A high-performance graph domain specific language


Getting Started

Python Binding Getting Started

Language Manual



The GraphIt Programming Language

This guide introduces GraphIt language features and shows how they can be used in programs.


GraphIt is an imperative language with statements, control flow, and high-level operators on sts of vertices ane edges. In this section, we describe some of the language’s basic constructs.


Functions can take any number of parameters, including none. Each parameter must be declared with its name followed by its type (separated by a :). In the following example, the function add takes two parameters named a and b, both of which are of type float, and returns a single result (named c) that is also a float. The function result is separated from the list of parameters by a -> and the function declaration is delimited by the end keyword.

func add(a : float, b : float) -> c : float
  c = a + b;

Like functions in MATLAB, GraphIt functions can return any number of results, including none. In the next example, the function minMax takes two float parameters and return two float results: the smaller of the two inputs as the first result and the larger of the two inputs as the second result.

func minMax(a : float, b : float) 
    -> (c : float, d : float)
  if a < b
    c = a;
    d = b;
    c = b;
    d = a;

Note that the list of function results must be surrounded by parentheses if the function returns more than one result. (The parentheses are optional if the function returns just a single result.)

Primitive Types

GraphIt supports following primitive types so far:



Variables are declared in function bodies not in the global scope using the var keyword. The following example declares an integer variable named foo:

var foo : int;

The variable can be initialized with the following syntax.

var foo : float = 0.0;

The const keyword creates a variable that cannot be modified after initialization. Individual elements of const vectors can still be updated.


Single-line comments start with %:

h = 0.01;  % h is the time-step size.

Multi-line comments are surrounded by %{ and %}:

h is the time-step size.
h is initialized to one millisecond.
h = 0.001;

Control Flow Statements

GraphIt supports a variety of control flow constructs, including if statements, while loops, do-while loops and for loops.

If Statements

In GraphIt, a simple if statement looks something like this:

if x < 1
  print "x is less than 1";

An if statement can optionally include an else clause as well as an any number of elif (else-if) clauses:

if x < 1
  print "x is less than 1";
elif x > 5
  print "x is greater than 5";
  print "x is between 1 and 5";

While Loops

A while loop in GraphIt looks like this:

while x < 100
  x = 2 * x;

As with if statements, logical operators and comparison operators can be used to construct more complex conditions. Note that if the condition of a while loop is false when a GraphIt program first encounters the loop, the loop body will not be executed at all.

For Loops

GraphIt for loops are more like those found in MATLAB, Julia and Python than those available in C. You can use a for loop to iterate over the set of all integers between two values, as shown in the following example.

for i in 0:10
  print i;

Note that the lower bound is inclusive while the upper bound is exclusive (like Python), so the above example prints all integers between 0 and 9 but omits 10.

Elements, Vectors, VertexSets, EdgeSets

Elements, vertexsets, edgesets and vectors form GraphIt’s data model.


An element is a type that stores one or more data fields, much like a struct in C/C++. For example, a vertex in a social network representing a person can have a Person Element type. In the future, we plan to support fields in the Element. Currently, fields associated with an Element are expressed as separate Vectors descrived below.

element Person


Vectors are associated with an element. Essentially they act as fields of the elements. The following code says that age is a vector for Person Element type. Each Person would have an associated age field, and the field is initialized to 0.

const age : vector {Person}(int) = 0;

For vector for vertices, the user can access with a vertexid, in this case age[v]. For vector for edges, the user need to access with both src and destinaton vertexids, edge_vector[src,dst].


Edgesets have connectivity information. In particular, edge set definitions specify the type of elements from which each edge’s endpoints come. The following declares a set of Edge element that each connect two Person type points from the edges edgeset:

const edges : edgeset{Edge}(Person,Person);

There is no explicit graph type in GraphIt; rather, graphs are formed implicitly from the edgesets. This is similar to how graphs are often defined in mathematical papers (i.e. as an ordered pair G = (V,E)).


Vertexsets are sets of vertices of a specific Element Type. people is a vertexset made up of endpoint elements of Person Type from the edges edgeset.

const people : vertexset{Person} = edges.getVertices();

Built-in Operators

Delete Operator

Delete operator is written as delete in graphit. It deallocates the memory for an object. It is very similar to delete keyword in C++. Simple usage is:

func main()
    var vertices : vertexset{Vertex} = edges.getVertices();
    delete vertices;

Parallel Sum Operator

Parallel sum operator is written as .sum() in graphit. When called on a vector of objects, it computes the sum in parallel. Simple usage is:

element Vertex end
element Edge end

const edges : edgeset{Edge}(Vertex,Vertex) = load ("test.el");
const vertices : vertexset{Vertex} = edges.getVertices();
const vector_a : vector{Vertex}(float) = 0.0;

func main()
    % process vector_a
    #s2# var summation : float = vector_a.sum();
    print summation;

Parallel Max Operator

Parallel sum operator is written as .max() in graphit. When called on a vector of objects, it finds the maximum value in the vector. Simple usage is:

element Vertex end
element Edge end

const edges : edgeset{Edge}(Vertex,Vertex) = load ("test.el");
const vertices : vertexset{Vertex} = edges.getVertices();
const vector_a : vector{Vertex}(float) = 0.0;

func main()
    % process vector_a
    #s2# var summation : float = vector_a.max();
    print summation;

writeMin Operator

writeMin operator atomically updates a value at some memory location by taking the minimum of the old value at that memory location and the new value. It return true if the value is updated, false otherwise. In GraphIt, writeMin operator takes three parameters - an array, index of the value, and new value. Simple usage is:

const edges : edgeset{Vertex, Vertex} = ...
const f_score : vector{Vertex}(int) = some_value;

func main()
    var new_f_score : int = f_score[src] + weight;
    var changed : bool = writeMin(f_score, dst, new_f_score);

Intersection Operator

Intersection operator is written as intersection in graphit. It essentially intersects two sorted sets using different intersection methods. Simple usage is:

const edges : edgeset{Vertex, Vertex} = ...

func main()
    var src_nghs : vertexset{Vertex} = edges.getNgh(src);
    var dst_nghs : vertexset{Vertex} = edges.getNgh(dst);
    var src_ngh_size : uint_64 = edges.getOutDegree(src);
    var dst_ngh_size : uint_64 = edges.getOutDegree(dst);
    var value: uint_64 = intersection(src_nghs, dst_nghs, src_ngh_size, dst_ngh_size);

Intersection operator takes four required arguments and one optional argument.

Since there are many ways to parallelize and implement this operation, we also provide scheduling interface to tune the intersection performance. The ones we support are:

Set Operators

Edgeset Operators

from, to and filter

from and to filters out edges whose source vertex is in the input set.

const people_age_over_40 : vertexset{Person} = ... 
const people_age_over_60 : vertexset{Person} = ...

func main()
  % find edges between people over 40 years old to people over 60 years old
  var filtered_edges : edgeset{Friend}(Person, Person} = 

filter simply supplies a boolean function that checks every edge.

srcFilter and dstFilter

srcFilter and dstFilter filters out edges where the input boolean filtering function filter_func returns true.

func filter_func(v : Vertex) -> output : bool
    output =  age[v] > 40;

func main()
  filtered_edges = edges.srcFilter(filter_func);


This operator applies a function updateEdge to every edge. In one iteration of PageRank,

func updateEdge(src : Vertex, dst : Vertex)
    new_rank[dst] += contrib[src];

func main()


This operator applies a function (updateEdge) to every edge. Returns a vertexset that contains destination vertices whose entry in the vector has been modified in updateEdge. The programmer can optionally disable deduplication within modified vertices. Deduplication is enabled by default.

func updateEdge(src : Vertex, dst : Vertex)
    parent[dst] = src;

func main()
  edges.applyModified(updateEdge,parent, true);

Edgeset Utility Functions

combining edgeset operators

The various operators can be and often are chained together.

frontier = edges.from(frontier).to(toFilter).applyModified(updateEdge,parent, true);

Vertexset Operators


The filter operator is similar to the edgeset filter, except for it is applied on a single vertex and not edge.


The apply operator is similar to the edgeset apply operator, but applied to a vertex.


This operator adds a new vertex to vertexset. Example usage:

var frontier : vertexset{Vertex} = new vertexset{Vertex}(0);

Vertexset Utility Functions

Extern Functions

The users can call functions implemented in C++ from GraphIt. These can be used in cases where the user needs some external functionalities that are not currently supported in the GraphIt language. For example, certain solvers or more complex operations that are not necessarily related to graphs. Another example could be a distance estimator used in AStar search.

The user needs to define a prototype of the function in the GraphIt program with the extern keyword. The example below defined a extern function named extern_func that takes as input a vertex and outputs a double.

extern func extern_func(v: Vertex) -> output:double; 

The users can use the extern function inside any function and it can be supplied as arguments to vertexset and edgeset operators. For exmaple, the extern_func can be supplied to the apply operator on a vertexset.


The users can also use vectors defined in the original GraphIt program inside the extern function. In the C++ definition of the extern programs, the user simply needs to declare an extern variable. The following example shows the definition of an extern function that reads a graphit_vector that is defined in the GraphIt program, and adds the value one to the vector for vertex v.

extern double * graphit_vector;

double extern_func(v: NodeID){
  return graphit_vector[v] + 1;

To compile GraphIt programs, the user will first need to generate the C++ program with the GraphIt compiler. And later compile the generated file along with the other C++ file with the extern function.

python -f -o graphit_generated.cpp 
g++ -std=c++11 -O3 -g -I ../../src/runtime_lib/ graphit_generated.cpp extern_func.cpp -o executable 

Export Functions

The GraphIt compiler generate a stand alone executable with a main function by default. However, the user can also generate a library version of the function that can be used in the Python binding or just a regular C++ function using the export functions.

To declare an export function, the user simply uses the export keyword before the function that is going to be exported. The following example shows the definition of an export function export_func that takes as input a graph named input_edges.

export func export_func(input_edges : edgeset{Edge}(Vertex,Vertex))

NOTE: the export function should NOT be named main. The main function name is reserved for standalone executable mode.

If the graph is passed in as argument to the exported function, then the vertexsets and vectors cannot be initialized in the const declarations. This is because the size of the vertexset and edgesets are not known at compile time. In this case, the user would need to manually initialize vertexsets and vectors. If the graph is not loaded in as an argument to the export function, then the user can continue to load the graph, initialize the vertexsets and vectors in const declarations.

Here we show an example to initilize the vertexsets and vectors when the graph is an input argument to the export_func.

const edges : edgeset{Edge}(Vertex,Vertex);
const vertices : vertexset{Vertex};
const float_vector : vector{Vertex}(float);

func initVector(v : Vertex)
     float_vector[v] = 0.0;

export func export_func(input_edges : edgeset{Edge}(Vertex,Vertex))
  edges = input_edges;
  vertices = edges.getVertices();
  float_vector = new vector{Vertex}(float)();

Library Functions

NOTE: If you need some library routine that is not included in the list, you can use the extern functions to provide your customized functionalities.

Scheduling Language

In this section, we provide some heuristics for tuning the schedules for improved performance. The scheduling language specified separately can tune the performance of the algorithm. The example below first described the algorithm with edgeset, vertexset, and the main function. The user can then use the schedule: keyword to mark the beginning of schedule spcification.

The label #s1# is used in the scheduling commands to identify the apply operator the schedule is applied on. The label #s1 must be specified before the edgeset apply operator if the user intend to tune the performance of the operator.

const edges : edgeset{Edge}(Vertex,Vertex);
const vertices : vertexset{Vertex};
const float_vector : vector{Vertex}(float);

func main ()
  #s1# edges.apply(updateEdge);

  program->configApplyDirection("s1", "DensePull");

The full set of schedules are listed in the table below. We refer users to the Section 5 of the arxiv report for details of scheduling language.

Scheduling Functions

Here are some general guidelines for selecting a set of schedules

Some existing schedules There are many predfined schedules in the input_with_schedules directory. For a specific graph and application, the script shows the best schedule.

In general, the following schedule achieves reasonable perforamnce on social networks (assuming the relevant edgeset apply operator is labeled with #s1).

    program->configApplyParallelization("s1", "dynamic-vertex-parallel");

Python Binding

GraphIt provides bindings for the user to load and call GraphIt functions in python. The algorithm with it’s schedule can be written in a GraphIt file which can then be compiled and loaded using the GraphIt python module. In this section we describe how to build such an interface and how the types from GraphIt translate to python types and vice-versa.

GraphIt language extensions

The main difference between writing GraphIt programs and writing functions to be called from python is that GraphIt now compiles as a library instead of an executable program. So it doesn’t contain a main function. Instead users can define any number of custom functions which can be separately invoked from python.

To separate internal helper functions from the function which are exposed as a part of the library, we add the export keyword. This keyword can be added to any function declaration before the func keyword. This tells the compiler that this function is supposed to be a part of the library to be called from python and sufficient wrappers should be generated for the same.

export func do_pagerank(edges: edgeset{Edge}, damp: double) -> ranks: vector{Vertex}(float)

Notice how unlike the main function which doesn’t take any arguments, export functions can take arguments for the graph and the required parameters for the algorithm which can be directly passed from the python code.

Type mappings

The bindings allow user to pass and return python objects over to the GraphIt functions. Python types are translated to GraphIt types and vice-versa using the following mapping. This mapping has been chosen to keep data copy to the minimum to ensure high performance. Just like regular python and GraphIt functions, the arguments are passed by reference and any modifications to non scalar types will reflect back in the python program. This feature can also be used if the user wishes to return multiple values.

Scalar types mappings

The scalar types in GrapIt directly map to their counterparts in python

GraphIt type python type
int int
float float
long long
double double
bool bool
Vertex int

GraphIt currently doesn’t have a string type. Hence strings cannot be passed or returned at this point.

Non-scalar types mappings

Following non-scalar types are currently supported as arguments and return values.

GraphIt type python type
edgeset{Edge} scipy.sparse.csr_matrix
vector{Vertex}(X) numpy.array(dtype=X) (shape = (num_vertices))
vector[n](X) numpy.array(dtype=X) (shape= (n))
vector{Vertex}(vector[n](X)) numpy.array(dtype=X) (shape = (num_vertices, n))
vector[m](vector[n](X)) numpy.array(dtype=X) (shape = (m, n))

Here X is any scalar type mapped according to the mappings in the previous section. All the non-scalar types here are passed by reference except for the edgeset{Edge} type. This means that if the graph is updated in the Python code, it should be passed again.

The GraphIt test suite has examples on how to pass non-scalar types from python to GraphIt and returning it back. These test cases can be found in the file.

Python module API

To fascilate the user to load GraphIt libraries inside python and call into them we provide a module named graphit that can be imported on installed systems as

import graphit

This module provides mainly the compile_and_load function which returns a graphit.graphit_module object. This object has all the functions which are exported from the GraphIt program.


graphit.compile_and_load(graphit_source_file, extern_cpp_files=[], linker_args=[], parallelization_type=graphit.PARALLEL_NONE)

Returns graphit.graphit_module

The compile_and_load function is the primary function for using the python bindings for graphit. This function compiles the algorithm in the supplied .gt file and loads it as a python module with all the exported functions.

compile_and_load takes a compulsory argument graphit_source_file. This is the relative/absolute path to the .gt file. The .gt file should contain both the algorithm and schedule if any. The schedule should be specified after the algorithm after the schedule: tag.

This function also takes an optional argument extern_cpp_files. If the algorithm needs to be linked with user provided .cpp files, they should be provided here as a list. This argument is necessary when using extern functions whose implementation is provided in a .cpp file. The list of files provided here will be compiled with appropriate GraphIt flag and linked with the module before loading. Note, you can only provide .cpp files here. Object files or static and shared libraries should not be provided here. They should be added to the linker_args.

The function also takes another optional argument linker_args, which is useful for providing extra arguments to the linker. These arguments are appended to the link command at the very end. Any extra object files or static/shared libraries can also be provided here. You should not provide .cpp files here because this command does not have appropriate compile flags. Source files should be provided with the extern_cpp_files argument.

Finally, the function takes an optional parallelization_type argument which can have the value graphit.PARALLEL_NONE, graphit.PARALLEL_CILK or graphit.PARALLEL_OPENMP (default is graphit.PARALLEL_NONE. This option allows the user to choose the parallelization runtime to use while compiling the GraphIt program.

The function returns a graphit.graphit_module object that has all the functions exported in the algorithm.

Example with linker args

import graphit
pagerank_module = graphit.compile_and_load("", linker_args=["-lm"])


graphit.compile_and_load_cache(graphit_source_file, extern_cpp_files=[], linker_args=[], parallelization_type=graphit.PARALLEL_NONE)

Returns graphit.graphit_module

This function behaves almost similar to graphit.compile_and_load except it tries to load the cached result if there was no modification.


The graphit.graphit_module type object provides an interface to call into exported GraphIt functions. The functions have the exact same name as it had in the GraphIt file. The arguments follow the same name and order.

from scipy.sparse import csr_matrix
my_graph = load_npz("road-usad.npz")

ranks = pagerank_module.do_pagerank(edges=my_graph, damp=0.85)

The ranks which is of type numpy.array(dtype=float) can now be iterated over and its values used for further processing.

Example with extern cpp files

import graphit
from scipy.sparse import csr_matrix
src_add_one_module = graphit.compile_and_load("", extern_cpp_files=["extern_src_add_one.cpp"])

my_graph = csr_matrix("4.mtx"))
sum_returned = src_add_one_module.export_func(graph)

In this example, the file declares an extern function extern_src_add_one which takes a source and destination and performs an operation on the source node’s data. This function is called from the edgeset.apply operator. But the implementation of this function is not provided in the .gt file. It is provided as a cpp function in the cpp file extern_src_add_one.cpp. So we have provide a list containing the name of this file as the argument extern_cpp_files. This file is compiled separately when the module is compiled and linked in to the generated graphit module. If this argument is not provided, the compilation will fail with the linker error - Undefined symbol: extern_src_add_one.

Example with the parallelization type flag

import graphit
pagerank_module = graphit.compile_and_load("", linker_args=["-lm"], parallelization_type=graphit.PARALLEL_CILK)

In this example we provide the parallelization_type as PARALLEL_CILK. This instructs the GraphIt compiler to make use of the CILK runtime while compiling the module. If we had used the graphit.PARALLEL_NONE option (which is the default option), the compiled code would have ran serially.