A Variable Warp Size Architecture

This paper studies the effect of warp sizing and scheduling on performance and efficiency in GPUs. We propose Variable Warp Sizing (VWS) which improves the performance of divergent applications by using a small base warp size in the presence of control flow and memory divergence. When appropriate, our proposed technique groups sets of these smaller warps together by ganging their execution in the warp scheduler, improving performance and energy efficiency for regular applications. Warp ganging is necessary to prevent performance degradation on regular workloads due to memory convergence slip, which results from the inability of smaller warps to exploit the same intra-warp memory locality as larger warps. This paper explores the effect of warp sizing on control flow divergence, memory divergence, and locality. For an estimated 5% area cost, our ganged scheduling microarchitecture results in a simulated 35% performance improvement on divergent workloads by allowing smaller groups of threads to proceed independently, and eliminates the performance degradation due to memory convergence slip that is observed when convergent applications are executed with smaller warp sizes.


Timothy Rogers (University of British Colombia)
Daniel Johnson (NVIDIA)

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