Get Started with TVM

Author: Tianqi Chen

This is an introduction tutorial to TVM. TVM is a domain specific language for efficient kernel construction.

In this tutorial, we will demonstrate the basic workflow in TVM.

from __future__ import absolute_import, print_function

import tvm
import numpy as np

Vector Add Example

In this tutorial, we will use a vector addition example to demonstrate the workflow.

Describe the Computation

As a first step, we need to describe our computation. TVM adopts tensor semantics, with each intermediate result represented as multi-dimensional array. The user need to describe the computation rule that generate the tensors.

We first define a symbolic variable n to represent the shape. We then define two placeholder Tensors, A and B, with given shape (n,)

We then describe the result tensor C, with a compute operation. The compute function takes the shape of the tensor, as well as a lambda function that describes the computation rule for each position of the tensor.

No computation happens during this phase, as we are only declaring how the computation should be done.

n = tvm.var("n")
A = tvm.placeholder((n,), name='A')
B = tvm.placeholder((n,), name='B')
C = tvm.compute(A.shape, lambda i: A[i] + B[i], name="C")


<class 'tvm.tensor.Tensor'>

Schedule the Computation

While the above lines describes the computation rule, we can compute C in many ways since the axis of C can be computed in data parallel manner. TVM asks user to provide a description of computation called schedule.

A schedule is a set of transformation of computation that transforms the loop of computations in the program.

After we construct the schedule, by default the schedule computes C in a serial manner in a row-major order.

for (int i = 0; i < n; ++i) {
  C[i] = A[i] + B[i];

We used the split construct to split the first axis of C, this will split the original iteration axis into product of two iterations. This is equivalent to the following code.

for (int bx = 0; bx < ceil(n / 64); ++bx) {
  for (int tx = 0; tx < 64; ++tx) {
    int i = bx * 64 + tx;
    if (i < n) {
      C[i] = A[i] + B[i];
bx, tx = s[C].split(C.op.axis[0], factor=64)

Finally we bind the iteration axis bx and tx to threads in the GPU compute grid. These are GPU specific constructs that allows us to generate code that runs on GPU.

s[C].bind(bx, tvm.thread_axis("blockIdx.x"))
s[C].bind(tx, tvm.thread_axis("threadIdx.x"))


After we have finished specifying the schedule, we can compile it into a TVM function. By default TVM compiles into a type-erased function that can be directly called from python side.

In the following line, we use to create a function. The build function takes the schedule, the desired signature of the function(including the inputs and outputs) as well as target language we want to compile to.

The result of compilation fadd is a CUDA device function that can as well as a host wrapper that calls into the CUDA function. fadd is the generated host wrapper function, it contains reference to the generated device function internally.

fadd_cuda =, [A, B, C], "cuda", target_host="llvm", name="myadd")

Run the Function

The compiled function TVM function is designed to be a concise C API that can be invoked from any languages.

We provide an minimum array API in python to aid quick testing and prototyping. The array API is based on DLPack standard.

  • We first create a gpu context.
  • Then tvm.nd.array copies the data to gpu.
  • fadd runs the actual computation.
  • asnumpy() copies the gpu array back to cpu and we can use this to verify correctness
ctx = tvm.gpu(0)
n = 1024
a = tvm.nd.array(np.random.uniform(size=n).astype(A.dtype), ctx)
b = tvm.nd.array(np.random.uniform(size=n).astype(B.dtype), ctx)
c = tvm.nd.array(np.zeros(n, dtype=C.dtype), ctx)
fadd_cuda(a, b, c)
np.testing.assert_allclose(c.asnumpy(), a.asnumpy() + b.asnumpy())

Inspect the Generated Code

You can inspect the generated code in TVM. The result of is a tvm Module. fadd is the host module that contains the host wrapper, it also contains a device module for the CUDA function.

The following code fetches the device module and prints the content code.

dev_module = fadd_cuda.imported_modules[0]
print("-----CUDA code-----")


-----CUDA code-----
extern "C" __global__ void myadd__kernel0(float* __restrict__ C, float* __restrict__ A, float* __restrict__ B, int n) {
  if (((int)blockIdx.x) < ((n + -127) / 64)) {
    C[((((int)blockIdx.x) * 64) + ((int)threadIdx.x))] = (A[((((int)blockIdx.x) * 64) + ((int)threadIdx.x))] + B[((((int)blockIdx.x) * 64) + ((int)threadIdx.x))]);
  } else {
    if ((((int)blockIdx.x) * 64) < (n - ((int)threadIdx.x))) {
      C[((((int)blockIdx.x) * 64) + ((int)threadIdx.x))] = (A[((((int)blockIdx.x) * 64) + ((int)threadIdx.x))] + B[((((int)blockIdx.x) * 64) + ((int)threadIdx.x))]);


Code Specialization

As you may noticed, during the declaration, A, B and C both takes the same shape argument n. TVM will take advantage of this to pass only single shape argument to the kernel, as you will find in the printed device code. This is one form of specialization.

On the host side, TVM will automatically generate check code that checks the constraints in the parameters. So if you pass arrays with different shapes into the fadd, an error will be raised.

We can do more specializations. For example, we can write n = tvm.convert(1024) instead of n = tvm.var("n"), in the computation declaration. The generated function will only take vectors with length 1024.

Save Compiled Module

Besides runtime compilation, we can save the compiled modules into file and load them back later. This is called ahead of time compilation.

The following code first does the following step:

  • It saves the compiled host module into an object file.
  • Then it saves the device module into a ptx file.
  • cc.create_shared calls a env compiler(gcc) to create a shared library
from tvm.contrib import cc
from tvm.contrib import util

temp = util.tempdir()"myadd.o"))
cc.create_shared(temp.relpath(""), [temp.relpath("myadd.o")])


['myadd.ptx', '', 'myadd.o', 'myadd.tvm_meta.json']


Module Storage Format

The CPU(host) module is directly saved as a shared library(so). There can be multiple customed format on the device code. In our example, device code is stored in ptx, as well as a meta data json file. They can be loaded and linked seperatedly via import.

Load Compiled Module

We can load the compiled module from the file system and run the code. The following code load the host and device module seperatedly and re-link them together. We can verify that the newly loaded function works.

fadd1 = tvm.module.load(temp.relpath(""))
fadd1_dev = tvm.module.load(temp.relpath("myadd.ptx"))
fadd1(a, b, c)
np.testing.assert_allclose(c.asnumpy(), a.asnumpy() + b.asnumpy())

Pack Everything into One Library

In the above example, we store the device and host code seperatedly. TVM also supports export everything as one shared library. Under the hood, we pack the device modules into binary blobs and link them together with the host code. Currently we support packing of Metal, OpenCL and CUDA modules.

fadd2 = tvm.module.load(temp.relpath(""))
fadd2(a, b, c)
np.testing.assert_allclose(c.asnumpy(), a.asnumpy() + b.asnumpy())


Runtime API and Thread-Safety

The compiled modules of TVM do not depend on the TVM compiler. Instead, it only depends on a minimum runtime library. TVM runtime library wraps the device drivers and provides thread-safe and device agnostic call into the compiled functions.

This means you can call the compiled TVM function from any thread, on any GPUs.

Generate OpenCL Code

TVM provides code generation features into multiple backends, we can also generate OpenCL code or LLVM code that runs on CPU backends.

The following codeblocks generate opencl code, creates array on opencl device, and verifies the correctness of the code.

fadd_cl =, [A, B, C], "opencl", name="myadd")
print("------opencl code------")
ctx =
n = 1024
a = tvm.nd.array(np.random.uniform(size=n).astype(A.dtype), ctx)
b = tvm.nd.array(np.random.uniform(size=n).astype(B.dtype), ctx)
c = tvm.nd.array(np.zeros(n, dtype=C.dtype), ctx)
fadd_cl(a, b, c)
np.testing.assert_allclose(c.asnumpy(), a.asnumpy() + b.asnumpy())


------opencl code------
__kernel void myadd__kernel0(__global float* restrict C, __global float* restrict A, __global float* restrict B, int n) {
  if (((int)get_group_id(0)) < ((n + -127) / 64)) {
    C[((((int)get_group_id(0)) * 64) + ((int)get_local_id(0)))] = (A[((((int)get_group_id(0)) * 64) + ((int)get_local_id(0)))] + B[((((int)get_group_id(0)) * 64) + ((int)get_local_id(0)))]);
  } else {
    if ((((int)get_group_id(0)) * 64) < (n - ((int)get_local_id(0)))) {
      C[((((int)get_group_id(0)) * 64) + ((int)get_local_id(0)))] = (A[((((int)get_group_id(0)) * 64) + ((int)get_local_id(0)))] + B[((((int)get_group_id(0)) * 64) + ((int)get_local_id(0)))]);


This tutorial provides a walk through of TVM workflow using a vector add example. The general workflow is

  • Describe your computation via series of operations.
  • Describe how we want to compute use schedule primitives.
  • Compile to the target function we want.
  • Optionally, save the function to be loaded later.

You are more than welcomed to checkout other examples and tutorials to learn more about the supported operations, schedule primitives and other features in TVM.

Total running time of the script: ( 0 minutes 0.860 seconds)

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