words, don't try to figure out the type declarations; steal them from SBCL. Using SLIME makes this easy. Just type M-. and then type SUBSEQ, because obviously it should take the same parameters. This will take you to the source code (you should always have the SBCL source code handy) for SUBSEQ:
(defun subseq (sequence start &optional end)
#!+sb-doc
"Return a copy of a subsequence of SEQUENCE starting with element number
START and continuing to the end of SEQUENCE or the optional END."

(seq-dispatch sequence
(list-subseq* sequence start end)
(vector-subseq* sequence start end)
(sb!sequence:subseq sequence start end)))
Since we only care about the vector case here, move the cursor to VECTOR-SUBSEQ* and hit M-. again, to see how it declares its arguments:
(defun vector-subseq* (sequence start end)
(declare (type vector sequence))
(declare (type index start)
(type (or null index) end))
;; blah blah blah
Ah! So what is the type INDEX? Use M-. once more and you'll discover this:
(def!type index () `(integer 0 (,sb!xc:array-dimension-limit)))
This makes sense. The type obviously has to be an integer, cannot be negative, and cannot be more than the maximum array length allowed by your CL implementation. This particular type definition is internal to SBCL and cannot be used directly, but we create our own. Improved NSUBSEQ looks like:
(deftype index () `(integer 0 ,array-dimension-limit))

;; From http://darcs.informatimago.com/lisp/common-lisp/utility.lisp
(defun nsubseq (sequence start &optional (end nil))
(if (vectorp sequence)
(locally
(declare (index start)
((or null index) end))

(if (and (zerop start) (or (null end) (= end (length sequence))))
sequence
(make-array (- (if end
(min end (length sequence))
(length sequence))
start)
:element-type (array-element-type sequence)
:displaced-to sequence
:displaced-index-offset start)))
(let ((result (nthcdr start sequence)))
(when end
(setf (cdr (nthcdr (- end start -1) sequence)) nil))
result)))
Note we use LOCALLY only when the argument is actually a vector; we can't make the same assumptions about other types of sequences. Plus we don't care about the list case (in fact a compiler warning for that case remains, but since we're not using lists in this example we'll skip the fix for it).

Let's look at optimizing UNIQ!. When we compile it, we get a number of warnings such as:
(defun uniq! (seq)
(cond
((> (length seq) 1)
(do* ((cur 0)
(cur-elt (elt seq cur) (elt seq cur))
(next 1 (1+ next)))
((>= next (length seq)) (nsubseq seq 0 (1+ cur)))
(let ((next-char (elt seq next)))
(unless (eql cur-elt next-char)
(incf cur)
(setf (elt seq cur) next-char)))))
(t seq)))
; in: DEFUN UNIQ!
; (LENGTH SEQ)
;
; note: unable to
; optimize
; due to type uncertainty:
; The first argument is a SEQUENCE, not a (SIMPLE-ARRAY * (*)).
;
; note: unable to
; optimize
; due to type uncertainty:
; The first argument is a SEQUENCE, not a VECTOR.

; (ELT SEQ CUR)
;
; note: unable to
; optimize
; due to type uncertainty:
; The first argument is a SEQUENCE, not a (SIMPLE-ARRAY * (*)).
...blah blah blah...
Here the compiler is telling us that it could make some optimizations if it knew for sure that the SEQ were a SIMPLE-ARRAY. What the heck is a simple array? Clicking link (or using C-c C-d h in SLIME), shows:
The type of an array that is not displaced to another array, has no fill pointer, and is not
expressly adjustable is a subtype of type simple-array. The concept of a simple array exists to
allow the implementation to use a specialized representation and to allow the user to declare that
certain values will always be simple arrays.
In case you're wondering, "displaced" means an array slice (as in Perl or Python), and the other two concepts refer to various ways an array can be (or appear to be) extensible. Is it safe for UNIQ! to assume it is receiving a simple array? Yes; its input comes from STRING-LEFT-TRIM. Although STRING-LEFT-TRIM is allowed to return its input when there are no changes to be made, we know that it will always make a change because we always remove at least the first character of S2, and thus its return value will always be simple. So let's add a function declaration for UNIQ!:
(declaim (ftype (function (simple-array) string) uniq!))
This tells the compiler that UNIQ!'s single argument is a SIMPLE-ARRAY and that it returns a STRING. The reason we say it returns a STRING (instead of a "simple" sequence type) is that UNIQ! uses NSUBSEQ, which does return an array slice. Unfortunately, we still get compiler warnings after making this change (albeit fewer):
             (cur-elt (elt seq cur) (elt seq cur))
; note: unable to
; optimize
; due to type uncertainty:
; The first argument is a (SIMPLE-ARRAY * (*)), not a SIMPLE-STRING.
...blah blah blah...
This is telling us that it could generate better code if it knew the sequence was a string. ELT is a generic accessor that works on any sequence type; presumably if the compiler knows the sequence type is a string it can take advantage of the fact that each element is the same size. Anyway, this is easy to fix. SOUNDEX only deals in strings, so we can safely change the declaration from SIMPLE-ARRAY to SIMPLE-STRING. Sure enough, this makes the compiler warnings disappear.

The remaining changes made were generally of the same nature as the above so are not covered here in detail, but you can see them in the following complete code listing that highlights all the CPU-related changes:
(declaim (optimize (speed 3) (debug 0) (safety 0)))

(defparameter *ascii-table* (let ((table (make-array '(256) :element-type 'character)))
(loop
for i below 256
do (setf (aref table i) (code-char i)))
table))

(defun make-tr-fn (from-table to-table)
(declare (simple-string from-table to-table)
(simple-array *ascii-table*))
(let ((table (the (simple-array character) (copy-seq *ascii-table*))))
(loop
for from-char across from-table
and to-char across to-table
do (setf (aref table (char-code from-char)) to-char))
(lambda (string)
(declare ((simple-array character) string))
(map-into string
#'(lambda (c) (aref table (char-code c)))
string))))

(defparameter *soundex-tr-fn* (make-tr-fn "AEHIOUWYBFPVCGJKQSXZDTLMNR" "00000000111122222222334556"))

(declaim (ftype (function (simple-string) simple-string) soundex-tr))
(defun soundex-tr (string)
(funcall (the function *soundex-tr-fn*) string))

(deftype index () `(integer 0 ,array-dimension-limit))

;; From http://darcs.informatimago.com/lisp/common-lisp/utility.lisp
(defun nsubseq (sequence start &optional (end nil))
"
RETURN: When the SEQUENCE is a vector, the SEQUENCE itself, or a displaced
array to the SEQUENCE.
When the SEQUENCE is a list, it may destroy the list and reuse the
cons cells to make the subsequence.
"

(if (vectorp sequence)
(locally
(declare (index start)
((or null index) end))

(if (and (zerop start) (or (null end) (= end (length sequence))))
sequence
(make-array (- (if end
(min end (length sequence))
(length sequence))
start)
:element-type (array-element-type sequence)
:displaced-to sequence
:displaced-index-offset start)))
(let ((result (nthcdr start sequence)))
(when end
(setf (cdr (nthcdr (- end start -1) sequence)) nil))
result)))

(declaim (ftype (function (simple-string) string) uniq!))
(defun uniq! (seq)
(let ((seq-len (length seq)))
(cond
((> seq-len 1)
(do* ((cur 0)
(cur-elt (elt seq cur) (elt seq cur))
(next 1 (1+ next)))
((>= next seq-len) (nsubseq seq 0 (1+ cur)))
(let ((next-char (elt seq next)))
(unless (eql cur-elt next-char)
(incf cur)
(setf (elt seq cur) next-char)))))
(t seq))))
(defun soundex (string)
(let ((s (the simple-string
(let ((maybe-a-copy (string-upcase string)))
;; STRING-UPCASE can return original string if no changes
;; were needed.
(if (eq maybe-a-copy string)
;; REMOVE-IF-NOT makes a copy
(remove-if-not 'alpha-char-p maybe-a-copy)
;; DELETE-IF-NOT doesn't
(delete-if-not 'alpha-char-p maybe-a-copy))))))
(when (plusp (length s))
(let ((f (char s 0)))
(let* ((s2 (soundex-tr s))
(fc (char s2 0))
(result (make-string 4 :initial-element #\0)))
(setf s2 (the string (delete #\0 (uniq! (string-left-trim (vector fc) s2)))))
(setf (char result 0) f)
(let ((end (min (length s2) 4)))
(loop
for i from 0 below end
do (setf (char result (1+ i)) (char s2 i))))
result)))))


Here's the effect of the CPU optimizations:
CL-USER> (many-soundex)
Evaluation took:
0.357 seconds of real time
0.360022 seconds of user run time
0.0 seconds of system run time
[Run times include 0.008 seconds GC run time.]
0 calls to %EVAL
0 page faults and
22,406,384 bytes consed.
Although the results vary from run to run, 0.357 seconds is a pretty typical on my hardware. This is approximately a 23% reduction in time compared to before. Not nearly as big of a gain, which is why one should optimize memory first. Still, 23% is nothing to sneeze at for a relatively small number of changes, most of which were pointed out to us by the compiler! If you're interested in learning more about optimizing CL, I recommend checking out SBCL's SB-SPROF package, which is more sophisticated than the SB-PROFILE package used here.