Simulation tips

Oceananigans attempts to optimize computations as much as possible "behind the scenes". Yet Oceananigans' flexibility places some responsibility on users to ensure high performance simulations, especially for complex setups with user-defined forcing functions, boundary condition functions, and diagnostics. Furthermore, in case of more complex GPU runs, some details could sometimes prevent your simulation from running altogether. While Julia knowledge is obviously desirable here, a user that is unfamiliar with Julia can get away with efficient simulations by learning a few rules of thumb. It is nonetheless recommended that users go through Julia's performance tips, which contains more in-depth explanations of some of the aspects discussed here.

General (CPU/GPU) simulation tips

Avoid global variables whenever possible

In general using a global variable (which can be loosely defined as a variable defined in the main script) inside functions slows down the code. One way to circumvent this is to always use local variables or pass them as arguments to functions. This helps the compiler optimize the code.

Another way around this is to define global variables as constants whenever possible. One thing to keep in mind when doing this is that when a const is defined, its value can't be changed until you restart the Julia session. So this latter approach is good for production-ready code, but may be undesirable in the early stages of development while you still have to change the parameters of the simulation for exploration.

It is especially important to avoid global variables in functions that are meant to be executed in GPU kernels (such as functions defining boundary conditions and forcings). Otherwise the Julia GPU compiler can fail with obscure errors. This is explained in more detail in the GPU simulation tips section below.

Consider inlining small functions

Inlining is when the compiler replaces a function call with the body of the function that is being called before compiling. The advantage of inlining (which in julia can be done with the @inline macro) is that gets rid of the time spent calling the function. The Julia compiler automatically makes some calls as to what functions it should or shouldn't inline, but you can force a function to be inlined by including the macro @inline before its definition. This is more suited for small functions that are called often. Here's an example of an implementation of the Heaviside function that forces it to be inlined:

@inline heaviside(x) = ifelse(x < 0, zero(x), one(x))

In practice it's hard to say whether inlining a function will bring runtime benefits with certainty, since Julia and KernelAbstractions.jl (needed for GPU runs) already inline some functions automatically. However, it is generally a good idea to at least investigate this aspect in your code as the benefits can potentially be significant.

GPU simulation tips

Running on GPUs can be very different from running on CPUs. Oceananigans makes most of the necessary changes in the background, so that for very simple simulations changing between CPUs and GPUs is just a matter of changing the architecture argument in the model from CPU() to GPU(). However, for more complex simulations some care needs to be taken on the part of the user. While knowledge of GPU computing (and Julia) is again desirable, an inexperienced user can also achieve high efficiency in GPU simulations by following a few simple principles.

Global variables that need to be used in GPU computations need to be defined as constants or passed as parameters

Any global variable that needs to be accessed by the GPU needs to be a constant or the simulation will crash. This includes any variables that are referenced as global variables in functions used for forcing of boundary conditions. For example,

T₀ = 20 # ᵒC
surface_temperature(x, y, t) = T₀ * sin(2π / 86400 * t)
T_bcs = FieldBoundaryConditions(bottom = GradientBoundaryCondition(surface_temperature))

will throw an error if run on the GPU (and will run more slowly than it should on the CPU). Replacing the first line above with

const T₀ = 20 # ᵒC

fixes the issue by indicating to the compiler that T₀ will not change.

Note that the literal 2π / 86400 is not an issue – it's only the variable T₀ that must be declared const.

Alternatively, we can pass the variable as a parameter to GradientBoundaryCondition. To do that we need to pass a named tuple as parameter keyword argument:

T₀ = 20 # ᵒC
surface_temperature(x, y, t, p) = p.T₀ * sin(2π / 86400 * t)
T_bcs = FieldBoundaryConditions(bottom = GradientBoundaryCondition(surface_temperature, parameters=(; T₀)))

Complex diagnostics using computed Fields may not work on GPUs

Fields are the most convenient way to calculate diagnostics for your simulation. They will always work on CPUs, but when their complexity is high (in terms of number of abstract operations) the compiler can't translate them into GPU code and they fail for GPU runs. (This limitation is summarized in this Github issue and contributions are welcome.) For example, in the example below, calculating works in both CPUs and GPUs, but calculating ε will not compile on GPUs when we call the command compute!:

using Oceananigans
grid = RectilinearGrid(size=(4, 4, 4), extent=(1, 1, 1))
model = NonhydrostaticModel(grid=grid, closure=ScalarDiffusivity(ν=1e-6))
u, v, w = model.velocities
ν = model.closure.ν
u² = Field(u^2)
ε = Field(ν*(∂x(u)^2 + ∂x(v)^2 + ∂x(w)^2 + ∂y(u)^2 + ∂y(v)^2 + ∂y(w)^2 + ∂z(u)^2 + ∂z(v)^2 + ∂z(w)^2))

There are a few ways to work around this issue. One is to compute ε in steps by nesting computed Fields,

ddx² = Field(∂x(u)^2 + ∂x(v)^2 + ∂x(w)^2)
ddy² = Field(∂y(u)^2 + ∂y(v)^2 + ∂y(w)^2)
ddz² = Field(∂z(u)^2 + ∂z(v)^2 + ∂z(w)^2)
ε = Field(ν * (ddx² + ddy² + ddz²))

This method increases the computational cost since it requires computing and storing 3 intermediate terms. ε may also be calculated via KernelFunctionOperationss, which requires explicitly building a "kernel function" from low-level Oceananigans operators.

using Oceananigans.Operators
using Oceananigans.AbstractOperations: KernelFunctionOperation

@inline fψ_plus_gφ²(i, j, k, grid, f, ψ, g, φ) = (f(i, j, k, grid, ψ) + g(i, j, k, grid, φ))^2

function isotropic_viscous_dissipation_rate_ccc(i, j, k, grid, u, v, w, ν)
    Σˣˣ² = ∂xᶜᶜᶜ(i, j, k, grid, u)^2
    Σʸʸ² = ∂yᶜᶜᶜ(i, j, k, grid, v)^2
    Σᶻᶻ² = ∂zᶜᶜᶜ(i, j, k, grid, w)^2

    Σˣʸ² = ℑxyᶜᶜᵃ(i, j, k, grid, fψ_plus_gφ², ∂yᶠᶠᶜ, u, ∂xᶠᶠᶜ, v) / 4
    Σˣᶻ² = ℑxzᶜᵃᶜ(i, j, k, grid, fψ_plus_gφ², ∂zᶠᶜᶠ, u, ∂xᶠᶜᶠ, w) / 4
    Σʸᶻ² = ℑyzᵃᶜᶜ(i, j, k, grid, fψ_plus_gφ², ∂zᶜᶠᶠ, v, ∂yᶜᶠᶠ, w) / 4

    return 2ν * (Σˣˣ² + Σʸʸ² + Σᶻᶻ² + 2 * (Σˣʸ² + Σˣᶻ² + Σʸᶻ²))

ε_op = KernelFunctionOperation{Center, Center, Center}(isotropic_viscous_dissipation_rate_ccc,
                                                       grid, u, v, w, ν)

ε = Field(ε_op)


Writing kernel functions like isotropic_viscous_dissipation_rate_ccc requires understanding the C-grid, but incurs only one iteration over the domain.

KernelFunctionOperations for some diagnostics common to large eddy simulation are defined in Oceanostics.jl,

using Oceanostics: IsotropicPseudoViscousDissipationRate
ε = IsotropicViscousDissipationRate(model, u, v, w, ν)

Start an issue on Github if more help is needed.

Try to decrease the memory-use of your runs

GPU runs are sometimes memory-limited. A state-of-the-art Tesla V100 GPU has 32GB of memory –- enough memory for simulations with about 100 million points, or grids a bit smaller than 512 × 512 × 512. (The maximum grid size depends on some user-specified factors, like the number of passive tracers or computed diagnostics.) For large simulations on the GPU, careful management of memory allocation may be required:

  • Use the nvidia-smi command line utility to monitor the memory usage of the GPU. It should tell you how much memory there is on your GPU and how much of it you're using and you can run it from Julia via

    julia> ;
    shell> run(`nvidia-smi`)
  • Try to use higher-order advection schemes. In general when you use a higher-order scheme you need fewer grid points to achieve the same accuracy that you would with a lower-order one. Refer to the documentation for available advection schemes.

  • Manually define scratch space to be reused in diagnostics. By default, every time a user-defined diagnostic is calculated the compiler reserves a new chunk of memory for that calculation, usually called scratch space. In general, the more diagnostics, the more scratch space needed and the bigger the memory requirements. However, if you explicitly create a scratch space and pass that same scratch space for as many diagnostics as you can, you minimize the memory requirements of your calculations by reusing the same chunk of memory. Have a look at an example for how to create scratch space and how it can be used in calculations.

Arrays in GPUs are usually different from arrays in CPUs

Oceananigans.jl uses CUDA.CuArray to store data for GPU computations. One limitation of CuArrays compared to the Arrays used for CPU computations is that CuArray elements in general cannot be accessed outside kernels launched through CUDA.jl or KernelAbstractions.jl. (You can learn more about GPU kernels here and here.) Doing so requires individual elements to be copied from or to the GPU for processing, which is very slow and can result in huge slowdowns. To avoid such unintentional slowdowns, Oceananigans.jl disables CUDA scalar indexing by default. See the scalar indexing section of the CUDA.jl documentation for more information on scalar indexing.

For example, if can be difficult to just view a CuArray since Julia needs to access its elements to do that. Consider the example below:

julia> using Oceananigans, Adapt

julia> grid = RectilinearGrid(GPU(); size=(1, 1, 1), extent=(1, 1, 1), halo=(1, 1, 1))
1×1×1 RectilinearGrid{Float64, Periodic, Periodic, Bounded} on GPU with 1×1×1 halo
├── Periodic x ∈ [0.0, 1.0)  regularly spaced with Δx=1.0
├── Periodic y ∈ [0.0, 1.0)  regularly spaced with Δy=1.0
└── Bounded  z ∈ [-1.0, 0.0] regularly spaced with Δz=1.0

julia> model = NonhydrostaticModel(; grid)
NonhydrostaticModel{GPU, RectilinearGrid}(time = 0 seconds, iteration = 0)
├── grid: 1×1×1 RectilinearGrid{Float64, Periodic, Periodic, Bounded} on GPU with 1×1×1 halo
├── timestepper: QuasiAdamsBashforth2TimeStepper
├── tracers: ()
├── closure: Nothing
├── buoyancy: Nothing
└── coriolis: Nothing

julia> typeof(
OffsetArrays.OffsetArray{Float64, 3, CUDA.CuArray{Float64, 3, CUDA.Mem.DeviceBuffer}}

julia> adapt(Array,
3×3×3 OffsetArray(::Array{Float64, 3}, 0:2, 0:2, 0:2) with eltype Float64 with indices 0:2×0:2×0:2:
[:, :, 0] =
 0.0  0.0  0.0
 0.0  0.0  0.0
 0.0  0.0  0.0

[:, :, 1] =
 0.0  0.0  0.0
 0.0  0.0  0.0
 0.0  0.0  0.0

[:, :, 2] =
 0.0  0.0  0.0
 0.0  0.0  0.0
 0.0  0.0  0.0

Notice that to view the CuArray that stores values for u we first need to transform it into a regular Array using Adapt.adapt. If we naively try to view the CuArray without that step we get an error:

3×3×3 OffsetArray(::CUDA.CuArray{Float64, 3, CUDA.Mem.DeviceBuffer}, 0:2, 0:2, 0:2) with eltype Float64 with indices 0:2×0:2×0:2:
[:, :, 0] =
Error showing value of type OffsetArrays.OffsetArray{Float64, 3, CUDA.CuArray{Float64, 3, CUDA.Mem.DeviceBuffer}}:
ERROR: Scalar indexing is disallowed.

Here CUDA.jl throws an error because scalar getindex is not allowed. There are ways to overcome this limitation and allow scalar indexing (more about that in the CUDA.jl documentation), but this option can be very slow on GPUs, so it is advised to only use this last method when using the REPL or prototyping –- never in production-ready scripts.

You might also need to keep these differences in mind when using arrays to define initial conditions, boundary conditions or forcing functions on a GPU. To learn more about working with CuArrays, see the array programming section of the CUDA.jl documentation.