Optimization Techniques for Host Code

Use Off-line, Embedded Compilation Model

OpenCL allows device code to be compiled on the fly as the host code runs. This allows for portability of the application but obviously it will slow down the host application as the compilation occurs. To speed up the host application, device code should be compiled off-line, i.e. before the host application runs. There are two compilation models that use off-line compilation documented in the Compilation section. For fastest operation, the off-line compilation with the embedded object model will be the fastest. For details on structuring your code for that model, see Create an OpenCL program from binary, with embedded binary.

Avoid the read/write Buffer model on shared memory SoC platforms

On shared memory SoC platforms, the host and devices have the ability to read and write the same memory region. However, the Linux system memory is not shareable with a device. Therefore, fast OpenCL applications should avoid copying data between the Linux system memory and the shareable memory regions. See How DDR3 is Partitioned for Linux System and OpenCL for details on the Linux/OpenCL memory partition.

The read buffer and write buffer OpenCL operations perform copies and should be avoided. Alternatively, fast OpenCL applications will allocate OpenCL buffers in shared memory and will allow the host to read and write the underlying memory directly. This can be accomplished two ways.

  1. Create buffers normally and use the map buffer and unmap buffer OpenCL APIs to map the underlying buffer memory into the host address space. See OpenCL Buffers for buffer creation information and see Buffer Read/Write vs. Map/Unmap for map/unmap buffer information.
  2. Use __malloc_ddr or __malloc_msmc and use the resulting pointer to create buffers with the CL_MEM_USE_HOST_PTR attribute. See Alternate Host malloc/free Extension for Zero Copy OpenCL Kernels for details on __malloc_ddr and __malloc_msmc and see OpenCL Buffers for usage of the CL_MEM_USE_HOST_PTR attribute.

Use MSMC Buffers Whenever Possible

TI SoCs typically have an on-chip shared memory area, referred to as MSMC. Memory access latency is much smaller for MSMC than for DDR, therefore operations on MSMC buffers will perform better than operations on DDR buffers. This will be particularly true computation cost per byte loaded is low, i.e. bandwidth limited algorithms. The TI OpenCL implementation has an extension to allow global buffers to be created in MSMC memory. See Fast Global buffers in on-chip MSMC memory for details of that extension. You can also use the __malloc_msmc memory allocation extension and pass the returned pointer to the buffer create operation and also assert the CL_MEM_USE_HOST_PTR attribute, as in the previous subsection.


MSMC shared memory is not available on the AM57 family of SoCs

Dispatch Appropriate Compute Loads

Dispatching computation from the host to a device naturally requires some amount of overhead. Dispatching individual, small computations will not result in improved performance. If you have the flexibility to control the size of computation, then a good rule a thumb would be to keep the overhead below 10% of the total dispatch round-trip. Of course, you will need to know the overhead in order to calculate a minimum target computation load.

The overhead of device dispatch is twofold:
  1. The raw OpenCL dispatch overhead which depending on device frequencies and which SoC platform is in use, will typically run between 60 and 180 microseconds per dispatch. The null example shipped with the TI OpenCL product can be used to measure this component of the overhead.

  2. The cost of explicit cache operations on the CPU when communicating shared buffers to/from devices. This calculation has some variability, but the formula

    microseconds = 3 + bytes/8096

    per buffer, per dispatch is a reasonable approximation.

As an example, if a kernel K accepted two 1MB buffers as input, then a rough calculation of the overhead would be: 180 + (3+1024/8) + (3+1024/8) = 442us and that would imply a recommended minimum compute for K to be 10 x overhead or roughly 4.5 milliseconds (ms).

In addition to the minimum compute level, the type of compute can matter. For bandwidth limited algorithms, where the computation per byte loaded is low, the device will unlikely perform the calculation faster than the CPU, so an acceleration should not be expected. However, it can still be useful to dispatch such a calculation to the device in order to off-load the CPU and allow the CPU to perform some other function.

Prefer Kernels with 1 work-item per work-group

For better performance, create work groups with a single work-item and use iteration within the work-group.