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OpenACC Training Materials

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These training materials have been developed as a collaboration between the University of Delaware and NVIDIA Corporation and are provided free of charge by
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March 1, 2024
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OpenACC Official Training Materials

These training materials have been developed as a collaboration between the University of Delaware and NVIDIA Corporation and are provided free of charge by Please see for license details.

System Requirements

Before running the OpenACC training materials which includes NVIDIA HPC-SDK, please ensure that your system meets the following requirements.

  • Pascal (sm60), Volta (sm70) or Turing (sm75) NVIDIA GPU(s)
  • CUDA driver version
    • >= 396.26 for CUDA 9.2
    • >= 410.48 for CUDA 10.0
    • >= 418.39 for CUDA 10.1
    • >= 450.36.06 for CUDA 11.0
  • nvidia-docker >= 2.0.3

By default HPC-SDK compilers will automatically choose among CUDA Toolkit verions 9.2, 10.0, 10.1, or 11.0 based on your installed driver. To specify a specific version of CUDA, check out CUDA Versions.


This material, which includes slides and code labs, is organized into modules that are designed to build upon each other. Modules 1 - 6 are considered core modules and modules 7 and beyond are considered advanced topics.

The slides associated with these modules can be downloaded from []

The modules are organized as follows.

Module 1 – Introduction to Parallel Programming

These modules are targeting students with potentially very different backgrounds in OpenACC and parallel programming. As such, we do not assume that the students are coming into these modules with any parallel programming experience whatsoever. Module 1 is meant to be a fast paced “catch-up,” whereas students are expected to gain a conceptual understanding of parallel programming, and learn how to implement these concepts using OpenACC.

Topics that will be covered are as follows:

  • Introduction to parallelism
  • The goals of OpenACC
  • Basic parallelization of code using OpenACC

Our focus on OpenACC in this module is very narrow; we introduce parallelism in a very conceptual, graphical way, and show how we can relate these concepts to simple OpenACC directives. The goal with this is to ensure that students associate OpenACC with “general parallel programming” or “expressing parallelism” rather than thinking that OpenACC is a “multicore/GPU programming model.”

This module does not include a code lab.

Module 2 – Profiling with OpenACC

These modules are meant to be profiler-driven. Students will make small changes to their code, and re-profile it, comparing changes in the profiler vs. their expectations. [labs/module2](Module 2) will have students profile the sequential Laplace Heat Equation code to obtain baseline results. Afterwards, they will begin to implement a naïve parallelization of the code. The Laplace Heat Equation code has 3 functions that are meant to be parallelized; students will add OpenACC directives to each of these functions, one-by-one, and view changes seen in the compiler. At this point, students are only expected to run their code for a multicore accelerator. The GPU implementation is more complex, and will be the focus of Module 3.

Topics that will be covered are as follows:

  • Compiling sequential and OpenACC code
  • The importance of code profiling
  • Profiling sequential and OpenACC multicore code
  • Technical introduction to the code used in introductory modules

This module will allow students to profile a sequential, and a multicore code to observe the differences. The profiling process is mostly a step-by-step tutorial, with regular pauses for explanation, or to allow students to explore the features of the profiler. The code that students are profiling is the Laplace code, which they will be working on for modules 2-6. We choose to focus on multicore at first for two main reasons: multicore is a simpler platform to program for, and we want to emphasis that OpenACC is more than a “GPU programming model.” Students will begin working with GPUs in Module 4.

Module 3 – Introduction to OpenACC Directives

In [labs/module3](Module 3) students will have already seen the parallel, kernels, and loop directive at this point. Now, this module will focus on teaching the specifics of each directive, the differences between them, and how to use them to parallelize our code.

Topics that will be covered are as follows:

  • The Parallel directive
  • The Kernels directive
  • The Loop directive

Students will learn the key differences between the parallel and kernels directive, and can use either of them on the lab. It is recommended that they try both directives, however. This module includes a lot of code examples, and graphical representations of how the directives work with the hardware.

The lab section is designed for the students to achieve a working, near optimal version of a multicore Laplace program.

Module 4 – GPU Programming with OpenACC

[labs/module4](Module 4) is designed to teach students the key differences between GPUs and multicore CPUs. We also delve into GPU memory management, mostly from a conceptual level. We present CUDA Unified Memory as a reasonable solution to memory management, and then finish the module with a guide to GPU profiling using PGPROF. We also draw parallels between GPU architecture and our OpenACC general parallel model.

The lab section will allow students to play with basic data clauses, and managed memory. Then they will profile the code, and see how the changes they are making things affect how the GPU is running (by viewing things such as time spent on data transfers.)

Topics that will be covered are as follow:

  • Definition of a GPU
  • Basic OpenACC data management
  • CUDA Unified Memory
  • Profiling GPU applications

Module 5 – Data Management with OpenACC

In Module 4, we introduced students to a very basic solution to GPU data management. At the beginning of [labs/module5](Module 5), we highlight the problems that this basic implementation has. The problem with our naïve solution is that there is far too many data transfers between the compute regions. Our program takes more time transferring data than it does computing our answer. We will have students remedy this by using explicit data management with the OpenACC data directive.

Topics that will be covered are as follows:

  • OpenACC data directive/clauses
  • OpenACC structured data region
  • OpenACC unstructured data region
  • OpenACC update directive
  • Data management with C/C++ Structs/Classes

The bulk of this module will be code snippets and diagrams. We use diagrams to represent CPU/GPU memory, and show the interaction between the two as we analyze the data directive/clauses. The lab section will allow students to experiment with both a structured and unstructured approach to data management in their Laplace code.

Module 6 – Loop Optimizations with OpenACC

[labs/module6](Module 6) is the last “core” module. After Module 6, we expect students to be able to begin parallelizing their own personal code with OpenACC with a good amount of confidence. The remaining modules after this point are considered to be “advanced” modules, and are optional, and some may only be applicable to specific audiences. Module 6 is all about loop clauses. This module is meant be very visual, so that students can get a good sense of exactly how each clause is affecting the execution of their loop.

Topics that will be covered are as follows:

  • Seq/Auto clause
  • Independent clause
  • Reduction clause
  • Collapse clause
  • Tile clause
  • Gang Worker Vector

This module touches on each of the loop clauses, show how they look within code, and give a visual representation of it. The gang/worker/vector will most likely be the lengthiest section in this module, just because it is the most complex. Also, in the lab section of Module 6, we will make our final optimization to our Laplace code by utilizing loop optimizations and gang/worker/vector.

Running the Docker container

The code labs have been written using Jupyter notebooks and a Dockerfile has been built to simplify deployment. In order to serve the docker instance for a student, it is necessary to expose port 8000 from the container, for instance, the following command would expose port 8000 inside the container as port 8000 on the lab machine:

$ docker run --gpus all -rm --it -p 8000:8000

When this command is run, a student can browse to the serving machine on port 8000 using any web browser to access the labs. For instance, from if they are running on the local machine the web browser should be pointed to http://localhost:8000. The --gpus flag is used to enable all NVIDIA GPUs during container runtime. The --rm flag is used to clean an temporary images created during the running of the container. The -it flag enables killing the jupyter server with ctrl-c. This command may be customized for your hosting environment.

Useful flags:
  • --gpus : Enable NVIDIA GPUs container runtime support
  • --cap-add=SYS_ADMIN: Runtime privilege and add Linux capabilities for encountering target device permission error when using PG profiler in VNC.
  • --privileged: container is given access to all devices
  • --device: container is given limited access to a specific device

Modules 4 - 6 require an NVIDIA GPU to be run without customization.