One size doesn’t fit all: quantifying performance portability of graph applications on GPUs

Abstract

Hand-optimising graph algorithm code for different GPUs is particularly labour-intensive and error-prone, involving complex and ill-understood interactions between GPU chips, applications, and inputs. Although the generation of optimised variants has been automated through graph algorithm DSL compilers, these do not yet use an optimisation policy. Instead they defer to techniques like autotuning, which can produce good results, but at the expense of portability.
In this work, we propose a methodology to automatically identify portable optimisation policies that can be tailored (“semi-specialised”) as needed over a combination of chips, applications and inputs. Using a graph algorithm DSL compiler that targets the OpenCL programming model, we demonstrate optimising graph algorithms to run in a portable fashion across a wide range of GPU devices for the first time. We use this compiler and its optimisation space as the basis for a large empirical study across 17 graph applications, 3 diverse graph inputs and 6 GPUs spanning multiple vendors. We show that existing automatic approaches for building a portable optimisation policy fall short on our dataset, providing trivial or biased results. Thus, we present a new statistical analysis which can characterise optimisations and quantify performance trade-offs at various degrees of specialisation.
We use this analysis to quantify the performance trade-offs as portability is sacrificed for specialisation across three natural dimensions: chip, application, and input. Compared to not optimising programs at all, a fully portable approach provides a 1.15× improvement in geometric mean performance, rising to 1.29× when specialised to application and inputs (but not hardware). Furthermore, these semi-specialised optimisations provide insights into performance-critical features of specialisation. For example, optimisations specialised by chip reveal subtle, yet performance-critical, characteristics of various GPUs.