Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Etnaviv NPU update 12: Towards SSDLite MobileDet

During these last two weeks I have been working towards adding support for more operations and kinds of convolutions so we can run more interesting models. As a first target, I'm aiming to MobileDet, which though a bit old by now (it was introduced in 2020) is still the state of the art in object detection in mobile, used in for example Frigate NVR.

I haven't mentioned it in a few updates, but all this work keeps being sponsored by Libre Computer, who are aiming to be the first manufacturer of single board computers to provide accelerated machine learning with open source components. Check out Alta and Solitude for the first such boards in the market.


Igalia's Christian Gmeiner has been giving me great feedback at the merge request, and as part of that I submitted a patch to the kernel to retrieve some parameters that are needed when programming the hardware and that are best not left hardcoded. 

This means that upstreaming to Mesa loses some urgency as we are anyway going to have to wait for the merge window for 6.8 opens, after 6.7 final is out.

Convolutions with 5x5 weights

Until now I had implemented support only for weights with dimensions 1x1 (aka pointwise convolutions) and 3x3 (the most common by far). Some of the convolutions in MobileDet use 5x5 weight tensors though, so I had to implement support for them. It was a matter of adding some extra complexity to the code that compresses the weight tensors in the format that the hardware expects.

I implemented this for all kind of supported convolutions: depthwise, strided, with padding, etc.

Tensor addition

I observed that the vendor blob implements addition operations with convolution jobs, so I looked deeper and saw that it was implementing the addition of two input tensors by placing them as the two channels of a single tensor, then passing them through a 1x1 convolution with a specially crafted weight tensor and bias vector.

This is working with hardcoded values for some specific input image dimensions, but I still need to gather more data so I can come up with a generic expression.

Softmax pooling

One more missing operation commonly used in models for mobile is pooling, in its different kinds: average, max, etc.

The blob implements these operations on the programmable core, with CL-like kernels.

So I undusted the work that I did in the first half of 2023 and added code to Teflon for passing these operations to the Gallium drivers. Then added a new kind of operation to the ML backend in Etnaviv to make use of the programmable core.

Things work fine, even if for now I am storing the kernel machine code in a blob inside the C code. The next step will be to implement the kernel in NIR and generate the machine code using the existing compiler in Etnaviv.

With this piece of work, we are now able to use all the hardware units in the NPU, and even if the programmable core in this configuration is really underpowered, it will allow us to keep the model in memory close to the NPU, instead of having to ping-pong between the NPU and CPU domains.

A new test suite

With new operations and kinds of convolutions being added, I was starting to have trouble testing all the possible combinations in a practical way, as the test suite that I had was taking more than 20 minutes for a full run.

To get around that, I reimplemented the tests in C++ with GoogleTest, which is supported by Emma Anholt's deqp-runner and will allow me to run the tests in parallel, making full use of the CPU cores in the board.

That made a big difference, but with so many testing combinations being added (+3000 as of now), it was still not fast enough for me. So I remembered an approach that we were considering to speed up execution of Vulkan and OpenGL conformance tests: caching the golden images that are used to compare and check that the output from the hardware is correct.

With that, the bottleneck is the network, as I store the cache in NFS, and I can run the full test suite in less than 3 minutes.

Only that I started finding some tests that were randomly failing, specially when the cache of test results had been already brought into the filesystem cache in the board. After a lot of scratching my head, I came to realize that the Etnaviv kernel driver was trying to submit up to 4 jobs at the same time to the hardware, if userspace was fast enough to enqueue that many jobs before the previous ones had finished.

There is a kernel module parameter to set the number of jobs that are submitted to the hardware at any given point, and setting that to 1 took me back to rock solid test results, which is an absolute need for keeping the driver author's sanity.

Next steps

I have quickly added support for a lot of new operations and parameter combinations and the code is not as clean as I would like, in part due to the need for some refactoring.

So in the next days I will be investing some time in cleaning things up, and afterwards will move to more operations in MobileDet.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Etnaviv NPU update 11: Now twice as fast!


This update's highlight is that last week I finally got the TP jobs working, which allows us to make the tensor manipulation in the HW, removing 18ms from the tensor preprocessing. We can currently use them for transposing tensors from the format that TensorFlow prefers to that which the HW expects and the other way around, and for lowering strided convolutions to regular ones.
This makes our image classification benchmark twice as fast, as expected:

tomeu@arm-64:~/mesa$ ETNA_MESA_DEBUG=ml_msgs python3.10 -i grace_hopper.bmp -m mobilenet_v1_1.0_224_quant.tflite -l labels_mobilenet_quant_v1_224.txt -e
Loading external delegate from build/src/gallium/targets/teflon/ with args: {}
Running the NN job took 13 ms.
0.866667: military uniform
0.031373: Windsor tie
0.015686: mortarboard
0.007843: bow tie
0.007843: academic gown
time: 15.650ms

60 FPS is already quite interesting for many use cases, but the proprietary driver is able to do the same at around 8 ms, so there is still plenty of room for improvements.
Some preliminary testing indicates that enabling zero-run length compression in the weight buffers will make the biggest difference, so that is what I will be working on when I get back to performance work.

Additionally, I also got some experimental jobs running on the programmable core in this NPU, which will allow us to run more advanced models, which tend to use operations that the hardware couldn't be designed for back then.

Upstreaming is going well, those interested can follow it here:

Next steps


These will be my priorities during the next couple of weeks, in order:

  1. Upstreaming
  2. Get the Mobilenet SSD V1 model running on the HW, for object detection
  3. Performance

Monday, November 6, 2023

Etnaviv NPU update 10: Upstreaming and TP jobs update

 If you remember the last update two weeks ago, I got MobileNetV1 working with good performance, and I was planning to move to upstreaming my changes to the Linux kernel and Mesa.

One of the kernel patches is now queued for the 6.7 release of the Linux kernel, and the other one has just been resent for reviews.

Regarding Mesa, I have made several cleanups and have started getting great review comments from Christian Gmeiner.

While waiting for feedback, I have started work on using the TP cores for tensor manipulation, which should be many times faster  than the naive code I was running on the CPU for this.

Got some jobs producing the correct results, but I'm facing a problem with the GPU hanging right afterwards. Have already made a pass at the whole set of data that is sent to the HW (unit configuration, command stream and registers), but haven't found yet the problem. I will next improve the tooling around this and get a better view of the differences.

I hacked Mesa to use the out-of-tree driver and my code works that way, so it has to be something at the kernel driver.

During the next weeks I will keep incorporating feedback and see how I can fix the GPU hang on TP jobs.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Etnaviv NPU update 9: We got there!


Since the last update I finally got the whole of MobileNetv1 running at full-accuracy on the NPU with Mesa:
tomeu@arm-64:~/mesa$ python3.10 -i grace_hopper.bmp -m mobilenet_v1_1.0_224_quant.tflite -l labels_mobilenet_quant_v1_224.txt -e
Loading external delegate from with args: {}
Processing the input took 18 ms.
Running the NN job took 13 ms.
Processing the output took 1 ms.
0.866667: military uniform
0.031373: Windsor tie
0.015686: mortarboard
0.007843: bow tie
0.007843: academic gown
time: 33.094ms
That takes us to a performance level around 3 times faster than running the same inference on the CPUs on the A311D SoC.

Most of the time (18 ms.) is spent in my naive manipulation of the input tensor, transposing and reshuffling it to match what the HW expects. Once we learn to do these operations on the 4 tensor manipulation cores, this time should be brought close to zero.

The 13 ms. that the convolutions take in the NPU is still sensibly higher than the 8 ms. that the blob achieves, but the optimizations mentioned in previous updates in this blog should bring us pretty close.

Next steps

Now that we have something that people can use in their products, I will switch to upstreaming mode.

I want to do a few cleanups to the Mesa code and then I will ask for people to review and ack so it can be merged. In the meantime, the draft merge request can be found here.

I would also like to have a CI job running to make sure it doesn't regress. But given that we don't use NIR as of yet and the dependencies with the rest of Mesa are minimal, there is probably little need as long as I'm the only person contributing to the code.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Etnaviv NPU update 8: Finally some inference


Last week I was a bit distracted with the trip to Paris for the Embedded Recipes conference, but later I have found some time for hacking and got some interesting results out of it.

Refactored the Gallium front-end

As commented in the previous update, I had found some limits in my testing due to the naive way that the front-end was scheduling jobs to the Gallium hardware-dependent driver.

I got to basically rewrite it (and removed any C++ remnants, on the way) and moved to a model in which the drivers would compile the operation blocks that they support to a format that can be quickly sent to the hardware.

As a side effect, I got proper memory management of the workload which allowed me to expand the testing I can do in a reasonable amount of time.

Also took the chance to rewrite the higher level scheduling data structure so all jobs in the same model partition are sent to the hardware in a single batch, for decreased latency.

Unfortunately I didn't get to remove copies of input and output tensors because the TensorFlow Lite API for this (TfLiteAsyncKernel) is undocumented and far from trivial. They seem to just be adding stuff on top to abstract whatever the Android folks may end up wanting to do.

Got MobileNet V1 to run

As part of the refactoring  from above, I got multiple operations in the same model to work, which got us to correctly running some inferences, even if at low accuracy rates:

by Julien Langlois CC BY-SA 3.0

tomeu@arm-64:~/mesa$ python3.10 -i hen.bmp -m mobilenet_v1_0.25_224_quant.tflite -l labels_mobilenet_quant_v1_224.txt -e
Loading external delegate from build/src/gallium/targets/teflon/ with args: {}
Teflon delegate: loaded etnaviv driver
INFO: Initialized TensorFlow Lite runtime.
VERBOSE: Replacing 27 out of 31 node(s) with delegate (Teflon Delegate) node, yielding 2 partitions for the whole graph.
0.960784: hen
0.015686: cock
0.007843: goose
0.003922: Pembroke
0.003922: Ibizan hound
time: 22.802ms

This matched bit by bit the output from the blob, even if I was doing some tensor operations by hand, on the CPU. That also causes it to run far too slowly. We should be able to get that down to around 5ms once we learn how to drive the TP units for tensor manipulation.

Presented this work at Embedded Recipes 2023

Tired of only writing about all this in this blog, I took the chance given to me by Kevin Hilman to present it in front of a captive audience.

You can find the slides here, and listen to the talk at:

Next steps

The previous update got more in deep into what is left to do in the medium term, so I will just mention what I plan to do in the immediate future:

  1. Get input and output channels working at the 512 level, so we can run a higher accuracy version of the MobileNet V1 network
  2. Learn to use the TP units to remove those costly transpositions and reshuffles in the CPU (at this point, we would have something useful to people on the field)
  3. Upstream changes to the Linux kernel
  4. Propose Teflon to the Mesa folks

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Etnaviv NPU update 7: Summer is over


With the kids back in school I have been able to work on the Vivante VIP NPU driver full-time during the two weeks after the last update, with quite some work coming out of the pipeline:

Found the problem with enabling the 8th NN core

Though I don't know exactly yet what the problem is, I found that by going back to a previous brute-force approach to powering up the NPU, the 8th core works just fine.

For now this unblocks the work and gets me closer to the initial goal of running a MobileNetv1 inference and seeing what the performance is like, so I'm leaving a proper fix for this for later.

I bet there's either a register that is being written in the wrong order, or a delay between register writes that is too short. Will have to delve into the power domain subsystem and/or the common clock framework in the Linux kernel to fix this one.

Added support for depthwise convolutions

MobileNetV1 introduced Separable Depthwise Convolutions (see the linked paper for an in-depth description), which are layers that contain a depthwise convolution to process each depth level separately, plus a pointwise convolution to rejoin them again. This offers the same result with 23x less multiplications, so it's very attractive for mobile use-cases.

This hardware doesn't support depthwise convolutions directly, but we can lower them to regular convolutions after modifying the weight tensor to cover each IFM/depth separately.

Added support for pointwise convolutions

For the second half of a Separable Depthwise Convolution, I just had to take into account that 1x1 kernels are packed in a different format in memory, as otherwise it would be very inefficient for each NN core to pull each 1-byte kernel separately from the memory bus.

Added support for unsigned weights

TensorFlow Lite has moved towards implementing a new quantization specification which gives preference to signed weights because of convenience, as symmetric quantization is simpler to implement. Unfortunately for us, our hardware works natively with unsigned weights so we would need to convert them if we were to use TFLite's new quantization.

But the models that Google themselves publish make use of the ancient tooling that still support the old, unsigned quantization scheme, so I had to find a way of producing models with unsigned quantization for our test suite, to match what MobileNetV1 does.

That also implied moving to per-tensor quantization, instead of per-axis.

Added support for higher IFMs and OFMs (up to 256 each)

In the previous update I explained how support for multiple input and output channels (or feature maps) was added, but I wasn't able to test with more than 7 output channels because the 8th NN core was MIA.

With that solved, I was able to see what would be needed for convolutions with higher channel counts, such as those that MobileNetV1 use (32, 64, 128, 256, 512 and 1024).

Each level implied revisiting the tiled format in which weights and biases are laid out in memory, making it more and more complex.

I got to 256, with 512 and 1024 bringing more changes in the tiled format that I still need to reverse engineer.

Next steps

Model partition compilation and resource management

I'm facing problems with testing coverage as we support so many different parameters that need to be tested in combination, with a explosion in the number of individual tests. Because of the hacky current state of the TFLite delegate (and Gallium state tracker) I'm not able to run all the tests because I don't have proper resource management implemented and so we reach OOM before the end.

So my next task after I get back from Embedded Recipes will be to refactor the delegate implementation so we have a proper compilation of the model partitions. These will own the weight+bias buffers as well as the intermediate tensors, with each inference just feeding an input tensor to the partition and retrieving an output tensor at the end.

This will allow me to scale up the automated testing further, so I can keep adding new features with confidence, knowing that I'm not adding regressions.

Move development to Cottonwood A311D board

Da Xue of LibreComputer has got Etnaviv and Teflon working on the new boards that his company is releasing soon. One of them contain a A311D SoC, the same as the VIM3 I'm currently using for development. I will be initially targeting that one, and later make sure that it also works on the Cottonwood boards that will have the S905D3 SoC, which has a VIP Pico instead of a VIP Nano.

Besides being in general a great FOSS champion and specifically being supportive of ML inference with open source, Da is directly sponsoring this work, so I look forward to meet him in Paris this week and exchange notes.

Bigger coefficient tensors

The last known features missing before being able to run MobileNetV1 are IFMs and OFMs of 512 and 1024, each.

Hopefully it will only require some further tweaking of the tiled memory representation of the coefficient buffer.

Medium term goals

I don't expect performance to be that great yet, so I plan on switching the focus to it after the above has been accomplished. I expect for the features below making the most impact in improving performance:
  1. Avoid copies in and out of the model partition, by mapping user buffers to the NPU
  2. Use the TP units for tensor manipulation (transposing, mostly)
  3. Properly configuring the automatic caching of kernels and images in the internal on-chip SRAM
  4. Use the external SRAM for intermediate tensor data
  5. Chain all TP and NN jobs in a model partition in the same command stream
  6. Enable zero-run-length compression in the coefficient buffer
  7. Tune the tiling parameters for reduced memory bandwidth usage

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Etnaviv NPU update 6: Almost there!


 This week started quite fruitfully, these features were added:

  • Convolutions with multiple input and output channels (input and output feature maps)
  • "Same" padding in convolutions

And with this we should have all the features we need to run a model such as MobileNet v1 and get some performance numbers to guide the next steps.

One more roadblock

Only that the NPU hangs when I try to use the 8th core... and this is required to run most detection models, as they start by convoluting the input to 32 feature maps.

Have checked and we are sending to the kernel bit-identical command streams and input buffers, so I suspect the problem will be somewhere in the kernel.

So I plan to instrument the out-of-tree kernel driver and get some register and command stream dumps, in the hope that there is some bit in a magic register somewhere that I need to flip.

Want to try it out?

I'm not really looking forward to such work, so I decided to first invest some time cleaning things up a bit to make it easier for other people to play with this if they wish.

I have removed from my branch everything from my previous attempt at using OpenCL and have written some documentation about how to run the TensorFlow Lite delegate:

You will need a VIM3 board, a recent mainline kernel and a Debian testing rootfs.