# Loops and iterations

While the design of Envision intentionally omits arbitrary loops, it does feature multiple mechanisms to iterate. The intent behind this design is to avoid classes of problems associated with arbitrary loops, such as indeterminate termination and/or indeterminate memory consumption.

Loop blocks are a feature for repeating arbitrary sets of operations up to 10 times.

Iteration blocks are a feature for repeating complex operations over all lines of a table. These are divided into several categories:

• each blocks apply the operation independently to every line of the table, thus ensuring good performance through parallelization.
• each .. scan blocks apply the operation one line at a time, in the requested order, and can remember data from one line to the next.
• montecarlo blocks are intended for complex pseudo-random generators, typically Monte Carlo simulators (as the name suggests). This type of block is detailed in a later section.
• autodiff blocks describe a function to minimize for every line, then perform gradient descent to minimize that value. This type of block is detailed in a later section.

Unlike most programming languages, in Envision, explicit loops and iterations are considered as moderately advanced language features. As a rule of thumb, these features should be avoided whenever the same effect can be obtained by leveraging the relational algebra.

## loop blocks

A loop block repeats a block of Envision code. The number of iterations is passed as an integer literal after the loop keyword. The value of the integer must be between 2 and 10 (inclusive). The following script illustrates the loop block:

a = 1
loop 3
b = a + 1
a = 2 * b
show summary "" with a, b // 22, 11


Advance remark: The loop is similar to a strongly-typed code macro-expansion. Under the hood, the Envision code is being inflated. This explain why Lokad sets a low limit at 10.

Unlike most blocks in Envision, a loop block does not involve any scoping. Hence, in the script above, the variable b remains accessible after exiting the loop block.

This script could have been equivalently written:

a = 1

b = a + 1 // iteration 1
a = 2 * b
b = a + 1 // iteration 2
a = 2 * b
b = a + 1 // iteration 3
a = 2 * b

show summary "" with a, b // 22, 11


Loop blocks cannot include any tile declaration (i.e. show blocks), but they can include table declarations under certain conditions, as illustrated by the following example:

a = 10
b = 0
table T = extend.range(10)
loop 10
a = a - 1
table T = where T.N < a
b = b + sum(T.N)
show summary "" with a, b // 0, 120


In the above script, the repeated declarations of the table T are valid because they are filters iteratively applied over the same table.

Roadmap: the constraints on the loop argument will be relaxed to allow a compile-time constant to be used instead of a literal.

### loop .. partitioned blocks

The loop block can be used to help Envision parallelize its processing when very large tables are involved - typically over 1 billion lines. The following script illustrates this capability:

table T = extend.range(123) // T is the super-sized table

T.Rank__ = rank() scan T.N
size__ = count(T.*)
T.Part__ = 1 + floor((T.Rank__ - 1) / size__) * 10

T.N2 = 0
loop n in 1 .. 10
where T.Part__ == n // 10 independent segments
T.N2 = T.N ^ 2

show table "" with T.N, T.N2


In the above script, the where block placed inside the loop block partitions the table T into 10 independent segments. Those segments can be processed concurrently by Envision as they are logically independent.

The loop .. partitioned syntax is a syntactic sugar that streamlines this precise usage of the loop keyword by delegating the partitioning logic to the Envision compiler. The keyword partitioned is used as follow:

table T = extend.range(123)

T.N2 = 0
loop 10 partitioned table T
T.N2 = T.N ^ 2

show table "" with T.N, T.N2


The above script is equivalent to the previous script. The table T is partitioned into 10 arbitrary segments. The same logic, as found inside the loop block, gets independently executed over each segment.

## each blocks

The purpose of the each block is to extend what can be done via the relational algebra beyond stand-alone expressions. As the name suggests, each blocks offer the possibility to repeat a block of independent operations for each line of a table.

An each block operates over a table referred to as the observation table - named immediately after the each keyword - and produces one or more vectors in that table. The following script illustrates the each block:

table Obs = with
[| as N |]
[| 1 |]
[| 2 |]
[| 3 |]

Obs.Cpy = each Obs
cpy = Obs.N + 1
return cpy

show table "" a1b3 with Obs.N, Obs.Cpy


However, the script above could be rewritten in a simpler way through the relational algebra with a stand-alone expression:

table Obs = with
[| as N |]
[| 1 |]
[| 2 |]
[| 3 |]

Obs.Cpy = Obs.N + 1

show table "" a1b3 with Obs.N, Obs.Cpy


As there are no dependencies between operations performed for every line of the observation table, the execution of the each block is automatically parallelized by the Envision runtime.

Inside the block, vectors from the observation table can be assigned to scalar variables, while vectors in tables that are unrelated to the observation table can be manipulated as full vectors:

table Products = with
[| "Hat" as Label, 37 as PurchaseQty, 15.00 as UnitPrice |]
[| "Shirt"       , 112              , 55.00              |]

table Discounts = with
[| 1 as qty, 0 as Discount |]
[| 10      , 0.1           |]
[| 100     , 0.2           |]

Products.Amount = each Products
Quantity = Products.PurchaseQty
Discount = last(Discounts.Discount) when(Discounts.Qty <= Quantity) sort Discounts.Qty
return Products.UnitPrice * (1 - Discount)

show table "" a1c2 with
Products.Label
Products.PurchaseQty
Products.UnitPrice
Products.Amount


In the above example, for each product, the entire table Discounts is traversed to find the discount associated with the quantity being purchased. Without each, the above logic could be implemented with cross:

table Products = with
[| "Hat" as Label, 37 as PurchaseQty, 15.00 as UnitPrice |]
[| "Shirt"       , 112              , 55.00              |]

table Discounts = with
[| 1 as qty, 0 as Discount |]
[| 10      , 0.1           |]
[| 100     , 0.2           |]

Products.Amount = with
Products.Discount = last(Discounts.Discount)
when (Discounts.Qty < Products.PurchaseQty)
cross (Products, Discounts)
sort Discounts.Qty
return Products.UnitPrice * (1 - Products.Discount)

show table "" a1c2 with
Products.Label
Products.PurchaseQty
Products.UnitPrice
Products.Amount


However the each block is more readable and more performant than a cross aggregation, especially once the logic grows so complex that several cross aggregations are required to represent it. It is therefore recommended to use each instead of cross (this does not apply to cross .. by .. at).

If the observation table happens to be the left component of a cross-table, then vectors from that cross-table can also be loaded into the each block:

table Products = with
[| "Hat" as Label, 15.00 as UnitPrice |]
[| "Shirt"       , 55.00              |]

table Colors = with
[| "blue" as Color, 1.1 as PriceFactor |]
[| "red"          , 1.2                |]
[| "white"        , 0.9                |]

// 'Products' is the left component of 'Variants'
table Variants = cross(Products, Colors)
Variants.Price = Products.UnitPrice * Colors.PriceFactor

// Must be computed outside of the 'each'
Variants.MedProductPrice = median(Variants.Price) by Products.Label

Products.MedOfMed = each Products
// Right cross table can import cross table value
// when each is performed on the left cross table
Colors.MedProductPrice = Variants.MedProductPrice
return median(Colors.MedProductPrice)

show table "" a1c2 with
Products.Label
Products.MedOfMed


### Table diagram and limitations

The behaviour of tables in an each block depends on that table’s relationship with the observation table. The tables are classified as follows:

• The observation table appears after the each keyword. The body of the block is executed once for each line in the observation table.

• An upstream table is any table from which one can broadcast (directly or indirectly) into the observation table. Like the observation table, vectors from upstream tables can be assigned to scalars.

• A downstream table is any table into which one can broadcast (directly or indirectly) from the observation table.

• A full table is any non-cross table that is neither upstream nor downstream from the observation table. Vectors from full tables can be manipulated as full vectors.

• An upstream-cross table is any cross table where the left component is either the observation table or an upstream table, and the right component is a full table.

Tables which do not fit any of the above criteria cannot be used in the each block.

Also while upstream and downstream tables allow indirect broadcasting, the chain of broadcast must be unique for the table to be available, otherwise the ambiguity is reported as a compilation error.

In order to reliably achieve good performance even for complex operations, an each block has several strict limitations:

• Full tables and upstream-cross tables must be small. This allows Envision to keep the complete vectors in-memory.

• Vectors cannot be broadcast or aggregated from one full table into another. Broadcasting from a scalar to a full table is permitted, and so is aggregating from a full table to a scalar.

ExpressionAllowed?
Day.X = XYes
Day.X = Week.XNo
X = sum(Day.X)Yes
Week.X = sum(Day.X)No
Week.X = sum(Week.X) by Week.CNo
• By extension, by, cross or over aggregation, or lookups cannot be used.

• Cannot sort by a value that was computed during the each. However, values from outside the each can be used to sort.

• Only maps and aggregations can be used. Functions which operate on full vectors (such as argfirst) are not allowed. In particular, scan is not supported.

Roadmap: Downstream tables cannot currently be used in each block, however we intend to make this feature available in the future. The filters when and where are not supported either but are likely to be supported in the future.

### Exercise

What is the classification of each of those tables in the three each blocks below ?

read ".." as Category[category]
read ".." as Product[sku] expect [category]
read ".." as Channel[channel]
read ".." as Orders expect [channel, sku, date]

table CategoryWeek = cross(Category, Week)
table ProductWeek = cross(Product, Week)
table ChannelWeek = cross(Channel, Week)

Product.X = each Product
// Here ?

Week.X = each Week
// Here ?

Category.X = each Category
// Here ?


Tableeach Producteach Weekeach Category
ProductObservationFullDownstream
WeekFullObservationFull
CategoryUpstreamFullObservation
ChannelFullFullFull
OrdersDownstreamDownstreamDownstream
CategoryWeekUpstream-CrossUnavailableUpstream-Cross
ProductWeekUpstream-CrossUnavailableUnavailable
ChannelWeekUnavailableUnavailableUnavailable

## each .. scan blocks

The each .. scan blocks allow you to keep values from one iteration to the next. However, this extra capability implies that the Envision runtime can’t parallelize the iterations of an each .. scan block. Thus, this variant should only be favored when values need to be kept from one iteration to the next. A simple example is given below:

table Obs = with
[| date(2021, 1, 1) as Date, 13 as Quantity |]
[| date(2021, 2, 1)       ,  11             |]
[| date(2021, 3, 1)       ,  17             |]
[| date(2021, 4, 1)       ,  18             |]
[| date(2021, 5, 1)       ,  16             |]

Best = 0

Obs.BestSoFar = each Obs scan Obs.Date
keep Best
NewBest = max(Best, Obs.Quantity)
Best = NewBest
return NewBest

show table "" a1b4 with Obs.Date, Obs.BestSoFar


In the above script, scan Obs.Date specifies the order in which the lines of the observation table are to be traversed. The statement keep Best specifies that the variable Best must retain its value from one observation line to the next. Finally, Best = NewBest assigns a new value to the variable ; it will be the one available on the next observation line.

Lines of the observation table are processed in the ascender order. However, the option desc can be used to specify the descending order, as illustrated by:

table Obs = with
[| date(2021, 1, 1) as Date, 13 as Quantity |]
[| date(2021, 2, 1)       ,  11             |]
[| date(2021, 3, 1)       ,  17             |]
[| date(2021, 4, 1)       ,  18             |]
[| date(2021, 5, 1)       ,  16             |]

Best = 0

Obs.BestSoFar = each Obs scan Obs.Date desc
keep Best
NewBest = max(Best, Obs.Quantity)
Best = NewBest
return NewBest

show table "" a1b4 with Obs.Date, Obs.BestSoFar


The each .. scan block comes with a short series of syntactic constraints relative to the keep statements. The block requires at least one keep statement. All the keep statements must be made at the very beginning of the each .. scan block. The keep statements must refer to variables that have already been defined, prior to the each .. scan block. A variable marked with keep is modified by the execution of the each .. scan block. Its last value remains available after exiting the each .. scan block.

keep vectors must be from small tables in order to be kept in-memory, and must be scalars, full-table or upstream-table vectors.

As a rule of thumb, user-defined processes should be preferred to each .. scan blocks whenever possible. The each .. scan block should be used when the logic grows too complex, or involves keeping non-scalar variables.

### Return-less blocks

It may happens that an each .. block is introduced for the sole purpose of getting the last value held by a keep variable. Thus, the return statement may be omitted altogether as illustrated by the following script:

table Currencies = with
[| "EUR" as Code |]
[| "JPY"         |]
[| "USD" |]

Sep = ""
List = ""
each Currencies scan Currencies.Code
keep Sep
keep List
List = "\{List}\{Sep}\{Currencies.Code}"
Sep = ", "

show scalar "" with List


In the above script, the variable List is built through iterative concatenations. However, as only the final form is of interest, a return-less each .. block is used.

In practice, however, the above script could be rewritten in simpler way leveraging the built-in join aggregator as illustrated by:

table Currencies = with
[| "EUR" as Code |]
[| "JPY"         |]
[| "USD" |]

show scalar "" with join(Currencies.Code; ", ") sort Currencies.Code


### auto ordering in scan

The ordering of the scan follows the primary dimension of the table being enumerated through the use of the keyword auto:

table T = extend.range(6)
x = 0
T.X = each T scan auto
keep x
x = T.N - x
return x

show table "T" a1b5 with T.N, T.X


The above script is logically identical to the one below:

table T[t] = extend.range(6)
x = 0
T.X = each T scan t
keep x
x = T.N - x
return x

show table "T" a1b5 with T.N, T.X


### Any-order blocks

While persisting variables from one line to the next might be needed, the specific ordering might not matter. Envision provides a syntax to deal with those situations as illustrated by:

table Obs = with
[| 42 as X |]
[| 41 |]
[| 45 |]

myMin = 1B
myMax = -(1B)
each Obs scan Obs.*
keep myMin
keep myMax
myMin = min(myMin, Obs.X)
myMax = max(myMax, Obs.X)

show summary "" a1b2 with myMin, myMax


In the above script, the scan Values.* indicates that an arbitrary order is taken.

As a rule of thumb, this feature should be considered as fringe and sparingly used. Indeed, the Envision compiler does not rely on any proof that ordering does not matter. Hence, if accidentally ordering does matter, the ambiguity might be resolved in non-predictable ways by the Envision runtime.

## each .. when blocks

Iterations can be filtered. The each .. when block only executes its body on lines where the condition specified by when is true.

table T = extend.range(5)

s = 0
each T scan auto when T.N mod 2 == 1
keep s
s = s + T.N

show scalar "odd sum" with s // 9


In the above script, the filter when T.N mod 2 == 1 is applied to every line of the table T. It filters out every line where T.N is even.

The each .. when block cannot return a vector, via the keyword return as lines would be missing. Instead, variables marked as keep must be used to extract information from the iteration.

Roadmap: the when condition cannot yet reference a variable marked as keep. We plan to lift this limitation in the future. This will allow dynamic filtering with regards to the iteration process itself.

## each .. in .. blocks (no diagram)

The each X in T.X offers a simple iteration mechanism over the values of a specified vector. Unlike the other each blocks, there is no diagram, no observation table, etc. Instead, the iteration repeats for each value X in T.X with all the tables - including the table T - being available in full. Unlike the loop block, this mechanism allows to iterate over a large number of values.

table T = extend.range(3)
table U = by (T.N mod 2) // U is upstream of T

U.X = 0
each T scan T.N
keep U.X
U.X = U.X + T.N // 'U.X' is a scalar here

U.Y = 0
each N in T.N scan T.N
keep U.Y
U.Y = U.Y + N   // 'U.Y' is a vector over 'U' here

show summary "each vs each in" a1b1 with
sum(U.X) as "each"       // '6'
sum(U.Y) as "each .. in" // '12'


The above script illustrates the difference between the each T and the each N in T.N behavior. Inside the each T block, the table U (upstream of T) exposes only a single line at each iteration. Inside the each N in T.N block, the table U is present in full at each iteration.

This mechanism allows to cross a table with itself, as illustrated by:

table T = extend.range(5)

T.S = each N in T.N
return N * sum(T.N) when (N < T.N)

show table "" a1b5 with T.N, T.S


Advanced remark: This “simple” each is similar to the for loop in Python and the foreach loop in C#.

## Illustration: k-means clustering

The k-means method is a clustering algorithm that partitions the observations into $k$ clusters. It can be implemented in Envision using the loop block. The following script illustrates a simple k-means problem with points distributed over the unit circle.

numberOfClusters = 10
numberOfPoints = 1000

table C = extend.range(numberOfClusters)
table C[c] = by C.N
table enum D[d] = "x", "y"
table T[t] = extend.range(numberOfPoints)

table TD = cross(T, D)
table CD = cross(C, D)
table TC = cross(T, C)

// Randomly generated data
TD.XY = random.uniform(-0.5 into TD, 0.5)
TD.XY = TD.XY / sqrt(sum(TD.XY^2) into T) // unit circle

// Cluster initialization
CD.XY = random.uniform(-0.5 into CD, 0.5)
CD.XY = CD.XY / sqrt(sum(CD.XY^2) into C) // unit circle

loop 10
// Compute the distance between each observation and each cluster.
TC.Distance = each T
C.Distance = sum((CD.XY - TD.XY)^2)
return C.Distance

// Find the closest cluster for each observation.
T.ClosestC = argmin(TC.Distance, TC.c)
TD.ClosestC = T.ClosestC

// Update the cluster values to be equal to the average value of its associated observations.
CD.XY = avg(TD.XY) by [TD.ClosestC, TD.d] at [CD.c, CD.d]

// Display points and centroids
T.X = TD.XY[d:"x"]
T.Y = TD.XY[d:"y"]
C.X = CD.XY[d:"x"]
C.Y = CD.XY[d:"y"]

table U = with
[| T.X as X, T.Y as Y, true as IsPoint|]
[| C.X,      C.Y,      false          |]

U.Color = if U.IsPoint then "blue" else "red"
show scatter "Points (blue) and Cendroids (red)" a1d8 with
U.X
U.Y { color: #[U.Color] }