A growing number of scientific computing applications must deliver high performance on central and graphics processing unit (CPU and GPU) hardware platforms. Compute node architectures are becoming more complex and diverse than earlier generation platforms as hardware vendors strive to deliver performance gains while adhering to physical constraints, such as power usage.

Moreover, DOE laboratories are procuring machines such as El Capitan (LLNL), Frontier (Oak Ridge), Aurora (Argonne), and Perlmutter (Lawrence Berkeley) with GPUs from three different hardware vendors. This environment makes developing applications that can run efficiently on multiple platforms increasingly time consuming and difficult.

The challenges are particularly acute for applications in the Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Program, which are essential tools for the LLNL nuclear stockpile stewardship mission. A typical large, integrated multiphysics code contains millions of lines of source code and tens of thousands of numerical kernels, in which a wide range of complex numerical operations are performed. Variations in hardware and parallel programming models make it increasingly difficult to achieve high performance without disruptive platform-specific changes to application software.

The RAJA Portability Suite is a collection of open-source software libraries that enable developers to build portable—meaning, single-source—high performance applications. The RAJA Portability Suite provides software abstractions that enable portable parallel numerical kernel execution (RAJA) and memory management for computing platforms with heterogeneous memory systems, specifically the Umpire and CHAI libraries. The RAJA Portability Suite development is supported by LLNL’s ASC Program, the RADIUSS project, and the DOE Exascale Computing Project (ECP). As open-source projects on GitHub (see links below), RAJA Portability Suite libraries have a growing community of users and contributors.

Portability Software Proven in Production

Most LLNL ASC applications plus a number of ECP applications and non-ASC LLNL applications rely on the RAJA Portability Suite to run on diverse platforms. LLNL’s institutional RADIUSS effort promotes external collaboration and funds integration of RAJA Portability Suite software into non-ASC applications. The RAJA Portability Suite has been central to LLNL’s ASC application GPU-porting strategy.

Table 1 shows the extent to which LLNL ASC program applications have adopted the RAJA Portability Suite to exploit the computational power of LLNL’s Sierra, the first GPU-enabled production system at LLNL with NVIDIA V100 GPUs comprising well over 90% of its compute power. These applications are thus well positioned to quickly adapt to new GPUs from AMD when El Capitan arrives in 2023–24. Meanwhile, they continue to run on CPU-based platforms with just a recompile, and the presence of RAJA allows for platform-specific optimizations for CPU features such as SIMD vectorization—all hidden from the application developer.

Table 1. Most LLNL ASC applications rely on the RAJA Portability Suite libraries RAJA, Umpire, and CHAI to run on Sierra.
Major LLNL ASC Program Applications
  Ares ALE3D Kull MARBL Ardra Mercury Teton Hydra
Language C++ C++ C++ C++ & Fortran C++ C++ Fortran C++/C
CPU/GPU Execution Model RAJA RAJA RAJA RAJA + MFEM & OpenMP RAJA CUDA & RAJA OpenMP & CUDA-C (possibly RAJA) Exploring OpenMP, CUDA, RAJA
Data Transfer UM + Explicit CHAI UM Explicit CHAI UM Explicit Explicit, Exploring CHAI
Memory Allocation Umpire Umpire Umpire Umpire Umpire Umpire Umpire Explicit, Exploring Umpire

Figure 1 shows a sampling of ECP applications that have adopted RAJA Portability Suite capabilities to run on the diverse set of platforms in the DOE laboratory supercomputer ecosystem.

slide from a presentation showing different computer applications and hardware architectures with a bar separating them, representing RAJA, Umpire, and CHAI as the go-between
Figure 1. The RAJA Portability Suite supports a wide diversity of ECP applications and production DOE laboratory supercomputer systems.

Robust and Flexible Software to Manage the Interplay Between Parallel Execution and Memory

Developers of ECP and production NNSA applications have reported that it is straightforward to integrate RAJA software into their C++ applications to enable them to run on new hardware, be it CPU or GPU based, while maintaining high performance on traditional computing platforms. Once integrated, the tools also enable platform-specific optimizations without major disruption to application source code.

In the RAJA Portability Suite, RAJA provides the parallel kernel execution API that is designed to compose and transform complex parallel kernels without changing the kernel source code. Implemented using C++ templates, this API helps insulate application source code from hardware and underlying programming model details allowing Subject Matter Experts (SME) to express the parallelism inherent in their calculations while focusing on writing correct code. The expression of parallelism requires basic knowledge of the underlying hardware platform and verification that application kernels will execute correctly in parallel.

The RAJA API enables a separation of concerns whereby developers with specialized performance analysis expertise can use RAJA abstractions to tune application performance for specific hardware platforms without disrupting application source code. RAJA developers also work to optimize and generalize RAJA features allowing multiple application teams to leverage their efforts. RAJA development encompasses the expertise of about 40 active contributors and 8 members of the core project team, plus vendor interactions to support new hardware from IBM, NVIDIA, AMD, Intel, and Cray. RAJA provides an array of parallel kernel execution interfaces to support a variety of loop and execution patterns, plus constructs for portable reductions, scans, sorts, and atomic operations.

Table 2 summarizes the main capabilities and parallel computing constructs that RAJA supports.

Table 2. RAJA provides a variety of interfaces that support a variety of parallel programming constructs and parallel programming model execution back-ends.

Simple & complete loop patterns and execution

  • Non-perfectly nested loops
  • Loop tiling
  • Hierarchical parallelism
  • Shared and thread local memory

Loop transformations (without changing app code)

  • Change loop iteration patterns, permute loop nest ordering
  • Multi-dimensional data views with offsets and index permutations
  • Fine-grained CPU thread-block mapping control
  • Hierarchical parallelism, asynchronous execution

Multiple execution back-ends

  • Sequential
  • SIMD (via vector intrinsics, in progress)
  • OpenMP (CPU & device offload)
  • Intel Threading Building Blocks (partial)
  • CUDA
  • SYCL (in development)
  • Portable reductions, scans, atomic operations, sorts...
  • GPU kernel fusing (to reduce impact of GPU launch overhead for small kernels)
  • Other work in progress
    • API to encapsulate SIMD/vectorization intrinsics
    • Dynamic plugins to enable tool integration

Other tools in the RAJA Portability Suite provide portable memory management capabilities that complement RAJA parallel execution facilities. Umpire is a unified, portable memory management API focused on systems with heterogeneous memory resources. It provides capabilities for memory allocation/deallocation, copying, moving, and querying, plus flexible memory pools that are essential for maintaining high performance. Umpire’s introspection capability enables developers of components of integrated applications to make better decisions about sharing limited memory resources. It also supports allocations and other operations involving various memory types found on high performance computing (HPC) systems. Table 3 summarizes the capabilities that Umpire supports.

Table 3. Umpire provides a variety of capabilities for integrated applications to manage memory in sophisticated ways.

Intuitive concepts

  • Resources
  • Allocators
  • Operations

Features useful in HPC applications

  • various pool allocation strategies (fixed size, dynamic, monotonic, etc.)
  • NUMA support
  • Memory allocation advice (preferred location, mostly read, etc.)
  • Thread safe allocators
  • Memory introspection

Supported memory types

  • Host (CPU)
  • GPU global, constant, (host) pinned
  • Unified memory
  • Mapped file memory
  • Support for NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel GPU devices available in recent releases
  • Native interfaces for C++, C, and Fortran
  • Logging, backtrace, and "replay" capabilities, which are useful for investigating application performance, finding bugs, etc.

The CHAI library implements a “managed array” abstraction to automatically copy data, when required, to the memory space used by the device that will execute a RAJA kernel. CHAI relies on the Umpire package to provide a unified portable memory management API for CPUs and GPUs, and the C++ lambda capture that underpins RAJA to automatically identify variables to be managed. Figure 2 illustrates an example of how variables declared with CHAI’s managed types are automatically migrated between memory spaces with no additional source code, and the interaction between RAJA, CHAI, and Umpire.

sample of CHAI code alongside a diagram showing CPU and GPU interaction with memory allocation
Figure 2. CHAI's “managed array” performs automatic data copies at runtime as needed based on RAJA execution contexts; i.e., “execution policies” in blue boxes in the code. When the first kernel is run on a CUDA GPU device, the data arrays ‘a’ and ‘b’ will be copied to the device memory space from the host CPU space. CHAI manages the caching of information about where data was last used and triggers Umpire operations without explicit calls in application code. For example, only the ‘a’ array data is copied back to CPU memory, which is needed to run the second kernel sequentially on the CPU.

Each of the RAJA, CHAI, and Umpire APIs is exposed to application programmers in common usage. The RAJA Portability Suite also utilizes a low-level collection of macros and C++ meta-programming facilities in the Concepts And Meta-Programming library (CAMP). A key goal of CAMP is to achieve wide compiler compatibility across HPC-oriented systems, thus helping to ensure portability and longevity of RAJA Portability Suite components and other libraries as HPC systems and the C++ language evolves. Typically, CAMP is not directly exposed to application programmers. However, they may use it in their applications as needed.

Figure 3 illustrates the complete RAJA Portability Suite library ecosystem and the relationship of the individual components to applications and hardware.

list of GitHub URLs and other RAJA libraries information
Figure 3. RAJA Portability Suite libraries insulate HPC applications from the complexities and diversity of advanced technology supercomputing hardware architectures and enable HPC developers to port their applications to those platforms while maintaining portable, single-source application code.