Developer Guide



Designing high-performance software requires you to think differently than you might normally do when writing software. You need to be aware of the hardware on which your code is intended to run, and the characteristics that control the performance of that hardware. Your goal is to structure the code such that it produces correct answers, but does so in a way that maximizes the hardware’s ability to execute the code.
oneAPI is a cross-industry, open, standards-based, unified programming model that delivers a common developer experience across accelerator architectures. A unique feature of accelerators is that they are additive to the main CPU on the platform. The primary benefit of using an accelerator is to improve the behavior of your software by partitioning it across the host and accelerator to specialize portions of the computation that run best on the accelerator. Accelerator architectures can offer a benefit through specialization of compute hardware for certain classes of computations. This enables them to deliver best results for software specialized to the accelerator architecture.
The primary focus of this document is GPUs. Each section focuses on different topics to guide you in your path to creating optimized solutions. The Intel
oneAPI toolkits provide the languages and development tools you will use to optimize your code. This includes compilers, debuggers, profilers, analyzers, and libraries.

Productive Performance Not Performance Portability

While this document focuses on GPUs, you may also need your application to run on CPUs and other types of accelerators. Since accelerator architectures are specialized, you need to specialize your code to achieve best performance. Specialization includes restructuring and tuning the code to create the best mapping of the application to the hardware. In extreme cases, this may require redesigning your algorithms for each accelerator to best expose the right type of computation. The value of oneAPI is that it allows each of these variations to be expressed in a common language with device-specific variants launched on the appropriate accelerator.

Phases in the Optimization Workflow

The first phase in using a GPU is to identify which parts of the application can benefit. This is usually compute-intensive code that has the right ratio of memory accesses to computation, and has the right data dependence patterns to map onto the GPU. GPUs include local memory and typically provide massive parallelism. This determines which characteristics of the code are most important when deciding what to offload.
The Intel Advisor tool included in the Intel oneAPI Base Toolkit is designed to analyze your code and help you identify the best opportunities for parallel execution. The profilers in Intel Advisor measure the data movement in your functions, the memory access patterns, and the amount of computation in order to project how code will perform when mapped onto different accelerators. The regions with highest potential benefit should be your first targets for acceleration.
GPUs often exploit parallelism at multiple levels. This includes overlap between host and GPU, parallelism across the compute cores, overlap between compute and memory accesses, concurrent pipelines, and vector computation. Using all of these levels of parallelism requires a good understanding of the GPU architecture and capabilities in the libraries and languages at your disposal.
Keep all the compute resources busy.
There must be enough independent tasks to saturate the device and fully utilize all execution resources. For example, if the device has 100 compute cores but you only have one task, 99% of the device will be idle. Often you create many more independent tasks than available compute resources so that the hardware can schedule more work as prior tasks complete.
Minimize the synchronization between the host and the device.
The host launches a kernel on the device and waits for its completion. Launching a kernel incurs overhead, so structure the computation to minimize the number of times a kernel is launched.
Minimize the data transfer between host and device.
Data typically starts on the host and is copied to the device as input to the computation. When a computation is finished, the results must be transferred back to the host. For best performance, minimize data transfer by keeping intermediate results on the device between computations. Reduce the impact of data transfer by overlapping computation and data movement so the compute cores never have to wait for data.
Keep the data in faster memory and use an appropriate access pattern.
GPU architectures have different types of memory and these have different access costs. Registers, caches, and scratchpads are cheaper to access than local memory, but have smaller capacity. When data is loaded into a register, cache line, or memory page, use an access pattern that will use all the data before moving to the next chunk. When memory is banked, use a stride that avoids all the compute cores trying to access the same memory bank simultaneously.

Profiling and Tuning Your Code

After you have designed your code for high performance, the next step is to measure how it runs on the target accelerator. Add timers to the code, collect traces, and use tools like VTune Profiler to observe the program as it runs. The information collected can identify where hardware is bottlenecked and idle, illustrate how behavior compares with peak hardware roofline, and identify the most important hotspots to focus optimization efforts.

Source Code Examples

Throughout the book, we use real code examples to illustrate optimization techniques. All the examples in this guide can be found at Now it is the perfect time to download the examples and set up your environment by following the instructions in the
We try hard to keep the examples as simple, short and easy to follow as possible so optimization techniques in each example are not shadowed by the example itself and can be quickly grasped. Code snippets from the examples are referenced throughout the text. By replacing /examples with /GPU-Opt-Guide in the pathname listed right before a code snippet, one can easily locate the full example source that contains the snippet. As an example, the full source code for /examples/reduction/reduction.cpp is in GPU-Opt-Guide/reduction/reduction.cpp.
There is an old saying “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”. It is strongly suggested that you pause to try the example on a real machine when a code snippet is encountered while reading the text.
Welcome to Intel® oneAPI GPU Optimization Guide!

Product and Performance Information


Performance varies by use, configuration and other factors. Learn more at