C++ Erasing down to a Regular type with manual vtable


Example

C++ thrives on what is known as a Regular type (or at least Pseudo-Regular).

A Regular type is a type that can be constructed and assigned-to and assigned-from via copy or move, can be destroyed, and can be compared equal-to. It can also be constructed from no arguments. Finally, it also has support for a few other operations that are highly useful in various std algorithms and containers.

This is the root paper, but in C++11 would want to add std::hash support.

I will use the manual vtable approach to type erasure here.

using dtor_unique_ptr = std::unique_ptr<void, void(*)(void*)>;
template<class T, class...Args>
dtor_unique_ptr make_dtor_unique_ptr( Args&&... args ) {
  return {new T(std::forward<Args>(args)...), [](void* self){ delete static_cast<T*>(self); }};
}
struct regular_vtable {
  void(*copy_assign)(void* dest, void const* src); // T&=(T const&)
  void(*move_assign)(void* dest, void* src); // T&=(T&&)
  bool(*equals)(void const* lhs, void const* rhs); // T const&==T const&
  bool(*order)(void const* lhs, void const* rhs); // std::less<T>{}(T const&, T const&)
  std::size_t(*hash)(void const* self); // std::hash<T>{}(T const&)
  std::type_info const&(*type)(); // typeid(T)
  dtor_unique_ptr(*clone)(void const* self); // T(T const&)
};

template<class T>
regular_vtable make_regular_vtable() noexcept {
  return {
    [](void* dest, void const* src){ *static_cast<T*>(dest) = *static_cast<T const*>(src); },
    [](void* dest, void* src){ *static_cast<T*>(dest) = std::move(*static_cast<T*>(src)); },
    [](void const* lhs, void const* rhs){ return *static_cast<T const*>(lhs) == *static_cast<T const*>(rhs); },
    [](void const* lhs, void const* rhs) { return std::less<T>{}(*static_cast<T const*>(lhs),*static_cast<T const*>(rhs)); },
    [](void const* self){ return std::hash<T>{}(*static_cast<T const*>(self)); },
    []()->decltype(auto){ return typeid(T); },
    [](void const* self){ return make_dtor_unique_ptr<T>(*static_cast<T const*>(self)); }
  };
}
template<class T>
regular_vtable const* get_regular_vtable() noexcept {
  static const regular_vtable vtable=make_regular_vtable<T>();
  return &vtable;
}

struct regular_type {
  using self=regular_type;
  regular_vtable const* vtable = 0;
  dtor_unique_ptr ptr{nullptr, [](void*){}};
  
  bool empty() const { return !vtable; }

  template<class T, class...Args>
  void emplace( Args&&... args ) {
    ptr = make_dtor_unique_ptr<T>(std::forward<Args>(args)...);
    if (ptr)
      vtable = get_regular_vtable<T>();
    else
      vtable = nullptr;
  }
  friend bool operator==(regular_type const& lhs, regular_type const& rhs) {
    if (lhs.vtable != rhs.vtable) return false;
    return lhs.vtable->equals( lhs.ptr.get(), rhs.ptr.get() );
  }
  bool before(regular_type const& rhs) const {
    auto const& lhs = *this;
    if (!lhs.vtable || !rhs.vtable)
      return std::less<regular_vtable const*>{}(lhs.vtable,rhs.vtable);
    if (lhs.vtable != rhs.vtable)
      return lhs.vtable->type().before(rhs.vtable->type());
    return lhs.vtable->order( lhs.ptr.get(), rhs.ptr.get() );
  }
  // technically friend bool operator< that calls before is also required

  std::type_info const* type() const {
    if (!vtable) return nullptr;
    return &vtable->type();
  }
  regular_type(regular_type&& o):
    vtable(o.vtable),
    ptr(std::move(o.ptr))
  {
    o.vtable = nullptr;
  }
  friend void swap(regular_type& lhs, regular_type& rhs){
    std::swap(lhs.ptr, rhs.ptr);
    std::swap(lhs.vtable, rhs.vtable);
  }
  regular_type& operator=(regular_type&& o) {
    if (o.vtable == vtable) {
      vtable->move_assign(ptr.get(), o.ptr.get());
      return *this;
    }
    auto tmp = std::move(o);
    swap(*this, tmp);
    return *this;
  }
  regular_type(regular_type const& o):
    vtable(o.vtable),
    ptr(o.vtable?o.vtable->clone(o.ptr.get()):dtor_unique_ptr{nullptr, [](void*){}})
  {
    if (!ptr && vtable) vtable = nullptr;
  }
  regular_type& operator=(regular_type const& o) {
    if (o.vtable == vtable) {
      vtable->copy_assign(ptr.get(), o.ptr.get());
      return *this;
    }
    auto tmp = o;
    swap(*this, tmp);
    return *this;
  }
  std::size_t hash() const {
    if (!vtable) return 0;
    return vtable->hash(ptr.get());
  }
  template<class T,
    std::enable_if_t< !std::is_same<std::decay_t<T>, regular_type>{}, int>* =nullptr
  >
  regular_type(T&& t) {
    emplace<std::decay_t<T>>(std::forward<T>(t));
  }
};
namespace std {
  template<>
  struct hash<regular_type> {
    std::size_t operator()( regular_type const& r )const {
      return r.hash();
    }
  };
  template<>
  struct less<regular_type> {
    bool operator()( regular_type const& lhs, regular_type const& rhs ) const {
      return lhs.before(rhs);
    }
  };
}    

live example.

Such a regular type can be used as a key for a std::map or a std::unordered_map that accepts anything regular for a key, like:

std::map<regular_type, std::any>

would be basically a map from anothing regular, to anything copyable.

Unlike any, my regular_type does no small object optimization nor does it support getting the original data back. Getting the original type back isn't hard.

Small object optimization requires that we store an aligned storage buffer within the regular_type, and carefully tweak the deleter of the ptr to only destroy the object and not delete it.

I would start at make_dtor_unique_ptr and teach it how to sometimes store the data in a buffer, and then in the heap if no room in the buffer. That may be sufficient.