Faster 64-bit universal hashing using carry-less multiplications

Faster 64-bit universal hashing using carry-less multiplications


Intel and AMD support the Carry-less Multiplication (CLMUL) instruction set in their x64 processors. We use CLMUL to implement an almost universal 64-bit hash family (CLHASH). We compare this new family with what might be the fastest almost universal family on x64 processors (VHASH). We find that CLHASH is at least \SI60\percent faster. We also compare CLHASH with a popular hash function designed for speed (Google’s CityHash). We find that CLHASH is \SI40\percent faster than CityHash on inputs larger than 64 bytes and just as fast otherwise.

Universal hashing, Carry-less multiplication, Finite field arithmetic

1 Introduction

Hashing is the fundamental operation of mapping data objects to fixed-size hash values. For example, all objects in the Java programming language can be hashed to 32-bit integers. Many algorithms and data structures rely on hashing: e.g., authentication codes, Bloom filters and hash tables. We typically assume that given two data objects, the probability that they have the same hash value (called a collision) is low. When this assumption fails, adversaries can negatively impact the performance of these data structures or even create denial-of-service attacks. To mitigate such problems, we can pick hash functions at random (henceforth called random hashing).

Random hashing is standard in Ruby, Python and Perl. It is allowed explicitly in Java and C++11. There are many fast random hash families — e.g., MurmurHash, Google’s CityHash (35), SipHash (3) and VHASH (12). Cryptographers have also designed fast hash families with strong theoretical guarantees (6); (18); (24). However, much of this work predates the introduction of the CLMUL instruction set in commodity x86 processors. Intel and AMD added CLMUL and its pclmulqdq instruction to their processors to accelerate some common cryptographic operations. Although the pclmulqdq instruction first became available in 2010, its high cost in terms of CPU cycles — specifically an 8-cycle throughput on pre-Haswell Intel microarchitectures and a 7-cycle throughput on pre-Jaguar AMD microarchitectures — limited its usefulness outside of cryptography. However, the throughput of the instruction on the newer Haswell architecture is down to 2 cycles, even though it remains a high latency operation (7 cycles) (16); (21).5 See Table 1. Our main contribution is to show that the pclmulqdq instruction can be used to produce a 64-bit string hash family that is faster than known approaches while offering stronger theoretical guarantees.

intrinsic instruction description latency rec. thr.
_mm_clmulepi64_si128 pclmulqdq 64-bit carry-less multiplication 7 2
_mm_or_si128 por bitwise OR 1 0.33
_mm_xor_si128 pxor bitwise XOR 1 0.33
_mm_slli_epi64 psllq shift left two 64-bit integers 1 1
_mm_srli_si128 psrldq shift right by bytes 1 0.5
_mm_shuffle_epi8 pshufb shuffle 16 bytes 1 0.5
_mm_cvtsi64_si128 movq 64-bit integer as 128-bit reg. 1
_mm_cvtsi128_si64 movq 64-bit integer from 128-bit reg. 2
_mm_load_si128 movdqa load a 128-bit reg. from memory (aligned) 1 0.5
_mm_lddqu_si128 lddqu load a 128-bit reg. from memory (unaligned) 1 0.5
_mm_setr_epi8 construct 128-bit reg. from 16 bytes
_mm_set_epi64x construct 128-bit reg. from two 64-bit integers
Table 1: Relevant SIMD intrinsics and instructions on Haswell Intel processors, with latency and reciprocal throughput in CPU cycles per instruction (16); (21).

2 Random Hashing

In random hashing, we pick a hash function at random from some family, whereas an adversary might pick the data inputs. We want distinct objects to be unlikely to hash to the same value. That is, we want a low collision probability.

We consider hash functions from to . An -bit family is universal (10); (11) if the probability of a collision is no more than . That is, it is universal if

for any fixed such that , given that we pick at random from the family. It is -almost universal (36) (also written -AU) if the probability of a collision is bounded by . I.e., , for any such that . (See Table 2.)

-bit hash function
universal for
-almost universal for
XOR-universal for any and distinct
-almost XOR-universal for any integer and distinct
Table 2: Notation and basic definitions

2.1 Safely Reducing Hash Values

Almost universality can be insufficient to prevent frequent collisions since a given algorithm might only use the first few bits of the hash values. Consider hash tables. A hash table might use as a key only the first  bits of the hash values when its capacity is . Yet even if a hash family is -almost universal, it could still have a high collision probability on the first few bits.

For example, take any -bit universal family , and derive the new -bit -almost universal -bit family by taking the functions from and multiplying them by : . Clearly, all functions from this new family collide with probability 1 on the first 32 bits, even though the collision probability on the full hash values is low (). Using the first bits of these hash functions could have disastrous consequences in the implementation of a hash table.

Therefore, we consider stronger forms of universality.

  • A family is -universal (37); (14) if

    for any constant and any such that . It is -almost -universal if for any constant and any such that .

  • A family is -almost XOR-universal if

    for any integer constant and any such that (where is the bitwise XOR). A family that is -almost XOR-universal is said to be XOR-universal (37).

Given an -almost -universal family of hash functions , the family of hash functions

from to is -almost -universal (12). The next lemma shows that a similar result applies to almost XOR-almost universal families.

Lemma 1

Given an -almost XOR-universal family of hash functions and any positive integer , the family of hash functions from to is -almost XOR-universal.


For any integer constant , consider the equation for with picked from . Pick any positive integer . We have

where the sum is over distinct values. Because is -almost XOR-universal, we have that for any and any . Thus, we have that , showing the result.

It follows from Lemma 1 that if a family is XOR-universal, then its modular reductions are XOR-universal as well.

As a straightforward extension of this lemma, we could show that when picking any  bits (not only the least significant), the result is -almost XOR-universal.

2.2 Composition

It can be useful to combine different hash families to create new ones. For example, it is common to compose hash families. When composing hash functions (), the universality degrades linearly: if is picked from an -almost universal family and is picked (independently) from an -almost universal family, the result is -almost universal (36).

We sketch the proof. For , we have that collides if . This occurs with probability at most since is picked from an -almost universal family. If not, they collide if where and , with probability bounded by . Thus, we have bounded the collision probability by , establishing the result.

By extension, we can show that if is picked from an -almost XOR-universal family, then the composed result () is going to be -almost XOR-universal. It is not required for to be almost XOR-universal.

2.3 Hashing Tuples

If we have universal hash functions from to , then we can construct hash functions from to while preserving universality. The construction is straightforward: . If is picked from an -almost universal family, then the result is -almost universal. This is true even though a single is picked and reused  times.

Lemma 2

Consider an -almost universal family from to . Then consider the family of functions of the form from to , where is in . Family is -almost universal.

The proof is not difficult. Consider two distinct values from , and . Because the tuples are distinct, they must differ in at least one component: . It follows that and collide with probability at most , showing the result.

2.4 Variable-Length Hashing From Fixed-Length Hashing

Suppose that we are given a family of hash functions that is XOR universal over fixed-length strings. That is, we have that if the length of is the same as the length of (). We can create a new family that is XOR universal over variable-length strings by introducing a hash family on string lengths. Let be a family of XOR universal hash functions over length values. Consider the new family of hash functions of the form where and . Let us consider two distinct strings and . There are two cases to consider.

  • If and have the same length so that then we have XOR universality since

    where the last inequality follows because , an XOR universal family over fixed-length strings.

  • If the strings have different lengths (), then we again have XOR universality because

    where we set , a value independent from and . The last inequality follows because is taken from a family that is XOR universal.

Thus the result () is XOR universal. We can also generalize the analysis. Indeed, if and are -almost universal, we could show that the result is -almost universal. We have the following lemma.

Lemma 3

Let be an XOR universal family of hash functions over fixed-length strings. Let be an XOR universal family of hash functions over integer values. We have that the family of hash functions of the form where and is XOR universal over all strings.

Moreover, if and are merely -almost universal, then the family of hash functions of the form is also -almost universal.

2.5 Minimally Randomized Hashing

Many hashing algorithms — for instance, CityHash (35) — rely on a small random seed. The 64-bit version of CityHash takes a 64-bit integer as a seed. Thus, we effectively have a family of  hash functions — one for each possible seed value.

Given such a small family (i.e., given few random bits), we can prove that it must have high collision probabilities. Indeed, consider the set of all strings of  64-bit words. There are such strings.

  • Pick one hash function from the CityHash family. This function hashes every one of the  strings to one of  hash values. By a pigeonhole argument (31), there must be at least one hash value where at least  strings collide.

  • Pick another hash function. Out of the  strings colliding when using the first hash function, we must have  strings also colliding when using the second hash function.

We can repeat this process  times until we find  strings colliding when using any of these  hash functions. If an adversary picks any two of our  strings and we pick the hash function at random in the whole family of  hash functions, we get a collision with a probability of at least . Thus, while we do not have a strict bound on the collision probability of the CityHash family, we know just from the small size of its seed that it must have a relatively high collision probability for long strings. In contrast, VHASH and our CLHASH (see § 5) use more than 64 random bits and have correspondingly better collision bounds (see Table 4).

3 Vhash

The VHASH family (12); (25) was designed for 64-bit processors. By default, it operates over 64-bit words. Among hash families offering good almost universality for large data inputs, VHASH might be the fastest 64-bit alternative on x64 processors — except for our own proposal (see § 5).

VHASH is -almost -universal and builds on the 128-bit NH family (12):


NH is -almost -universal with hash values in . Although the NH family is defined only for inputs containing an even number of components, we can extend it to include odd numbers of components by padding the input with a zero component.

We can summarize VHASH (see Algorithm 1) as follows:

  • NH is used to generate a 128-bit hash value for each block of 16 words. The result is -almost -universal on each block.

  • These hash values are mapped to a value in by applying a modular reduction. These reduced hash values are then aggregated with a polynomial hash and finally reduced to a 64-bit value.

In total, the VHASH family is -almost -universal over for input strings of up to  bits ((12), Theorem 1).

For long input strings, we expect that much of the running time of VHASH is in the computation of NH on blocks of 16 words. On recent x64 processors, this computation involves 8 multiplications using the mulq instruction (with two 64-bit inputs and two 64-bit outputs). For each group of two consecutive words ( and ), we also need two 64-bit additions. To sum all results, we need 7 128-bit additions that can be implemented using two 64-bit additions (addq and adcq). All of these operations have a throughput of at least 1 per cycle on Haswell processors. We can expect NH and, by extension, VHASH to be fast.

VHASH uses only 16 64-bit random integers for the NH family. As in § 2.3, we only need one specific NH function irrespective of the length of the string. VHASH also uses a 128-bit random integer and two more 64-bit random integers and . Thus VHASH uses slightly less than 160 random bytes.

0:  16 randomly picked 64-bit integers defining a 128-bit NH hash function (see Equation 1) over inputs of length 16
0:  , a randomly picked element of
0:  , randomly picked integers in
1:  input: string made of  bytes
2:  Let be the number of 16-word blocks ().
3:  Let be the substring of from index to , padding with zeros if needed.
4:  Hash each using the NH function, labelling the result 128-bit results for .
5:  Hash the resulting with a polynomial hash function and store the value in a 127-bit hash value : .
6:  Hash the 127-bit value down to a 64-bit value: , where and .
7:  return  the 64-bit hash value
Algorithm 1 VHASH algorithm

3.1 Random Bits

Nguyen and Roscoe showed that at least  random bits are required (31),6 where is the maximal string length in bits and is the collision bound. For VHASH, the string length is limited to  bits and the collision bound is . Therefore, for hash families offering the bounds of VHASH, we have that  random bits are required.

That is, 16 random bytes are theoretically required to achieve the same collision bound as VHASH while many more are used (160 bytes) This suggests that we might be able to find families using far fewer random bits while maintaining the same good bounds. In fact, it is not difficult to modify VHASH to reduce the use of random bits. It would suffice to reduce the size of the blocks down from 16 words. We could show that it cannot increase the bound on the collision probability by more than . However, reducing the size of the blocks has an adverse effect on speed. With large blocks and long strings, most of the input is processed with the NH function before the more expensive polynomial hash function is used. Thus, there is a trade-off between speed and the number of random bits, and VHASH is designed for speed on long strings.

4 Finite Fields

Our proposed hash family (CLHASH, see § 5) works over a binary finite field. For completeness, we review field theory briefly, introducing (classical) results as needed for our purposes.

The real numbers form what is called a field. A field is such that addition and multiplication are associative, commutative and distributive. We also have identity elements (0 for addition and 1 for multiplication). Crucially, all non-zero elements have an inverse (which is defined by ).

Finite fields (also called Galois fields) are fields containing a finite number of elements. All finite fields have cardinality for some prime . Up to an algebraic isomorphism (i.e., a one-to-one map preserving addition and multiplication), given a cardinality , there is only one field (henceforth ). And for any power of a prime, there is a corresponding field.

4.1 Finite Fields of Prime Cardinality

It is easy to create finite fields that have prime cardinality (). Given , an instance of is given by the set of integers in with additions and multiplications completed by a modular reduction:

  • and .

The numbers 0 and 1 are the identity elements. Given an element , its additive inverse is .

It is not difficult to check that all non-zero elements have a multiplicative inverse. We review this classical result for completeness. Given a non-zero element and two distinct , we have that because is prime. Hence, starting with a fixed non-zero element , we have that the set has cardinality and must contain 1; thus, must have a multiplicative inverse.

4.2 Hash Families in a Field

Within a field, we can easily construct hash families having strong theoretical guarantees, as the next lemma illustrates.

Lemma 4

The family of functions of the form

in a finite field () is -universal, provided that the key is picked from all values of the field.

As another example, consider hash functions of the form where is picked at random (a random input). Such polynomial hash functions can be computed efficiently using Horner’s rule: starting with , compute for . Given any two distinct inputs, and , we have that is a non-zero polynomial of degree at most in . By the fundamental theorem of algebra, we have that it is zero for at most  distinct values of . Thus we have that the probability of a collision is bounded by where is the cardinality of the field. For example, VHASH uses polynomial hashing with and .

We can further reduce the collision probabilities if we use  random inputs picked in the field to compute a multilinear function: . We have -universality. Given two distinct inputs, and , we have that for some . Thus we have that if and only if .

If is even, we can get the same bound on the collision probability with half the number of multiplications (7); (26); (29):

The argument is similar. Consider that

Take two distinct inputs, and . As before, we have that for some . Without loss of generality, assume that is odd; then we can find a unique solution for : to do this, start from and solve for in terms of an expression that does not depend on . Then use the fact that has an inverse. This shows that the collision probability is bounded by and we have -universality.

Lemma 5

Given an even number , the family of functions of the form

in a finite field () is -universal, providing that the keys are picked from all values of the field. In particular, the collision probability between two distinct inputs is bounded by .

4.3 Binary Finite Fields

Finite fields having prime cardinality are simple (see § 4.1), but we would prefer to work with fields having a power-of-two cardinality (also called binary fields) to match common computer architectures. Specifically, we are interested in because our desktop processors typically have 64-bit architectures.

We can implement such a field over the integers in by using the following two operations. Addition is defined as the bitwise XOR () operation, which is fast on most computers:

The number 0 is the additive identity element (), and every number is its own additive inverse: . Note that because binary finite fields use XOR as an addition, -universality and XOR-universality are effectively equivalent for our purposes in binary finite fields.

Multiplication is defined as a carry-less multiplication followed by a reduction. We use the convention that is the least significant bit of integer and if is larger than the most significant bit of . The bit of the carry-less multiplication of and is given by


where is just a regular multiplication between two integers in and is the bitwise XOR of a range of values. The carry-less product of two -bit integers is a -bit integer. We can check that the integers with as addition and as multiplication form a ring: addition and multiplication are associative, commutative and distributive, and there is an additive identity element. In this instance, the number 1 is a multiplicative identity element (). Except for the number 1, no number has a multiplicative inverse in this ring.

Given the ring determined by and , we can derive a corresponding finite field. However, just as with finite fields of prime cardinality, we need some kind of modular reduction and a concept equivalent to that of prime numbers7.

Let us define to be the position of the most significant non-zero bit of , starting at 0 (e.g., , , ). For example, we have for any 128-bit integer . Given any two non-zero integers , we have that as a straightforward consequence of Equation 2. Similarly, we have that

Not unlike regular multiplication, given integers with , there are unique integers (henceforth the quotient and the remainder) such that


where .

The uniqueness of the quotient and the remainder is easily shown. Suppose that there is another pair of values with the same property. Then which implies that . However, since we must have that . From this it follows that , thus establishing uniqueness.

We define and operators as giving respectively the quotient () and remainder () so that the equation


is an identity equivalent to Equation 3. (To avoid unnecessary parentheses, we use the following operator precedence convention: , and are executed first, from left to right, followed by .)

In the general case, we can compute and using a straightforward variation on the Euclidean division algorithm (see Algorithm 2) which proves the existence of the remainder and quotient. Checking the correctness of the algorithm is straightforward. We start initially with values and such that . By inspection, this equality is preserved throughout the algorithm. Meanwhile, the algorithm only terminates when the degree of is less than that of , as required. And the algorithm must terminate, since the degree of is reduced by at least one each time it is updated (for a maximum of  steps).

1:  input: Two integers and , where must be non-zero
2:  output: Carry-less quotient and remainder: and , such that and
3:  Let and
4:  while  do
5:     let
6:     ,
7:  end while
8:  return   and
Algorithm 2 Carry-less division algorithm

Given and , we have that . Thus, it can be checked that divisions and modular reductions are distributive:


Thus, we have . Moreover, by inspection, we have that and .

The carry-less multiplication by a power of two is equivalent to regular multiplication. For this reason, a modular reduction by a power of two (e.g., ) is just the regular integer modular reduction. Idem for division.

There are non-zero integers such that there is no integer other than 1 such that ; effectively is a prime number under the carry-less multiplication interpretation. These “prime integers” are more commonly known as irreducible polynomials in the ring of polynomials , so we call them irreducible instead of prime. Let us pick such an irreducible integer (arbitrarily) such that the degree of is 64. One such integer is . Then we can finally define the multiplication operation in :

Coupled with the addition that is just a bitwise XOR, we have an implementation of the field over integers in .

We call the index of the second most significant bit the subdegree. We chose an irreducible of degree 64 having minimal subdegree (4).8 We use the fact that this subdegree is small to accelerate the computation of the modular reduction in the next section.

4.4 Efficient Reduction in

AMD and Intel have introduced a fast instruction that can compute a carry-less multiplication between two 64-bit numbers, and it generates a 128-bit integer. To get the multiplication in , we must still reduce this 128-bit integer to a 64-bit integer. Since there is no equivalent fast modular instruction, we need to derive an efficient algorithm.

There are efficient reduction algorithms used in cryptography (e.g., from 256-bit to 128-bit integers (17)), but they do not suit our purposes: we have to reduce to 64-bit integers. Inspired by the classical Barrett reduction (5), Knežević et al. proposed a generic modular reduction algorithm in , using no more than two multiplications (22). We put this to good use in previous work (26). However, we can do the same reduction using a single multiplication. According to our tests, the reduction technique presented next is \SI30\percent faster than an optimized implementation based on Knežević et al.’s algorithm.

Let us write . In our case, we have and . We are interested in applying a modular reduction by to the result of the multiplication of two integers in , and the result of such a multiplication is an integer such that . We want to compute quickly. We begin with the following lemma.

Lemma 6

Consider any 64-bit integer . We define the operations and as the counterparts of the carry-less multiplication as in § 4.3. Given any , we have that

where .


We have that for any by definition. Applying the modular reduction on both sides of the equality, we get

by Fact 1
by Fact 2
by z’s def.
by Fact 3

where Facts 1, 2 and 3 are as follows:

  • (Fact 1) For any , we have that .

  • (Fact 2) For any integer , we have that and therefore

    by the distributivity of the modular reduction (Equation 5).

  • (Fact 3) Recall that by definition . We can substitute this equation in the equation from Fact 1. For any and any non-zero , we have that

    by the distributivity of the modular reduction (see Equation 5).

Hence the result is shown.

Lemma 6 provides a formula to compute . Computing involves a carry-less multiplication, which can be done efficiently on recent Intel and AMD processors. The computation of and is trivial. It remains to compute . At first glance, we still have a modular reduction. However, we can easily memoize the result of . The next lemma shows that there are only 16 distinct values to memoize (this follows from the low subdegree of ).

Lemma 7

Given that has degree less than 128, there are only 16 possible values of , where and .


Indeed, we have that

Because , we have that . Therefore, we have . Hence, we can represent using 4 bits: there are only 16 4-bit integers.

Thus, in the worst possible case, we would need to memoize 16 distinct 128-bit integers to represent . However, observe that the degree of is bounded by since . By using Lemma 8, we show that each integer has degree bounded by 7 so that it can be represented using no more than 8 bits: setting and , , and .

Effectively, the lemma says that if you take a value of small degree , you multiply it by and then compute the modular reduction on the result and a value that is almost (except for a value of small degree ), then the result has small degree: it is bounded by the sum of the degrees of and .

Lemma 8

Consider , with of degree less than . For any , the degree of is bounded by .

Moreover, when then the degree of is exactly .


The result is trivial if , since the degree of must be smaller than the degree of .

So let us assume that . By the definition of the modular reduction (Equation 4), we have

Let , then

The first  bits of and are zero. Therefore, we have

Moreover, the degree of is the same as the degree of : . Hence, we have . And, of course, . Thus, we have that

Hence, it follows that .

Thus the memoization requires access to only 16 8-bit values. We enumerate the values in question ( for ) in Table 3. It is convenient that  bits: the entire table fits in a 128-bit word. It means that if the list of 8-bit values are stored using one byte each, the SSSE3 instruction pshufb can be used for fast look-up. (See Algorithm 3.)

decimal binary decimal binary
0 0
1 27
2 54
3 45
4 108
5 119
6 90
7 65
8 216
9 195
10 238
11 245
12 180
13 175
14 130
15 153
Table 3: Values of for given .
1:  input: A 128-bit integer
2:  output: Carry-less modular reduction where
5:  Look up in Table 3, store result in
6:  return  

Corresponding C implementation using x64 intrinsics:

\colorblackuint64_t  modulo( \colorblack__m128i a) {
        \colorblack__m128i r = _mm_cvtsi64_si128(27);
        \colorblack__m128i z =
          _mm_clmulepi64_si128( a, r, 0x01);
        \colorblack__m128i table = _mm_setr_epi8(0, 27, 54,
          45, 108,119, 90, 65, 216, 195, 238,
          245,180, 175, 130, 153);
        \colorblack__m128i y =
        \colorblack__m128i temp1 = _mm_xor_si128(z,a);
        \colorblackreturn _mm_cvtsi128_si64(
Algorithm 3 Carry-less division algorithm

5 Clhash

The CLHASH family resembles the VHASH family — except that members work in a binary finite field. The VHASH family has the 128-bit NH family (see Equation 1), but we instead use the 128-bit CLNH family:


where the and ’s are 64-bit integers and is the length of the string . The formula assumes that is even: we pad odd-length inputs with a single zero word. When an input string is made of  bytes, we can consider it as string of 64-bit words by padding it with up to 7 zero bytes so that is divisible by 8.

On x64 processors with the CLMUL instruction set, a single term can be computed using one 128-bit XOR instructions (pxor in SSE2) and one carry-less multiplication using the pclmulqdq instruction:

  • load in a 128-bit word,

  • load in another 128-bit word,

  • compute