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CUDA, Supercomputing for the Masses: Part 10

Downloading and Installing

CUDPP can be downloaded from in the developer section at To install under Linux, download the latest version (currently cudpp_1.0a.tar.gz), unpack, change to the cudpp_1.0a directory, then build and run a test case (or cases by removing the comment symbol, '#' from the last line) as follows:

# To compile, change /usr/local/cuda to where CUDA is installed
# The following assumes CUDA is in /usr/local/cuda
  echo "Please be patient ... the build process takes some time"
  (cd common ; make cuda-install=/usr/local/cuda)
  (cd cudpp ; make cuda-install=/usr/local/cuda)

# Build test program
  (cd apps/cudpp_testrig ; make cuda-install=/usr/local/cuda)

# Try some tests...
  cd bin/linux/release
  echo "test a single scan"
  ./cudpp_testrig --scan --iterations=100 --n=100000
  echo "Uncomment the following to test everything (takes a long time)"
  #./cudpp_testrig -all

Note that CUDPP is incompatible with CUDA 2.1, which is currently the default download for many operating systems. This will be addressed with the release of CUDA 2.2. Until CUDA 2.2 is released, please use CUDA 2.0 with CUDPP. For more detailed information, see the thread on this topic in the Google CUDPP group.

simpleCUDPP: A CUDPP "Hello World" Program

Now let's take a look at building and running a simple CUDPP program, simpleCUDPP, which is the CUDPP variant of a C-programmer's "Hello World" program. Since simpleCUDPP is a test program, it relies on CUDA_SAFE_CALL to check that the CUDA calls return without error. This means we need to build the debug version of CUDPP and the simpleCUDPP test, which requires adding dbg=1 to the make commands as in the script below:

# Compile for debug mode
# If needed, change /usr/local/cuda to the CUDA installation directory
# This script assumes CUDA is installed in /usr/local/cuda
  echo "Please be patient ... the make process takes some time"
  (cd cudpp_1.0a/common ; make dbg=1 cuda-install=/usr/local/cuda)
  (cd cudpp_1.0a/cudpp ; make dbg=1 cuda-install=/usr/local/cuda)

# Build test program
  (cd cudpp_1.0a/apps/simpleCUDPP ; \
      make dbg=1 cuda-install=/usr/local/cuda)

The simpleCUDPP executable is created in the debug executable directory. To run this example, use the command:

# Run it

For better error handling -- especially for production codes -- I recommend using cudaError_t and cudaGetLastError as described in Part 3 of this series ("Error Handling and Global Memory Performance Limitations").

Sample Code Walkthrough

The main function in is runTest(), which initializes the CUDA device and then declares the number of elements plus the array size for the arrays used in scan. It allocates the host-side (CPU-side) input array, h_idata, and initializes the data with random values between 0 and 15.

runTest( int argc, char** argv) 
    unsigned int numElements = 32768;
    unsigned int memSize = sizeof( float) * numElements;
    // allocate host memory
    float* h_idata = (float*) malloc( memSize);
    // initalize the memory
    for (unsigned int i = 0; i < numElements; ++i) 
        h_idata[i] = (float) (rand() & 0xf);

After the input data is created on the host, the device (GPU) array d_idata is allocated on the GPU and the input data from the host is copied to the device using cudaMemcpy(). A device array is allocated for the output results, d_odata. (A general rule of thumb, the function random() is preferred over rand() because random() will generate more "random" random numbers. For simpleCUDPP, the use of rand() will not affect the results.)

    // allocate device memory
    float* d_idata;
    CUDA_SAFE_CALL( cudaMalloc( (void**) &d_idata, memSize));
    // copy host memory to device
    CUDA_SAFE_CALL( cudaMemcpy( d_idata, h_idata, memSize,
                                cudaMemcpyHostToDevice) );
    // allocate device memory for result
    float* d_odata;
    CUDA_SAFE_CALL( cudaMalloc( (void**) &d_odata, memSize));


Next, CUDPP has to be configured to run efficiently on the GPU. Configuration of algorithms in CUDPP relies on the concept of the plan. A plan is a data structure that maintains intermediate storage for the algorithm, as well as information that CUDPP may use to optimize execution of the destination hardware. When invoked using cudppPlan(), the CUDPP planner uses the configuration details passed to it to generate an internal plan object. A CUDPPHandle (an opaque pointer type that is used to refer to the plan object) is returned that will be passed to other CUDPP functions to execute algorithms on (and optimized for) the destination GPU for the specified problem characteristics.

The use of a configuration plan appears to be a useful and common pattern to configure general-purpose CUDA codes (among others) for individual problems and destination hardware platforms.

A plan is a simple configuration mechanism that specifies the best "plan" of execution for a particular algorithm given a specified problem size, data type and destination hardware platform. The advantage of this approach is that once the user creates a plan, the plan object contains whatever state is needed to execute the plan multiple times without recalculation of the configuration. The NVIDIA cuFFT library, for example, uses this configuration model because different kinds of FFTs require different thread configurations and GPU resources, plus plans are a simple way to store and reuse these configurations. In addition, cuFFT optimizations can also be applied depending on if the requested FFT is a power-of-two. The highly popular FFTW project also uses the concept of a plan. FFTW is extensively used on a variety of platforms. For these and many other reasons, plans are a useful tool to consider when developing general-purpose solutions that also need to run on a number of GPU architectures.

The simpleCUDPP example needs to create a plan for a forward exclusive float sum-scan of numElements elements on the destination GPU. This is accomplished by filling out a CUDPPConfiguration struct and passing it to the planner. In this case the planner is told about the algorithm (CUDPP_SCAN), datatype (CUDPP_FLOAT), operation (CUDPP_ADD), and options (CUDPP_OPTION_FORWARD, CUDPP_OPTION_EXCLUSIVE). The method cudppPlan is then called with this configuration along with the maximum number of elements to scan, numElements. Finally, the planner is told that we only wish to scan a one-dimensional array by passing 1 and 0 for the numRows and rowPitch parameters. The CUDPP documentation provides more details on the parameters to cudppPlan().

    CUDPPConfiguration config;
    config.op = CUDPP_ADD;
    config.datatype = CUDPP_FLOAT;
    config.algorithm = CUDPP_SCAN;
    CUDPPHandle scanplan = 0;
    CUDPPResult result = cudppPlan(&scanplan, config, numElements, 1, 0);  

    if (CUDPP_SUCCESS != result)
        printf("Error creating CUDPPPlan\n");

A successful call to cudppPlan returns a handle (a pointer) to the plan object in scanplan. CUDPP is then put to work by invoking cudppScan(), which is passed the plan handle, the output and input device arrays, and the number of elements to scan.

    // Run the scan
    cudppScan (scanplan, d_odata, d_idata, numElements);

Next, cudaMemcpy is used to copy the results of the scan from d_odata back to the host. The GPU result is verified by computing a reference solution on the CPU (via computeSumScanGold()), and compare the CPU and GPU results for correctness.

    // allocate mem for the result on host side
    float* h_odata = (float*) malloc( memSize);
    // copy result from device to host
    CUDA_SAFE_CALL( cudaMemcpy( h_odata, d_odata, memSize,
                                cudaMemcpyDeviceToHost) );
    // compute reference solution
    float* reference = (float*) malloc( memSize);
    computeSumScanGold( reference, h_idata, numElements, config);

    // check result
    CUTBoolean res = cutComparef( reference, h_odata, numElements);
    printf( "Test %s\n", (1 == res) ? "PASSED" : "FAILED");

Finally, cudppDestroyPlan() is called to clean up the memory used for our plan object. The host then frees local and device arrays using free() and cudaFree, respectively and exits the application because simpleCUDPP is finished.

result = cudppDestroyPlan (scanplan);
if (CUDPP_SUCCESS != result)
    printf("Error destroying CUDPPPlan\n");

Sparse Matrix-Vector Multiply

CUDPP contains many other powerful capabilities not discussed in this article. For example, a simple test code to demonstrate using CUDPP for sparse matrix vector multiply is Just download it at You can compile and run it with the following:

# nvcc -I cudpp_1.0a/cudpp/include -o sptest \
       -L cudpp_1.0a/lib -lcudpp
# ./sptest

For More Information

Check at the following locations for more examples and deeper discussions:

Rob Farber is a senior scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He has worked in massively parallel computing at several national laboratories and as co-founder of several startups. He can be reached at

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