Enhancing productivity and performance portability of OpenCL applications on heterogeneous systems using runtime optimizations

Thibaut Lutz
School of Informatics, Institute of Computing Systems Architecture, University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh, 2015


   title={Enhancing productivity and performance portability of opencl applications on heterogeneous systems using runtime optimizations},

   author={Lutz, Thibaut},


   publisher={The University of Edinburgh}


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Initially driven by a strong need for increased computational performance in science and engineering, heterogeneous systems have become ubiquitous and they are getting increasingly complex. The single processor era has been replaced with multi-core processors, which have quickly been surrounded by satellite devices aiming to increase the throughput of the entire system. These auxiliary devices, such as Graphics Processing Units, Field Programmable Gate Arrays or other specialized processors have very different architectures. This puts an enormous strain on programming models and software developers to take full advantage of the computing power at hand. Because of this diversity and the unachievable flexibility and portability necessary to optimize for each target individually, heterogeneous systems remain typically vastly under-utilized. In this thesis, we explore two distinct ways to tackle this problem. Providing automated, non intrusive methods in the form of compiler tools and implementing efficient abstractions to automatically tune parameters for a restricted domain are two complementary approaches investigated to better utilize compute resources in heterogeneous systems. First, we explore a fully automated compiler based approach, where a runtime system analyzes the computation flow of an OpenCL application and optimizes it across multiple compute kernels. This method can be deployed on any existing application transparently and replaces significant software engineering effort spent to tune application for a particular system. We show that this technique achieves speedups of up to 3x over unoptimized code and an average of 1.4x over manually optimized code for highly dynamic applications. Second, a library based approach is designed to provide a high level abstraction for complex problems in a specific domain, stencil computation. Using domain specific techniques, the underlying framework optimizes the code aggressively. We show that even in a restricted domain, automatic tuning mechanisms and robust architectural abstraction are necessary to improve performance. Using the abstraction layer, we demonstrate strong scaling of various applications to multiple GPUs with a speedup of up to 1.9x on two GPUs and 3.6x on four.
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