Michael Zucchi

 B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)

  also known as zed
  & handle of notzed


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Saturday, 08 October 2011, 02:34

Java v OpenCL/CPU

I've been using the AMD CPU driver a bit for debugging and testing: i never really considered it for performance but for various reasons late tonight I ended up poking around with a simple routine and wondered how it compared.

At first I thought i'd discovered a disaster, but that's because I wasn't initialising the data: too many non-normal floating point operations slowing it down significantly. Oops, glad I checked that before posting. Although it's getting late so who knows what else I may have stuffed up.

I was testing using a simple matrix multiply, a 4096x4096 matrix stored in row-major order, multiplied by a 4096 row column-vector. It isn't something i'm in any need of, but after poking around this site which i've read a few times, and with nothing on TV I decided to play around a bit. Then after exhausting my interest on the GPU I tried the CPU version - I was originally going to see if just doing it locally with the CPU driver would be quicker than a device copy and back, but it isn't, the GPU is still 5-10x faster.

I tested 4 implementations:

  1. OpenCL written for a CPU target using float types, one work-group and one work-item per row, 4096 work groups
  2. OpenCL using float4 types, same
  3. Java, single threaded
  4. Java, using a ThreadPoolExecutor w/ 12 threads, 32 jobs.
 Code             Time (s)
  Java single      1.5
  Java pool        0.39
  OpenCL float     0.43
  OpenCL float4    0.37

So I had to resort to float4 types to beat the thread pool code, and then only just. It's kind of debatable as to which is easier to write: the Java code must explicitly deal with the range allocation and job launching. But then it's all built-in, and doesn't require a different language, runtime, interface and foreign memory management ... and one that's prone to crashing with zero information, and otherwise and also excruciatingly difficult to debug at that. Ok scratch that: the Java clearly wins here.

One can either conclude that the AMD compiler is a bit below-par to start with (mostly likely true), and only by using vectorised code that it was able to beat the Java. Or perhaps that the hotspot compiler is rather good at this particular problem (again, most likely true), and is possibly using SSE opcodes to implement the loop too. Not that SSEn really seems to add much of a boost in general apart from a few extra registers - it's not like on an SPU where vectorised code can be 10x faster than scalar.

I had until this point thought of the CPU drivers for OpenCL providing a sort of 'portable assembly language' for higher level languages, but if you have a decent compiler already it doesn't seem worth it - at least for some problems.

I suppose another implementation might do better; but you're still stuck with a pretty hostile debugging environment and if you're after performance you'll be using a GPU anyway. So about all it seems useful for is debugging/verifying code. Given that, perhaps it would be useful to add more checking in the compiled code to help with debugging rather than worrying about performance ... Unlike C, OpenCL has a much simpler memory model for which accurate and full run-time address-range-checking can be ?easily? added.

Tagged java, opencl.
Thursday, 06 October 2011, 15:31

Images vs Arrays 4

Update 7/10/11: I uploaded the array convolution generator to socles

And so it goes ...

I've got a fairly convoluted convolution algorithm for performing a complex wavelet transform and I was looking to re-do it. Part of that re-doing is to move to using arrays rather than image types.

I got a bit side-tracked whilst revisiting convolutions again ... I started with the generator from socles for separable convolution and modified it to work with arrays too. Then I tried a couple of ideas and timed a whole bunch of runs.

One idea I wanted to try was using a rolling buffer to reduce the memory load for the Y convolution. I also wanted to see if using more work-items in a local workgroup to simplify the local memory load would help or hinder. Otherwise it was pretty much just getting an array implementation working. As is often the case I haven't fully tested these actually work, but i'm reasonably confident they should as i fixed a few bugs along the way.

The candidates

This is a simple implementation which uses local memory and a work-group size of 64x4. 128x4 words of data are loaded into the local memory, and then 64x4 results are generated in parallel purely from the local memory.
This uses no local memory, and just steps through the addresses vertically, producing 64x4 results concurrently. As all memory loads are coalesced it runs quite well.
This version tries to use extra work-items just to load the memory, after wards only using 64x4 threads. In some testing I had for small jobs this seemed to be a win, but for larger jobs it is a big hit to concurrency.
This version uses a 64x4 `rolling buffer' to cache image values for all items in the work-group. For each row of the convolution, the data is loaded once rather than 4x.
imagex, imagey
Is from the socles implementation in ConvolveXYGenerator which uses local memory to cache input data.
simplex, simpley
Is from the socles implementation in ConvolveXYGenerator which relies on the texture cache only.
Is a version of convolvex_a which attempts to only load the amount of memory it needs, rather than doing a full work-group width each time.
Is a version of convolvex_a which uses simple vector types for the local cache, rather than flattening all access to 32-bits to avoid bank conflicts. It is particularly poor with 4-channel input.

The array code implements CLAMP_TO_EDGE for source reads. The image code uses a 16x16 worksize, the array code 64x4. The image data is FLOAT format, and 1, 2, or 4 channels wide. The array data is float, float2, or float4. Images and arrays represent a 512x512 image. GPU is Nvidia GTX 480.


The timing results - all timings are in micro-seconds as taken from computeprof. Most were invoked for 1, 2, or 4 channels and a batch size of 1 or 4. Image batches are implemented by multiple invocations.

                        batch=1                 batch= 4
channels                1       2       4       1       2       4

convolvex_a             42      58      103     151     219     398
convolvey_a             59      70      110     227     270     429

convolvex_b             48      70      121     182     271     475
convolvey_b             85      118     188     327     460     738

imagex                  61      77      110     239     303     433
imagey                  60      75      102     240     301     407

simplex                 87      88      169
simpley                 87      87      169

convolvex_a (limit)     44      60      95      160     220     366
convolvex_a (vec)               58      141


When I get time and work out how i want to do it i'll drop the array code into socles.

Tagged opencl, socles.
Saturday, 01 October 2011, 09:26

Images vs Arrays 3

So i've been working on some code that works with lots of 2d array data: which gives me the option of using arrays or images.

And ... arrays won out: for simple memory access and writing they are somewhat faster than using images. And that's before you add the ability to batch-process: with images you're pretty much stuck with having to pass each one at a time and only pack up to 4 values in each element (3D image writes are not supported on my platform atm). With arrays you can process multiple 2D levels at once, or even flatten them if they are element-by-element - which can allow you to better fit the problem to the available CUs.

In some cases the improvements were dramatic where a lot of writes to different arrays were required (but the writes were otherwise independent).

Anyway, one particular area I thought images would still be a noticeable win is with some interpolation code I had to implement. I need to do fixed power of 2 scaling up and down. Apart from the bi-linear interpolation 'for free', there is also an interesting note in graphics gems 2 about using the bi-linear interpolation of the texture unit to perform bi-cubic interpolation using only 4 texture fetches rather than 16.

So I ran some tests with both an image and array implementation of the following algorithms:

  1. Bi-linear interopolation.
  2. Fast Bi-cubic using the graphics gems algorithm with a 64-element lookup table (I found the lookup-table version significantly faster than the calculated one).
  3. Bi-cubic using 64-element lookup tables generated from the convolution algorithm in wikipedia.

In both cases I was using float data, a 512x512 image, and 4x scaling in X and Y, and the numbers are in uS from the Nvidia profiler. The array implementation is doing CLAMP_TO_EDGE.

The results were quite interesting.

                        Image           Array
bi-linear               40              36
fast bi-cubic           56              79
table bi-cubic          106             63

With this sort of regular access, the array version of the bi-linear interpolation is actually slightly faster than the image version, although they approach each other as the scale approaches 1. This is a bit surprising.

Images do win out for bi-cubic interpolation, but the array version isn't too far off.

And in either case, the bi-cubic interpolation is really fairly cheap: only about 1.5x the cost of bi-linear which is 'pretty cool' considering how much more work is being done.

I also started to investigate a bi-cubic interpolator that uses local memory to cache the region being processed by the local work-group. Since the actual memory lookups are very regular and the block will always access at most worksize+3 elements of data (for scaling=1) it seemed like a good fit. I just tried a single 64x1 workgroup and managed around 60uS with some slightly-broken code: so perhaps the gap could be closed further.

Actually one problem I have is a little more complicated than this anyway: the samples I need to work on are not the base samples, but offset by half a pixel first to produce N+1 of them. With arrays I can use local memory to cache this calculation without having to either run a separate step or do many more lookups: so in this case it will almost certainly end up faster than the image version and I will have to get that local array version working.

For float4 data the images are only about 1.5x faster for this interpolation stuff: which for my problems is not enough to make up for the slower direct access. And the bicubic resampling is also 2-3 slower than the bi-linear, the amount of extra arithmetic is catching up.


Well, about all I conclude is that Nvidia's OpenCL implementation sucks at texture access. I've looked at some of the generated code and each image lookup generates a large chunk of code that appears to be a switch statement. For very big problems most of this can be hidden with overlapped processing but for smaller problems it can be fairly significant. I'm surprised that they, or OpenCL doesn't have some way of telling the compiler that a given image2d_t is always a specific type: the access could be optimised then. FWIW I'm using a driver from a few months ago.

Also I guess: the global memory cache isn't too bad if you have a good regular memory access pattern. Even optimised code that resulted in 4 simple coalesced global memory accesses per thread vs 16 was only a slight improvement.

Of course the other conclusion is that it's a fairly simple problem and no amount of 'cache' optimisation will hide the fact that at some point you still need to go to main memory, for the same amount of data.

I should really do some timings on AMD HW for comparison ... but the computer is in the next room which is also cold and dark.

Final Thought

If you really are doing image stuff with affine transformations and so on, then images are going to win because the access pattern will be regular but it wont be rectangular. The data-types available also match images.

But for scientific computing where you are accessing arrays, images are not going to give you any magical boost on current hardware and can sometimes be more difficult to use. They also add more flexible memory management (e.g. i can use the same memory buffer for smaller or multiple images) and the ability to batch in the 3rd dimension.

Tagged opencl, socles.
Monday, 26 September 2011, 13:49

LU Decomposition 2

So I finally needed to get that matrix solver working for work ... and revisited the LU decomposition code I had played with a few weeks ago.

It turns out the code was broken, first a simple typo, and then a deeper problem: I hadn't noticed that the loop which multiplies out the rows depends on earlier results. Confusingly of course this worked just fine using a CPU driver since the work items within a work-group are actually executed in serial.

So I had to come up with another solution.

First I wrote a bit of code that just printed out the calculations actually being performed.

For column 0 this amounted to a no-op.

For column 1, it was some edge cases, then something like:

  for i : 0 to n
    col 1 [i] -= col 0 [i] * = col 1 [ 0 ]

For column 2, edge cases plus:

  for i : 0 to n
    col 2 [ i ] -= col 0 [ i ] * col 2 [ 0 ] + col 1 [ i ] * col 2 [ 1 ]

And so on.

As the emboldened calculations depend on a previous iteration of the same loop (for n=1 in case 1, and n=2 in case 2), each column result cannot be calculated independently.

Since the amount of calculation is small, using the shared memory to propagate the partial results didn't seem viable, so instead I simply calculate the required previous values manually for each column for all threads. I fiddled with the code I had which printed out the calculations and turned it into a code generator to expand all loops: it's only a 6x6 matrix so it isn't very much code. For the edge cases I use some logic that zeros out the multiplicands so the entire algorithm is completely branchless.

For example, column 2 is calculated using:

 tmp0 = getlu(lu, 2);
 tmp1 = getlu(lu, 8);
 tmp1 -= getlu(lu, 6) * tmp0;
 tmp0 = cid >= 1 ? tmp0 : 0;
 tmp1 = cid >= 2 ? tmp1 : 0;
 v = getlu(lu, cid * 6 + 2);
 v -= getlu(lu, cid * 6 + 0) * tmp0;
 v -= getlu(lu, cid * 6 + 1) * tmp1;
 putlu(lu, cid * 6 + 2, v);
 pivotexchange(lu, piv, 2, cid);

Where cid is the column id (get_local_id(0) % 6). I use macros to access the array since I am also flattening it out to avoid (or at least reduce) bank conflicts. The barriers are needed since some of the rows span wave-fronts: but in any event only add 3% or so to the processing time.

I've had to write code more than once to understand the data pattern of an algorithm: multi-dimensional array access is bad enough to visualise without adding multi-dimensional processing elements as well. In some cases I've managed to remove huge amounts of redundant calculations this way - matlab seems to encourage code that has very poor data flow for example.

I otherwise stuck to the same thread topology: 6 threads work on each 6x6 matrix together, and 192 threads in the local work group for a total of 32 matrices.

For 4096 solutions of the same 6x6 matrix (i.e. best-case branch divergence), it takes 26uS on the GTX 480. That seems reasonable enough to me. Although I still have a small number of bank conflicts I think this result is good enough for an early minute for today.

Tagged hacking, opencl, socles.
Thursday, 15 September 2011, 08:58

Control the Roll

I think I hit a bug in the NVidia OpenCL compiler today, and lost a bit of faith in compilers in general ..

What was a fairly small routine with a simple loop - wanted to use 63 registers/work item. No matter how i tried to unroll the loop using #pragma unroll, re-arrange the work to use vectors or not, and so on.

// local group size = 16, 16, 1
kernel void
somefunc(..., constant float *f0b, ...) {
    local float *localdata[];

    ... load local data ...

    for (int i=0;i<9;i++) {
        float a0 = localdata[i*2];
        float a1 = localdata[i*2+1];
        v0 += f0a[i*2] * a0 + f1a[i*2] * a1;
        v1 += f0b[i*2] * b0 + f1b[i*2] * b1;
        v2 += f0a[i*2+1] * a0 + f1a[i*2] * a1;
        v3 += f0b[i*2+1] * a0 + f1b[i*2] * b1;

Looking at the intermediate code it had about a thousand(!) redundant register moves to/from other registers. For the small problem I had it was taking about 100uS which probably wouldn't have bothered me apart from the weird compiler output.

So I removed the loop entirely by hand, using C macros to implement each step.

Result: 73uS & 21 registers.

And the intermediate code was much smaller and more compact.

NVidia's compiler seems to do a pretty crappy job with vectors in any event, the vector version was even worse - half the speed of a scalar version - around 200uS. It's nor normally this extreme but it seems it's almost always faster not to use vector code. It would also (only sometimes!) hang for 20 seconds or more whilst compiling this file, and these changes fixed that too.

Tagged opencl, rants.
Thursday, 15 September 2011, 05:26

Aparapi freed

AMD finally decided to release Aparapi as free software on google code.

This is an interesting project that basically targets a GPU device for executing Java bytecode. With some fairly obvious heavy limitations ...

I wont be rushing to convert any of my code over, but when I get time I will have to have a look at it. Maybe it would be useful for some prototyping - although I find JOGL a real cinch to use and I quite like C, so it might not be for me.

For doing mathematical calculations, C is simply a nicer language than Java too. With Java you're forced to use simple arrays for performance, and the lack of a primitive complex type is a real pita.

(i.e. I think I've just talked myself out of it: I also love using local memory and so on).

Tagged java, opencl.
Wednesday, 14 September 2011, 07:20

Shared Bank Conflicts

So yesterday I was working on some code for a wavelet transform - essentially a bunch of convolutions performed in a specific way.

One routine I have does 4 interleaved convolutions simultaneously, and had a large number of shared bank conflicts - 200% or so. So I spent quite a while trying to remove them. I got rid of most of them - but for some weird reason I still get about 14% and I ran out of day (and patience) to work out what was going on there.

I find this kind of problem quite tricky - trying to juggle dozens of sets of numbers in your head and still come up with something that works. I've developed a few rules of thumb but I still haven't done it often enough to make it easy.

But for all that effort I got a very minor performance improvement: barely 2%. From 70uS, to 67uS kernel time. Hardly seemed worth it.

Tagged opencl.
Saturday, 10 September 2011, 12:33

Masked Loops & LU Decomposition

Update 26/11/11: So it turns out the timing is completely bogus because the code not only had a typo in it - which probably allowed the loop to be optimised away - the algorithm was incorrect as well. So I have a feeling this is all just wrong now ... That's what I get for timing without validating first.

I have since re-coded this algorithm, and I think I have something that works. I resorted to building a code generator and manually unrolling all the loops using branchless code. For 4096 6x6 matrices it takes 28uS to perform the LU decomposition (they're the same matrix again).

Also see a follow-up on the LU decomposition problem.

I've been having trouble getting some code going for work so I thought i'd have a 'break' and visit porting some of the bits and pieces to OpenCL.

The LU decomposition seemed obvious.

Not because I really intended to use it, I thought i'd just try an almost direct translation to OpenCL to start with. All I did was have each thread work on a full solution independently. I used local memory for the column cache, but that was about it.

Fairly impressed - even disregarding all possible optimisations and memory issues, it only took 220uS (4096, 6x6 matrices). It can no doubt be made to run faster, but I was so surprised I almost considered just leaving it at that - relative to the other operations it is 'fast enough' ... but of course I didn't. (I was also solving the same matrix copied 4096 times, so it was 'best case' wrt thread divergence). I guess it isn't really so surprising though - apart from the poor memory access pattern the code path is consistent across threads.

I did a bit more work the serial version before tackling the parallel: e.g. by copying the whole matrix to LS first, and telling the compiler to unroll the loops I got it down to 118uS.

Anyway, along the way to parallising this I came across an interesting and not entirely obvious optimisation. It was to use the sort of result-masking you need when vectorising algorithms, but just for a simple loop.

Part of one inner loop the algorithm has this construct:

#define m 6
#define n 6

    int kmax = min(i, j);
    float s = 0.0f;

    for (int k = 0; k < kmax ; k++) {
        s += LU[i*n+k] * LU[k*n+j];

    LU[i*n+j] = LU[i*n+j] -=s;

In this case, 6 threads working together on this problem and each are working on 1 row each. The i index is thus the matrix-local work-item, and j is the current column.

The problem with this code is the loop indexing is unknown at compile time, so the address calculations need to be done on the fly and the loop can't be unrolled very efficiently. And although the compiler could do what I do below, it seems a bridge too far at present.

So I changed the loop to this:

    int kmax = min(i, j);
    float s = 0.0f;

    for (int k = 0; k < n ; k++) {
        float v = LU[i*n+k] * LU[k*n+j];

        s += k < kmax ? v : 0;

    LU[i*n+j] = LU[i*n+j] -=s;

And even though it appears to be doing more work - things just don't work like that on a GPU. Each 'thread' is still executing all parts of all loops anyway (or at best, sitting idle waiting for the longest running one to finish).

This simple change lead to a 25% improvement in the overall execution time in my test case.

My 'final' code executes in 38uS (I haven't verified it works! So this number might be nonsense!). And I still have further to go - the way I access memory isn't coalesced, I also have a lot of local-store bank conflicts to nut out.

So, assuming the code works, maybe that original 220uS wasn't so hot afterall.

Tagged opencl, socles.
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