Porting BoxLib to OpenMP 4.x

Since version 4.0, OpenMP has supported accelerator devices through data offloading and kernel execution semantics. OpenMP presents an appealing opportunity to achieve performance portability, as it requires fairly non-invasive code modifications through directives which are ignored as comments if OpenMP is not activated during compilation. However, as we discuss below, it is currently challenging to achieve a portable implementation of any kernel (to say nothing of one which has high performance).

BoxLib already contains a large amount of OpenMP in the C++ framework to implement thread parallelization and loop tiling (see here and here for more details). However, these directives are limited to version 3.0 and older, and consist primarily of multi-threading of loops, such that the Fortran kernel execution happens entirely within a thread-private region. This approach yields high performance on self-hosted systems such as Intel Xeon and Xeon Phi, but provides no support for architectures featuring a discrete accelerator such as a GPU.

We implemented the OpenMP target construct in several of the geometric multigrid kernels in BoxLib in order to support kernel execution on GPUs. The most minimal approach to the target directive is simply to decorate a loop with target and map to move the data back and forth between host and device during execution of the loop (see, e.g., here). However, this will often lead to slow code execution, especially if the loop is encountered multiple times, as the data must migrate back and forth between host and device each time the loop is executed.

A more optimized approach is to allocate the data on the device prior to look execution, such that it need not re-allocate it each time the loop executes (any updated values of the data will still need to be updated on the device). This can be done with the target enter data and target exit data constructs, introduced in OpenMP 4.5. In BoxLib, we accomplished this by overloading the default data container Arena (see here) with a new OMPArena class which invokes omp target enter data as soon as the memory is allocated. This ensures that all FABs will be resident in device memory, obviating the need to migrate all data in a loop back and forth between host and device:

OMPArena::alloc (std::size_t _sz)
  void* pt=::operator new(_sz);
  char* ptr=reinterpret_cast<char*>(pt);
#pragma omp target enter data map(alloc:ptr[0:_sz])
  return pt;

OMPArena::free (void* pt)
  char* ptr=reinterpret_cast<char*>(pt);
#pragma omp target exit data map(release:ptr[:0])
    ::operator delete(pt);

We also modified some existing macros in BoxLib which characterize loop-level parallelism. In these directives we implemented the target construct, e.g.,:

#define ForAllThisCPencilAdd(T,b,ns,nc,red)  \
{                                                                     \
  BL_ASSERT(contains(b));                                             \
  BL_ASSERT((ns) >= 0 && (ns) + (nc) <= nComp());                     \
  const int *_th_plo = loVect();                                      \
  const int *_th_plen = length();                                     \
  const int *_b_lo = (b).loVect();                                    \
  IntVect b_length = (b).size();                                      \
  const int *_b_len = b_length.getVect();                             \
  const T* _th_p = dptr;                                              \
  const int _ns = (ns);                                               \
  const int _nc = (nc);                                               \
  T redR = (red);                                                     \
  _Pragma("omp target update to(_th_p[_ns*_th_plen[2]:(_ns+_nc)*_th_plen[2]])") \
  _Pragma("omp target data map(tofrom: redR) map(to: _nc, _ns, _th_plo[0:3], _th_plen[0:3], _b_len[0:3], _b_lo[0:3])") \
  _Pragma("omp target if(1)")                                         \
  {                                                                   \
  _Pragma("omp teams distribute parallel for collapse(3) reduction(+:redR)") \
  for(int _n = _ns; _n < _ns+_nc; ++_n) {                             \
    for(int _k = 0; _k < _b_len[2]; ++_k) {                           \
      for(int _j = 0; _j < _b_len[1]; ++_j) {                         \
        int nR = _n; nR += 0;                                         \
        const int jR = _j + _b_lo[1];                                 \
        const int kR = _k + _b_lo[2];                                 \
        const T *_th_pp =  _th_p                                      \
                + ((_b_lo[0] - _th_plo[0])                            \
                   + _th_plen[0]*(                                    \
                       (jR - _th_plo[1])                              \
                       + _th_plen[1]*(                                \
                           (kR - _th_plo[2])                          \
                           + _n * _th_plen[2])));                     \
        for(int _i = 0; _i < _b_len[0]; ++_i){                        \
          const int iR = _i + _b_lo[0];                               \
          const T &thisR = _th_pp[_i];

Note that we are using the "_Pragma" construct which allows using #pragma statements in C-macros.

After this, one can add the target teams distribute parallel for construct to many loops, moving to the device only the data which has changed since the previous time the loop was executed. This can be done with the update construct. For example, the restriction kernel in the multigrid solver becomes:

 subroutine FORT_AVERAGE (
$     c, DIMS(c),
$     f, DIMS(f),
$     lo, hi, nc)
     implicit none
     integer nc
     integer DIMDEC(c)
     integer DIMDEC(f)
     integer lo(BL_SPACEDIM)
     integer hi(BL_SPACEDIM)
     REAL_T f(DIMV(f),nc)
     REAL_T c(DIMV(c),nc)

     integer i, i2, i2p1, j, j2, j2p1, k, k2, k2p1, n

     !$omp target update to(f)

     !$omp target map(c, f) map(to: hi, lo)
     !$omp teams distribute parallel do simd collapse(4)
     !&omp private(n,k,j,i, k2,j2,i2, k2p1, j2p1,i2p1)
     do n = 1, nc
        do k = lo(3), hi(3)
           do j = lo(2), hi(2)
               do i = lo(1), hi(1)
                  k2 = 2*k
                  k2p1 = k2 + 1
                  j2 = 2*j
                  j2p1 = j2 + 1
                  i2 = 2*i
                  i2p1 = i2 + 1
                  c(i,j,k,n) =  (
$                     + f(i2p1,j2p1,k2  ,n) + f(i2,j2p1,k2  ,n)
$                     + f(i2p1,j2  ,k2  ,n) + f(i2,j2  ,k2  ,n)
$                     + f(i2p1,j2p1,k2p1,n) + f(i2,j2p1,k2p1,n)
$                     + f(i2p1,j2  ,k2p1,n) + f(i2,j2  ,k2p1,n)
$                     )*eighth
               end do
           end do
        end do
     end do
     !$omp end teams distribute parallel do simd
     !$omp end target

Note that only f, which contains the fine grid data, needs to be updated on the GPU before the loop begins. (This is because a few auxiliary functions modify the finest grids which were not ported to the device, and so the finest grid was updated on the host.) After the loop finishes, none of the data moves off the device, since the fine grid f and the coarse grid c are not changed on the host before the next kernel which requires this data executes on the device. The only data which must be mapped to the device (but not mapped back) are the lo and hi bounds of the loop indices.


We encountered several significant barriers to achieving performance portability using OpenMP.

Undefined behavior of target construct in absence of a device

OpenMP 4.0 introduced the target construct, allowing the use to move data among a host and its attached devices. The traditional parallel construct from earlier versions of the OpenMP specification do not specify a mechanism for executing code on a device, or how to move data to or from a device. Therefore, we explored the possibility of executing loops decorated with the target construct on a host, in order to compare the behavior of the code with the original loops which were annotated with the parallel construct.

Unfortunately, the OpenMP 4.5 API specification does not specify the behavior of code regions decorated with a target construct in the absence of a device. We have found that this has resulted in a wide range in behavior of OpenMP implementations in different compilers when executing target regions on the host:

  • GCC: supports target regions on host CPU, but exhibits significant performance degradation compared to traditional parallel do construct, due to a bug in the way threads are cached in libgomp.

  • Intel: by default looks for an x100-series Xeon Phi ("Knights Corner") co-processor, and compilation will fail at link time if the KNC libraries are unavailable. If the libraries are available but the co-processor is not, however, it will fail at execution time because the KNC ISA is incompatible with KNL and Xeon. Fortunately, Intel does support host execution of the target construct via the -qopenmp-offload=host compiler flag. However, the product documentation does not specify the behavior of the OpenMP run time when target regions execute on the host.

  • Cray: supports execution of target construct on both CPU host and device, through the craype-accel-* modules. To compile target regions for the host, one must load the craype-accel-host module; for devices, one must load the appropriate accelerator module, e.g., craype-accel-nvidia60 for NVIDIA "Pascal" GPUs.

Compiler bugs

Our progress in implementing the OpenMP target construct has also been hindered by compiler problems.

  • As noted above, GCC encounters a performance regression when executing target regions on the host CPU. This has been reported in GCC Bugzilla as bug #80859.

  • CCE 8.6.0 and 8.6.1 (the latest available as of August 2017) encounter a segmentation fault on one of the source files in BoxLib. This has been reported to Cray as bug #189702. CCE 8.6.1 was

  • CCE 8.6.1 fails to link BoxLib at all (without target constructs), with g++ tuple errors. This has been reported to Cray as bug #189760.

  • IBM XLC 13.1 fails to link multiple compilation units together when more than one include the same header file and that header file contains a target region. Fixed in 14.0 but that triggered an internal compilation error. Reported and acknowledged as bug #147007.