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To GPU Synchronize or Not GPU Synchronize?

Wu-Chun Feng, Shucai Xiao
Department of Computer Science, Virginia Tech
Proceedings of 2010 IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS), (2010) Publisher: IEEE, Pages: 3801-3804

@conference{feng2010gpu,

   title={To GPU synchronize or not GPU synchronize?},

   author={Feng, W. and Xiao, S.},

   booktitle={Circuits and Systems (ISCAS), Proceedings of 2010 IEEE International Symposium on},

   pages={3801–3804},

   year={2010},

   organization={IEEE}

}

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The graphics processing unit (GPU) has evolved from being a fixed-function processor with programmable stages into a programmable processor with many fixed-function components that deliver massive parallelism. By modifying the GPU’s stream processor to support “general-purpose computation” on the GPU (GPGPU), applications that perform massive vector operations can realize many orders-of-magnitude improvement in performance over a traditional processor, i.e., CPU. However, the breadth of general-purpose computation that can be efficiently supported on a GPU has largely been limited to highly dataparallel or task-parallel applications due to the lack of explicit support for communication between streaming multiprocessors (SMs) on the GPU. Such communication can occur via the global memory of a GPU, but it then requires a barrier synchronization across the SMs of the GPU in order to complete the communication between SMs. Although our previous work demonstrated that implementing barrier synchronization on the GPU itself can significantly improve performance and deliver correct results in critical bioinformatics applications, guaranteeing the correctness of inter-SM communication is only possible if a memory consistency model is assumed. To address this problem, NVIDIA recently introduced the _threadfence() function in CUDA 2.2, a function that can guarantee the correctness of GPU-based inter-SM communication. However, this function currently introduces so much overhead that when using it in (direct) GPU synchronization, GPU synchronization actually performs worse than indirect synchronization via the CPU, thus raising the question of whether “to GPU synchronize or not GPU synchronize?”
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