Interleaving and Lock-Step Semantics for Analysis and Verification of GPU Kernels


Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) from leading vendors employ predicated (or guarded) execution to eliminate branching and increase performance. Similarly, a recent GPU verification technique uses predication to reduce verification of GPU kernels (the massively parallel programs that run on GPUs) to verification of a sequential program.

Prior work on the formal semantics of lock-step predicated execution for kernels focused on structured programs, where control is organised using if- and while-statements. We provide lock-step execution semantics for GPU kernels that are represented by arbitrary reducible control flow graphs. We present a traditional interleaving semantics and a novel lock-step semantics based on predication, and show that for terminating kernels either both semantics compute identical results or both behave erroneously.

The method allows reducing GPU kernel verification to the verification of a sequential, lock-step program to be applied to GPU kernels with arbitrary reducible control flow. We have implemented the method in the GPUVerify tool, and present an evaluation using a set of 163 open source and commercial GPU kernels. Among these kernels, 42 exhibit unstructured control flow which our novel lock-step predication technique can handle fully automatically. This generality comes at a modest price: verification across our benchmark set was on average 2.25 times slower than using an existing approach that specifically targets structured kernels.