Remote-Scope Promotion: Clarified, Rectified, and Verified


Modern accelerator programming frameworks, such as OpenCL, organise threads into work-groups. Remote- scope promotion (RSP) is a language extension recently proposed by AMD researchers that is designed to enable applications, for the first time, both to optimise for the common case of intra-work-group communication (using memory scopes to provide consistency only within a work-group) and to allow occasional inter-work-group communication (as required, for instance, to support the popular load-balancing idiom of work stealing).

We present the first formal, axiomatic memory model of OpenCL extended with RSP. We have extended the HERD memory model simulator with support for OpenCL kernels that exploit RSP, and used it to discover bugs in several litmus tests and a work-stealing queue, that have been used previously in the study of RSP. We have also formalised the proposed GPU implementation of RSP. The formalisation process allowed us to identify bugs in the description of RSP that could result in well-synchronised programs experiencing memory inconsistencies. We present and prove sound a new implementation of RSP that incorporates bug fixes and requires less non-standard hardware than the original implementation.

This work, a collaboration between academia and industry, clearly demonstrates how, when designing hardware support for a new concurrent language feature, the early application of formal tools and techniques can help to prevent errors, such as those we have found, from making it into silicon.