Performance Best Practices#

Here we gather a few tricks and advices for improving CuPy’s performance.


It is utterly important to first identify the performance bottleneck before making any attempt to optimize your code. To help set up a baseline benchmark, CuPy provides a useful utility cupyx.profiler.benchmark() for timing the elapsed time of a Python function on both CPU and GPU:

>>> from cupyx.profiler import benchmark
>>> def my_func(a):
...     return cp.sqrt(cp.sum(a**2, axis=-1))
>>> a = cp.random.random((256, 1024))
>>> print(benchmark(my_func, (a,), n_repeat=20))  
my_func             :    CPU:   44.407 us   +/- 2.428 (min:   42.516 / max:   53.098) us     GPU-0:  181.565 us   +/- 1.853 (min:  180.288 / max:  188.608) us

Because GPU executions run asynchronously with respect to CPU executions, a common pitfall in GPU programming is to mistakenly measure the elapsed time using CPU timing utilities (such as time.perf_counter() from the Python Standard Library or the %timeit magic from IPython), which have no knowledge in the GPU runtime. cupyx.profiler.benchmark() addresses this by setting up CUDA events on the Current Stream right before and after the function to be measured and synchronizing over the end event (see Streams and Events for detail). Below we sketch what is done internally in cupyx.profiler.benchmark():

>>> import time
>>> start_gpu = cp.cuda.Event()
>>> end_gpu = cp.cuda.Event()
>>> start_gpu.record()
>>> start_cpu = time.perf_counter()
>>> out = my_func(a)
>>> end_cpu = time.perf_counter()
>>> end_gpu.record()
>>> end_gpu.synchronize()
>>> t_gpu = cp.cuda.get_elapsed_time(start_gpu, end_gpu)
>>> t_cpu = end_cpu - start_cpu

Additionally, cupyx.profiler.benchmark() runs a few warm-up runs to reduce timing fluctuation and exclude the overhead in first invocations.

One-Time Overheads#

Be aware of these overheads when benchmarking CuPy code.

Context Initialization#

It may take several seconds when calling a CuPy function for the first time in a process. This is because the CUDA driver creates a CUDA context during the first CUDA API call in CUDA applications.

Kernel Compilation#

CuPy uses on-the-fly kernel synthesis. When a kernel call is required, it compiles a kernel code optimized for the dimensions and dtypes of the given arguments, sends them to the GPU device, and executes the kernel.

CuPy caches the kernel code sent to GPU device within the process, which reduces the kernel compilation time on further calls.

The compiled code is also cached in the directory ${HOME}/.cupy/kernel_cache (the path can be overwritten by setting the CUPY_CACHE_DIR environment variable). This allows reusing the compiled kernel binary across the process.

In-depth profiling#

Under construction. To mark with NVTX/rocTX ranges, you can use the cupyx.profiler.time_range() API. To start/stop the profiler, you can use the cupyx.profiler.profile() API.

Use CUB/cuTENSOR backends for reduction and other routines#

For reduction operations (such as sum(), prod(), amin(), amax(), argmin(), argmax()) and many more routines built upon them, CuPy ships with our own implementations so that things just work out of the box. However, there are dedicated efforts to further accelerate these routines, such as CUB and cuTENSOR.

In order to support more performant backends wherever applicable, starting v8 CuPy introduces an environment variable CUPY_ACCELERATORS to allow users to specify the desired backends (and in what order they are tried). For example, consider summing over a 256-cubic array:

>>> from cupyx.profiler import benchmark
>>> a = cp.random.random((256, 256, 256), dtype=cp.float32)
>>> print(benchmark(a.sum, (), n_repeat=100))  
sum                 :    CPU:   12.101 us   +/- 0.694 (min:   11.081 / max:   17.649) us     GPU-0:10174.898 us   +/-180.551 (min:10084.576 / max:10595.936) us

We can see that it takes about 10 ms to run (on this GPU). However, if we launch the Python session using CUPY_ACCELERATORS=cub python, we get a ~100x speedup for free (only ~0.1 ms):

>>> print(benchmark(a.sum, (), n_repeat=100))  
sum                 :    CPU:   20.569 us   +/- 5.418 (min:   13.400 / max:   28.439) us     GPU-0:  114.740 us   +/- 4.130 (min:  108.832 / max:  122.752) us

CUB is a backend shipped together with CuPy. It also accelerates other routines, such as inclusive scans (ex: cumsum()), histograms, sparse matrix-vector multiplications (not applicable in CUDA 11), and ReductionKernel. cuTENSOR offers optimized performance for binary elementwise ufuncs, reduction and tensor contraction. If cuTENSOR is installed, setting CUPY_ACCELERATORS=cub,cutensor, for example, would try CUB first and fall back to cuTENSOR if CUB does not provide the needed support. In the case that both backends are not applicable, it falls back to CuPy’s default implementation.

Note that while in general the accelerated reductions are faster, there could be exceptions depending on the data layout. In particular, the CUB reduction only supports reduction over contiguous axes. In any case, we recommend to perform some benchmarks to determine whether CUB/cuTENSOR offers better performance or not.


CuPy v11 and above uses CUB by default. To turn it off, you need to explicitly specify the environment variable CUPY_ACCELERATORS="".

Overlapping work using streams#

Under construction.

Use JIT compiler#

Under construction. For now please refer to JIT kernel definition for a quick introduction.

Prefer float32 over float64#

Under construction.