Getting a Keras based MLP to run with Cuda 10.2, Cudnn 7.6 and TensorFlow 2.0 on an Opensuse Leap 15.1 system

During last weekend I wanted to compare the performance of an old 20-line Keras setup for a simple MLP with the performance of a self-programmed Python- and Numpy-based MLP regarding training epochs on the MNIST dataset. The Keras code was set up in a Jupyter notebook last autumn - at that time for TensorFlow 1 and Cuda 10.0 for my Nvidia graphics card. I thought it might be a good time to move everything to Tensorflow 2 and the latest Cuda libraries on my Opensuse Leap 15.1 system. This was more work than expected - and for some problems I was forced to apply some dirty workarounds. I got it running. Maybe the necessary steps, which are not really obvious, are helpful for others, too.

Install Cuda 10.2 and Cudnn on an Opensuse Leap 15.1

Before you want to use TensorFlow [TF] on a Nvidia graphics card you must install Cuda. The present version is Cuda 10.2. I was a bit naive to assume that this should be the right version - as it has been available for some time already. Wrong! Afterwards I read somewhere that TensorFlow2 [TF2] is working with Cuda 10.1, only, and not yet fully compatible with Cuda 10.2. Well, at least for my purposes [MLP training] it seemed to work nevertheless - with some "dirty" additional library links.

There is a central Cuda repository available at this address: cuda10.2. Actually, the repo offers both cuda10.0, cuda10.1 and cuda10.2 (plus some nvidia drivers). I selected some central cuda10.2 packages for installation - just to find out where the related files were placed in the filesystem. I then ran into a major chain of packet dependencies, which I had to resolve during many tedious steps . Some packages may not have been necessary for a basic installation. In the end I was too lazy to restrict the libs to what is really required for Keras. The bill came afterwards: Cuda 10.2 is huge! If you do not know exactly what you need: Be prepared to invest up to 3 GB on your hard disk.

The Cuda 10.2 RPM packets install most of the the required "*.so"-shared library files and many other additional files in a directory "/usr/local/cuda-10.2/". To make changes between different versions of Cuda possible we also find a link "/usr/local/cuda" pointing to
"/usr/local/cuda-10.2/" after the installation. Ok, reasonable - we could change the link to point to "/usr/local/cuda-10.0/". This makes you assume that the Tensorflow 2 libraries and other modules in your virtual Python3 and Jupyter environment would look for required Cuda files in the central directory "/usr/local/cuda" - i.e. without special version attributes of the files. Unfortunately, this was another wrong assumption. 🙁 See below.

In addition to the Cuda packages you must install the present "cudnn" libraries from Nvidia - more precisely: The runtime and the development package. You get the RPMs from here. Be prepared to give Nvidia your private data. 🙁

I should add that I ignored and ignore the Nvidia drivers from the Cuda repository, i.e. I never installed them. Instead, I took those from the standard Nvidia community repository. They worked and work well so far - and make my update life on Opensuse easier.

Installation of Tensorflow2 modules in your (virtual) Python3 environment

I use a virtual Python3 environment and update it regularly via "pip". Regarding TF2 an update via the command "pip install --upgrade tensorflow" should be sufficient - it will resolve dependencies. (By the way: If you want to bring all Python libs to their present version you can also use "pip-review --auto". Note that under certain circumstances you may need the "--force" option for special upgrades. I cannot go into details in this article.)

Multiple complaints about missing libraries ...

Unfortunately, the next time I started my virtual Python environment I got the warning that the dynamic library "libnvinfer.so.6" could not be found, but was required in case I planned to use TensorRT. What? Well, you may find some information here
https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2016/08/22/difference-deep-learning-training-inference-ai/
https://developer.nvidia.com/tensorrt

I leave it up to you whether you really need TensorRT. You can ignore this message - TF will run for standard purposes without it. But, dear TF-developers: a clear message in the warning would in my opinion have been helpful. Then I checked whether some version of the Nvidia related library "libnvinfer.so" came with Cuda or Cudnn onto my system. Yeah, it did - unfortunately version 7 instead of 6. :-(.
So, we are confronted with a dependency on a specific file version which is older than the present one. I do not like this style of development. Normally, it should be the other way round: If a newer version is required due to new capabilities you warn the user. But under normal circumstances a backward compatibility of libs should be established. You would assume such a backward compatibility and that TF would search for the present version via looking for files "libnvinfer.so" and "libnvinfer_plugin.so" which do exist and point to the latest versions. But, no, in this case they want it explicitly to be version 6 ... Makes you wonder whether the old Cudnn version is still available. I did not check it. Ok, ok - backward compatibility is not always possible ....

Just to see how good the internal checking of the alleged dependency is, I did something you normally do not do: I created a link "libnvinfer.so.6" in "/usr/lib64" to "libnvinfer.7.so". Had to do the same for "libnvinfer_plugin.so.6". Effect: I got rid of the warning - so much about dependency checking. I left the linking. You see I trust in coming developments sometimes and run some risks ....

Then came the next surprise. I had read a bit about changed statements in TF2 (compared to TF1) - and thought I was prepared for this. But, when I tried to execute some initial commands to configure TF2 from a Jupyter cell as e.g.

 
import time 
import tensorflow as tf
from tensorflow import keras as K
from keras.datasets import mnist
from keras import models
from keras import layers
from tensorflow.python.client import device_lib

import os
#os.environ["CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES"] = "-1"

tf.config.optimizer.set_jit(True)
tf.config.threading.set_intra_op_parallelism_threads(4)
tf.config.threading.set_inter_op_parallelism_threads(4)
tf.debugging.set_log_device_placement(True)

device_lib.list_local_devices()  

I at once got a complaint in the shell from which I had started the Jupyter notebook - saying that a lib called "libcudart.so.10.1" was missing. Again - an explicit version dependency 🙁 . On purpose or just a glitch? Just one out of many files version dependent? Without a clear information? If this becomes the standard in the interaction between TF2 and Cuda - well, no fun any longer. In my opinion the TF2 developers should not use a search for files via version specific names - but do an analysis of headers and warn explicitly that the present version requires a specific Cuda version. Would be much more convenient for the user and compatible with the link mechanism described above.

Whilst a bunch of other dynamic libs was loaded by their name without a version in this case TF2 asks for a very specific version - although there is a corresponding lib available in the directory "/usr/lib/cuda-10.2".... Nevertheless with full trust again in a better future I offered TF2 a softlink "libcudart.so.10.1" in "/usr/lib64/" pointing to the "/usr/local/cuda-10.2/lib64/libcudart.so". It cleared my way to the next hurdle. And my Keras MLP worked in the end ...

Missing "./bin" directory ... and other path related problems

When I tried to run specific Keras commands, which TF2 wanted to compile as XLA-supported statements, I again got complaints that files in a local directory "./bin" were missing. This was a first clear indication that Cuda paths were totally ignored in my Python/Jupyter environment. But what directory did the "./" refer to? Some experiments revealed:

I had to link an artificial subdirectory "./bin" in the directory where I kept my Jupyter notebooks to "/usr/local/Cuda-10.2/bin".

But the next problems with other directories waited directly around the corner. Actually many ... To make a long story short - the installation of TF2 in combination with Cuda 1.2 does not evaluate paths or ask for paths when used in a Python3/Jupyter environment. We have to provide and export them as shell environment variables. See below.

Warnings and errors regarding XLA capabilities

Another thing which drove me nuts was that TF2 required information about XLA-flags. It took me a while to find out that this also could be handled via environment variables.

All in all I now start the shell from which I launch my virtual Python environment and Jupyter notebooks with the following command sequence:

myself@mytux:/projekte/GIT/....../ml> export XLA_FLAGS=--xla_gpu_cuda_data_dir=/usr/local/cuda
myself@mytux:/projekte/GIT/....../ml> export TF_XLA_FLAGS=--tf_xla_cpu_global_jit
myself@mytux:/projekte/GIT/....../ml_1> export OPENBLAS_NUM_THREADS=4              
myself@mytux:/projekte/GIT/....../ml_1> source bin/activate
(ml) myself@mytux:/projekte/GIT/....../ml_1> jupyter notebook 

The first two commands did the magic regarding the path-problems! TF2 worked afterwards both for XLA-capable CPUs and Nvidia GPUs. So, a specific version may or may not have advantages - I do not know - but at least you can get TF2 running with Cuda 10.2.

Changed commands to control threading and memory consumption

Without the use of explicit compatibility commands TF2 does not support commands like

config = tf.ConfigProto(intra_op_parallelism_threads=num_cores,
                        inter_op_parallelism_threads=num_cores, 
                        allow_soft_placement=True,
                        device_count = {'CPU' : num_CPU,
                                        'GPU' : num_GPU}, 
                        log_device_placement=True

                       )
config.gpu_options.per_process_gpu_memory_fraction=0.4
config.gpu_options.force_gpu_compatible = True  

any longer. But as with TF1 you probably do not want to pick all the memory from your graphics card and you do not want to use all cores of a CPU in TF2. You can circumvent the lack of a "ConfigProto" property in TF2 by the following commands:

# configure use of just in time compiler 
tf.config.optimizer.set_jit(True) 
# limit use of parallel threads 
tf.config.threading.set_intra_op_parallelism_threads(4) 
tf.config.threading.set_inter_op_parallelism_threads(4)
# Not required in TF2: tf.enable_eager_execution()
# print out use of certain device (at first run)
tf.debugging.set_log_device_placement(True)
#limit use of graphics card memory 
gpus = tf.config.experimental.list_physical_devices('GPU')
if gpus:
  try:
    tf.config.experimental.set_virtual_device_configuration(gpus[0], 
          [tf.config.experimental.VirtualDeviceConfiguration(memory_limit=1024)])
  except RuntimeError as e:
    print(e)
# Not required in TF2: tf.enable_eager_execution()
# print out a list of usable devices
device_lib.list_local_devices()   

Addendum, 15.05.2020:
Well, this actually proved to be correct for the limitation of the GPU memory, only. The limitations on the CPU cores do NOT work. At least not on my system. See also:
tensorflow issues 34415.

I give you a workaround below.

Test run with MNIST

Afterwards the following simple Keras MLP ran without problems and with the expected performance on a GPU and a multicore CPU:

Jupyter cell 1

import time 
import tensorflow as tf
#from tensorflow import keras as K
import keras as K
from keras.datasets import mnist
from keras import models
from keras import layers
from keras.utils import to_categorical
from tensorflow.python.client import device_lib
import os

# use to work with CPU (CPU XLA ) only 
# os.environ["CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES"] = "-1"

gpus = tf.config.experimental.list_physical_devices('GPU')
if gpus:
  try:
    tf.config.experimental.set_virtual_device_configuration(gpus[0], 
          [tf.config.experimental.VirtualDeviceConfiguration(memory_limit=1024)])
  except RuntimeError as e:
    print(e)
    
# if not yet done elsewhere 

tf.config.optimizer.set_jit(True)
tf.debugging.set_log_device_placement(True)

use_cpu_or_gpu = 1 # 0: cpu, 1: gpu

# The following can only be done once - all CPU cores are used otherwise  
#if use_cpu_or_gpu == 0:
#    tf.config.threading.set_intra_op_parallelism_threads(4)
#    tf.config.threading.set_inter_op_parallelism_threads(6)


# function for training 
def train(train_images, train_labels, epochs, batch_size):
    network.fit(train_images, train_labels, epochs=epochs, batch_size=batch_size)

# setup of the MLP
network = models.Sequential()
network.add(layers.Dense(200, activation='sigmoid', input_shape=(28*28,)))
network.add(layers.Dense(100, activation='sigmoid'))
network.add(layers.Dense(50, activation='sigmoid'))
network.add(layers.Dense(30, activation='sigmoid'))
network.add(layers.Dense(10, activation='sigmoid'))
network.compile(optimizer='rmsprop', loss='categorical_crossentropy', metrics=['accuracy'])

# load MNIST 
mnist = K.datasets.mnist
(X_train, y_train), (X_test, y_test) = mnist.load_data()
# simple normalization
train_images = X_train.reshape((60000, 28*28))
train_images = train_images.astype('float32') / 255
test_images = X_test.reshape((10000, 28*28))
test_images = test_images.astype('float32') / 255
train_labels = to_categorical(y_train)
test_labels = to_categorical(y_test)

Jupyter cell 2

# run it 
if use_cpu_or_gpu == 1:
    start_g = time.perf_counter()
    train(train_images, train_labels, epochs=45, batch_size=1500)
    end_g = time.perf_counter()
    test_loss, test_acc= network.evaluate(test_images, test_labels)
    print('Time_GPU: ', end_g - start_g)  
else:
    start_c = time.perf_counter()
    train(train_images, train_labels, epochs=45, batch_size=1500)
    end_c = time.perf_counter()
    test_loss, test_acc= network.evaluate(test_images, test_labels)
    print('Time_CPU: ', end_c - start_c)  

# test accuracy 
print('Acc: ', test_acc)

Switch to force Tensorflow to use the CPU, only

Another culprit is that - depending on the exact version of TF 2 - you may need to use the following statement to run (parts of) your code on the CPU only:

os.environ["CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES"] = "-1"

in the beginning. Otherwise Tensorflow 2.0 and version 2.1 will choose execution on the GPU even if you use a statement like

with tf.device("/CPU:0"):

(which worked in TF1).
It seems that this problem was solved with TF 2.2 (tested it on 15.05.2020)! But you may have to check it yourself.
You can watch the involvement of the GPU e.g. with "watch -n0.1 nvidia-smi" on a terminal. Another possibility is to set

tf.debugging.set_log_device_placement(True)  

and get messages in the shell of your virtual Python environment or in the presently used Jupyter cell.

Addendum 16.05.2020: Limiting the number of CPU cores for Tensorflow 2.0 on Linux

After several trials and tests I think that both TF2 and the Keras version delivered with handle the above given TF2 statements to limit the number of CPU cores to use inefficiently. I addition the behavior of TF2/Keras has changed with the TF2 versions 2.0, 2.1 and now 2.2.

Strange things also happen, when you combine statements of the TF1 compat layer with pure TF2 restriction statements. You should refrain from mixing them.

So, it is either

Option 1: CPU only and limited number of cores

from tensorflow import keras as K
from tensorflow.python.keras import backend as B 
import os
os.environ["CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES"] = "-1"
...
config = tf.compat.v1.ConfigProto(intra_op_parallelism_threads=4, inter_op_parallelism_threads=1)
B.set_session(tf.compat.v1.Session(config=config))    
...

OR
Option 2: Mixture of GPU (with limited memory) and CPU (limited core number) with TF2 statements

import tensorflow as tf
from tensorflow import keras as K
from tensorflow.python.keras import backend as B 
from keras import models
from keras import layers
from keras.utils import to_categorical
from keras.datasets import mnist
from tensorflow.python.client import device_lib
import os

tf.config.threading.set_intra_op_parallelism_threads(6)
tf.config.threading.set_inter_op_parallelism_threads(1)
gpus = tf.config.experimental.list_physical_devices('GPU')
if gpus:
    try:
        tf.config.experimental.set_virtual_device_configuration(gpus[0], 
        [tf.config.experimental.VirtualDeviceConfiguration(memory_limit=1024)])
    except RuntimeError as e:
        print(e)

OR
Option 3: Mixture of GPU (limited memory) and CPU (limited core numbers) with TF1 compat statements

import tensorflow as tf
from tensorflow import keras as K
from tensorflow.python.keras import backend as B 
from keras import models
from keras import layers
from keras.utils import to_categorical
from keras.datasets import mnist
from tensorflow.python.client import device_lib
import os

#gpu = False 
gpu = True
if gpu: 
    GPU = True;  CPU = False; num_GPU = 1; num_CPU = 1
else: 
    GPU = False; CPU = True;  num_CPU = 1; num_GPU = 0

config = tf.compat.v1.ConfigProto(intra_op_parallelism_threads=6,
                        inter_op_parallelism_threads=1, 
                        allow_soft_placement=True,
                        device_count = {'CPU' : num_CPU,
                                        'GPU' : num_GPU}, 
                        log_device_placement=True

                       )
config.gpu_options.per_process_gpu_memory_fraction=0.35
config.gpu_options.force_gpu_compatible = True
B.set_session(tf.compat.v1.Session(config=config))

Hint 1:

If you want to test some code parts on the GPU and others on the CPU in the same session, I strongly recommend to use the compat statements in the form given by Option 3 above

The reason is that it - strangely enough - gives you a faster performance on a multicore CPU by more than 25% in comparison to the pure TF2 statements .

Afterwards you can use statements like:

batch_size=64
epochs=5

if use_cpu_or_gpu == 0:
    start_g = time.perf_counter()
    with tf.device("/GPU:0"):
        train(train_imgs, train_labels, epochs, batch_size)
    end_g = time.perf_counter()
    print('Time_GPU: ', end_g - start_g)  
else:
    start_c = time.perf_counter()
    with tf.device("/CPU:0"):
        train(train_imgs, train_labels, epochs, batch_size)
    end_c = time.perf_counter()
    print('Time_CPU: ', end_c - start_c)  

Hint 2:
If you check the limitations on CPU cores (threads) via watching the CPU load on tools like "gkrellm" or "ksysguard", it may appear that all cores are used in parallel. You have to set the update period of these tools to 0.1 sec to see that each core is only used intermittently. In gkrellm you should also see a variation of the average CPU load value with a variation of the parameter "intra_op_parallelism_threads=n".

Hint 3:
In my case with a Quadcore CPU with hyperthreading the following settings seem to be optimal for a variety of Keras CNN models - whenever I want to train them on the CPU only:

...
config = tf.compat.v1.ConfigProto(intra_op_parallelism_threads=6, inter_op_parallelism_threads=1)
B.set_session(tf.compat.v1.Session(config=config)) 
...

Hint 4:
If you want to switch settings in a Jupyter session it is best to stop and restart the respective kernel. You can do this via the commands under "kernel" in the Jupyter interface.

Conclusion

Well, my friends the above steps where what I had to do to get Keras working in combination with TF2, Cuda 10.2 and the present version of Cudnn. I regard this not as a straightforward procedure - to say it mildly.

In addition after some tests I might also say that the performance seems to be worse than with Tensorflow 1. Especially when using Keras - whether the Keras included with Tensorflow 2 or Keras in form of separate Python lib. Especially the performance on a GPU is astonishingly bad with Keras for small networks.

This impression of sluggishness stands in a strange contrast to elementary tests were I saw a factor of 5 difference for a series of typical matrix multiplications executed directly with tf.matmul() on a GPU vs. a CPU. But this another story .....

Links

tensorflow-running-version-with-cuda-on-cpu-only

 

Linux, OpenBlas and Numpy matrix multiplications – avoid using all processor cores

Recently, I tested the propagation methods of a small Python3/Numpy class for a multilayer perceptron [MLP]. I unexpectedly ran into a performance problem with OpenBlas.

The problem had to do with the required vectorized matrix operations for forward propagation - in my case through an artificial neural network [ANN] with 4 layers. In a first approach I used 784, 100, 50, 10 neurons in 4 consecutive layers of the MLP. The weight matrices had corresponding dimensions.

The performance problem was caused by extensive multi-threading; it showed a strong dependency on mini-batch sizes and on basic matrix dimensions related to the neuron numbers per layer:

  • For the given relatively small number of neurons per layer and for mini-batch sizes above a critical value (N > 255) OpenBlas suddenly occupied all processor cores with a 100% work load. This had a disastrous impact on performance.
  • For neuron numbers as 784, 300, 140, 10 OpenBlas used all processor cores with a 100% work load right from the beginning, i.e. even for small batch sizes. With a seemingly bad performance over all batch sizes - but decreasing somewhat with large batch sizes.

This problem has been discussed elsewhere with respect to the matrix dimensions relevant for the core multiplication and summation operations - i.e. the neuron numbers per layer. However, the vectorizing aspect of matrix multiplications is interesting, too:

One can imagine that splitting the operations for multiple independent test samples is in principle ideal for multi-threading. So, using as many processor cores as possible (in my case 8) does not look like a wrong decision of OpenBlas at first.

Then I noticed that for mini-batch sizes "N" below a certain number (N < 250) the system only seemed to use up to 3-4 cores; so there remained plenty of CPU capacity left for other tasks. Performance for N < 250 was better by at least a factor of 2 compared to a situation with an only slightly bigger batch size (N ≥ 260). I got the impression that OpenBLAS under certain conditions just decides to use as many threads as possible - which no good outcome.

In the last years I sometimes had to work with optimizing multi-threaded database operations on Linux systems. I often got the impression that you have to be careful and leave some CPU resources free for other tasks and to avoid heavy context switching. In addition bottlenecks appeared due to the concurrent access of may processes to the CPU cache. (RAM limitations were an additional factor; but this should not be the case for my Python program.) Furthermore, one should not forget that Python/Numpy experiments on Jupyter notebooks require additional resources to handle the web page output and page update on the browser. And Linux itself also requires some free resources.

So, I wanted to find out whether reducing the number of threads - or available cores - for Numpy and OpenBlas would be helpful in the sense of an overall gain in performance.

All data shown below were gathered on a desktop system with some background activity due to several open browsers, clementine and pulse-audio as active audio components, an open mail client (kontact), an open LXC container, open Eclipse with Pydev and open ssh connections. Program tests were performed with the help of Jupyter notebooks. Typical background CPU consumption looks like this on Ksysguard:

Most of the consumption is due to audio. Small spikes on one CPU core due to the investigation of incoming mails were possible - but always below 20%.

Basics

One of the core ingredients to get an ANN running are matrix operations. More precisely: multiplications of 2-dim Numpy matrices (weight matrices) with input vectors. The dimensions of the weight matrices reflect the node-numbers of consecutive ANN-layers. The dimension of the input vector depends on the node number of the lower of two neighbor layers.

However, we perform such matrix operations NOT sequentially sample for sample of a collection of training data - we do it vectorized for so called mini-batches consisting of between 50 and 600000 individual samples of training data. Instead of operating with a matrix on just one feature vector of one training sample we use matrix multiplications whereby the second matrix often comprises many vectors of data samples.

I have described such multiplications already in a previous blog article; see Numpy matrix multiplication for layers of simple feed forward ANNs.

In the most simple case of an MLP with e.g.

  • an input layer of 784 nodes (suitable for the MNIST dataset),
  • one hidden layer with 100 nodes,
  • another hidden layer with 50 nodes
  • and an output layer of 10 nodes (fitting again the MNIST dataset)

and "mini"-batches of different sizes (between 20 and 20000). An input vector to the first hidden layer has a dimension of 100, so the weight matrix creating this input vector from the "output" of the MLP's input layer has a shape of 784x100. Multiplication and summation in this case is done over the dimension covering 784 features. When we work with mini-batches we want to do these operations in parallel for as many elements of a mini-batch as possible.

All in all we have to perform 3 matrix operations

(784x100) matrix on (784)-vector, (100x50) matrix on (100)-vector, (50x10) matrix on (50) vector

on our example ANN with 4 layers. However, we collect the data for N mini-batch samples in an array. This leads to Numpy matrix multiplications of the kind

(784x100) matrix on an (784, N)-array, (100x50) matrix on an (100, N)-array, (50x10) matrix on an (50, N)-array.

Thus, we deal with matrix multiplications of two 2-dim matrices. Linear algebra libraries should optimize such operations for different kinds of processors.

The reaction of OpenBlas to an MLP with 4 layers comprising 784, 100, 50, 10 nodes

On my Linux system Python/Numpy use the openblas-library. This is confirmed by the output of command "np.__config__.show()":

openblas_info:
    libraries = ['openblas', 'openblas']
    library_dirs = ['/usr/local/lib']
    language = c
    define_macros = [('HAVE_CBLAS', None)]
blas_opt_info:
    libraries = ['openblas', 'openblas']
    library_dirs = ['/usr/local/lib']
    language = c
    define_macros = [('HAVE_CBLAS', None)]
openblas_lapack_info:
    libraries = ['openblas', 'openblas']
    library_dirs = ['/usr/local/lib']
    language = c
    define_macros = [('HAVE_CBLAS', None)]
lapack_opt_info:
    libraries = ['openblas', 'openblas']
    library_dirs = ['/usr/local/lib']
    language = c
    define_macros = [('HAVE_CBLAS', None)]

and by

(ml1) myself@mytux:/projekte/GIT/ai/ml1/lib64/python3.6/site-packages/numpy/core> ldd  _multiarray_umath.cpython-36m-x86_64-linux-gnu.so
        linux-vdso.so.1 (0x00007ffe8bddf000)
        libopenblasp-r0-2ecf47d5.3.7.dev.so => /projekte/GIT/ai/ml1/lib/python3.6/site-packages/numpy/core/./../.libs/libopenblasp-r0-2ecf47d5.3.7.dev.so (0x00007fdd9d15f000)
        libm.so.6 => /lib64/libm.so.6 (0x00007fdd9ce27000)
        libpthread.so.0 => /lib64/libpthread.so.0 (0x00007fdd9cc09000)
        libc.so.6 => /lib64/libc.so.6 (0x00007fdd9c84f000)
        /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 (0x00007fdd9f4e8000)
        libgfortran-ed201abd.so.3.0.0 => /projekte/GIT/ai/ml1/lib/python3.6/site-packages/numpy/core/./../.libs/libgfortran-ed201abd.so.3.0.0 (0x00007fdd9c555000)

In all tests discussed below I performed a series of calculations for different batch sizes

N = 50, 100, 200, 250, 260, 500, 2000, 10000, 20000

and repeated the full forward propagation 30 times (corresponding to 30 epochs in a full training series - but here without cost calculation and weight adjustment. I just did forward propagation.)

In a first experiment, I did not artificially limit the number of cores to be used. Measured response times in seconds are indicated in the following plot:

Runtime for a free number of cores to use and different batch-sizes N

We see that something dramatic happens between a batch size of 250 and 260. Below you see the plots for CPU core consumption for N=50, N=200, N=250, N=260 and N=2000.

N=50:

N=200:

N=250:

N=260:

N=2000:

The plots indicate that everything goes well up to N=250. Up to this point around 4 cores are used - leaving 4 cores relatively free. After N=260 OpenBlas decides to use all 8 cores with a load of 100% - and performance suffers by more than a factor of 2.

This result support the idea to look for an optimum of the number of cores "C" to use.

The reaction of OpenBlas to an MLP with layers comprising 784, 300, 140, 10 nodes

For a MLP with neuron numbers (784, 300, 140, 10) I got the red curve for response time in the plot below. The second curve shows what performance is possible with just using 4 cores:

Note the significantly higher response times. We also see again that something strange happens at the change of the batch-size from 250 to 260.

The 100% CPU consumption even for a batch-size of only 50 is shown below:

Though different from the first test case also these plots indicate that - somewhat paradoxically - reducing the number of CPU cores available to OpenBlas could have a performance enhancing effect.

Limiting the number of available cores to OpenBlas

A bit of Internet research shows that one can limit the number of cores to use by OpenBlas e.g. via an environment variable for the shell, in which we start a Jupyter notebook. The relevant command to limit the number of cores "C" to 3 is :

export OPENBLAS_NUM_THREADS=3

Below you find plots for the response times required for the batch sizes N listed above and core numbers of

C=1, C=2, C=3, C=4, C=5, C=6, C=7, C=8 :

For C=5 I did 2 different runs; the different results for C=5 show that the system reacts rather sensitively. It changes its behavior for larger core number drastically.

We also find an overall minimum of the response time:
The overall optimum occurs for 400 < N < 500 for C=1, 2, 3, 4 - with the minimum region being broadest for C=3. The absolute minimum is reached on my CPU for C=4.

We understand from the plots above that the number of cores to use become hyper-parameters for the tuning of the performance of ANNs - at least as long as a standard multicore-CPU is used.

CPU-consumption

CPU consumption for N=50 and C=2 looks like:

For comparison see the CPU consumption for N=20000 and C=4:

CPU consumption for N=20000 and C=6:

We see that between C=5 and C=6 CPU resources get heavily consumed; there are almost no reserves left in the Linux system for C ≥ 6.

Dependency on the size of the weight-matrices and the node numbers

For a full view on the situation I also looked at the response time variation with node numbers for a given number of CPU cores.

For C=4 and node number cases

  • 784, 300, 140, 10
  • 784, 200, 100, 10
  • 784, 100, 50, 10
  • 784, 50, 20, 10

I got the following results:

There is some broad variation with the weight-matrix size; the bigger the weight-matrix the longer the calculation time. This is, of course, to be expected. Note that the variation with the batch-size number is relatively smooth - with an optimum around 400.

Now, look at the same plot for C=6:

Note that the response time is significantly bigger in all cases compared to the previous situation with C=4. In cases of a large matrix by around 36% for N=2000. Also the variation with batch-size is more pronounced.

Still, even with 6 cores you do not get factors between 1.4 and 2.0 as compared to the case of C=8 (see above)!

Conclusion

As I do not know what the authors of OpenBlas are doing exactly, I refrain from technically understanding and interpreting the causes of the data shown above.

However, some consequences seem to be clear:

  • It is a bad idea to provide all CPU cores to OpenBlas - which unfortunately is the default.
  • The data above indicate that using only 4 out of 8 core threads is reasonable to get an optimum performance for vectorized matrix multiplications on my CPU.
  • Not leaving at least 2 CPU cores free for other tasks is punished by significant performance losses.
  • When leaving the decision of how many cores to use to OpenBlas a critical batch-size may exist for which the performance suddenly breaks down due to heavy multi-threading.

Whenever you deal with ANN or MLP simulations on a standard CPU (not GPU!) you should absolutely care about how many cores and related threads you want to offer to OpenBlas. As far as I understood from some Internet articles the number of cores to be used can be not only be controlled by Linux (shell) environment variables but also by os-commands in a Python program. You should perform tests to find optimum values for your CPU.

Links

stackoverflow: numpy-suddenly-uses-all-cpus

stackoverflow: run-openblas-on-multicore

stackoverflow: multiprocessing-pool-makes-numpy-matrix-multiplication-slower

scicomp: why-isnt-my-matrix-vector-multiplication-scaling/1729

Setting the number of threads via Python
stackoverflow:
set-max-number-of-threads-at-runtime-on-numpy-openblas

codereview.stackexchange: better-way-to-set-number-of-threads-used-by-numpy