Profile PyTorch XLA workloads

Profiling is a way to analyze and improve the performance of models. Although there is much more to it, sometimes it helps to think of profiling as timing operations and parts of the code that run on both devices (TPUs) and hosts (CPUs). This guide provides a quick overview of how to profile your code for training or inference. For more information on how to analyze generated profiles, please refer to the following guides.

Get Started

Create a TPU

  1. Export environment variables:

    $ export TPU_NAME=your_tpu_name
    $ export ZONE=us-central2-b
    $ export PROJECT_ID=project-id
    $ export ACCELERATOR_TYPE=v4-8
    $ export RUNTIME_VERSION=tpu-vm-v4-pt-2.0

    Export variable descriptions

    TPU name
    The name you want to use for your Cloud TPU.
    The zone where you plan to create your Cloud TPU.
    project ID
    The project ID you are using to train and profile your model.
    The accelerator type specifies the version and size of the Cloud TPU you want to create. For more information about supported accelerator types for each TPU version, see TPU versions.
    The Cloud TPU runtime version. A default is shown in the exported variable, but you can also use one from the list of supported configurations.
  2. Launch the TPU resources

    $ gcloud compute tpus tpu-vm create ${TPU_NAME} \
    --zone us-central2-b \
    --accelerator-type ${ACCELERATOR_TYPE} \
    --version ${RUNTIME_VERSION} \
    --project $PROJECT_ID \
  3. Move your code to your home directory on the TPU VM using the gcloud scp command. For example:

    $ gcloud compute tpus tpu-vm scp my-code-file ${TPU_NAME}: --zone ${ZONE}


A profile can be captured manually through or programmatically from within the training script using the torch_xla.debug.profiler APIs.

Starting the Profile Server

In order to capture a profile, a profile server must be running within the training script. Start a server with a port number of your choice, for example 9012 as shown in the following command.

import torch_xla.debug.profiler as xp
server = xp.start_server(9012)

The server can be started right at the beginning of your main function.

You can now capture profiles as described in the following section. The script profiles everything that happens on one TPU device.

Adding Traces

If you would also like to profile operations on the host machine, you can add xp.StepTrace or xp.Trace in your code. These functions trace the Python code on the host machine. (You can think of this as measuring how much time it takes to execute the Python code on the host (CPU) before passing the "graph" to the TPU device. So it is mostly useful for analysing tracing overhead). You can add this inside the training loop where the code processes batches of data, for example,

for step, batch in enumerate(train_dataloader):
    with xp.StepTrace('Training_step', step_num=step): 

or wrap individual parts of the code with

 with xp.Trace('loss'): 
    loss = ...

If you are using Lighting you can skip adding traces as it is done automatically in some parts of the code. However if you want to add additional traces, you are welcome to insert them inside the training loop.

You will be able to capture device activity after the initial compilation; wait until the model starts its training or inference steps.

Manual Capture

The script from the Pytorch XLA repository enables quickly capturing a profile. You can do this by copying the capture profile file directly to your TPU VM. The following command copies it to the home directory.

$ gcloud compute tpus tpu-vm ssh ${TPU_NAME} \
--zone us-central2-b \
--worker=all \

While training is running, execute the following to capture a profile:

$ gcloud compute tpus tpu-vm ssh ${TPU_NAME} \
--zone us-central2-b \
--worker=all \
--command="python3 --service_addr "localhost:9012" --logdir ~/profiles/ --duration_ms 2000"

This command saves .xplane.pb files in the logdir. You can change the logging directory ~/profiles/ to your preferred location and name. It is also possible to directly save in the Cloud Storage bucket. To do that, set logdir to be gs://your_bucket_name/.

Programmatic Capture

Rather than capturing the profile manually by triggering a script, you can configure your training script to automatically trigger a profile by using the torch_xla.debug.profiler.trace_detached API within your train script.

As an example, to automatically capture a profile at a specific epoch and step, you can configure your training script to consume PROFILE_STEP, PROFILE_EPOCH, and PROFILE_LOGDIR environment variables:

import os
import torch_xla.debug.profiler as xp

# Within the training script, read the step and epoch to profile from the
# environment.
profile_step = int(os.environ.get('PROFILE_STEP', -1))
profile_epoch = int(os.environ.get('PROFILE_EPOCH', -1))

for epoch in range(num_epoch):
   for step, data in enumerate(epoch_dataloader):
      if epoch == profile_epoch and step == profile_step:
         profile_logdir = os.environ['PROFILE_LOGDIR']
         # Use trace_detached to capture the profile from a background thread
         xp.trace_detached('localhost:9012', profile_logdir)

This will save the .xplane.pb files in the directory specified by the PROFILE_LOGDIR environment variable.

Analysis in TensorBoard

To further analyze profiles you can use TensorBoard with the TPU TensorBoard plug-in
either on the same or on another machine (recommended).

To run TensorBoard on a remote machine, connect to it using SSH and enable port forwarding. For example,

$ ssh -L 6006:localhost:6006 remote server address


$ gcloud compute tpus tpu-vm ssh $TPU_NAME --zone=$ZONE --ssh-flag="-4 -L 6006:localhost:6006"

On your remote machine, install the required packages and launch TensorBoard (assuming you have profiles on that machine under ~/profiles/). If you stored the profiles in another directory or Cloud Storage bucket, make sure to specify paths correctly, for example, gs://your_bucket_name/profiles.

(vm)$ pip install tensorflow tensorboard-plugin-profile 
(vm)$ tensorboard --logdir ~/profiles/ --port 6006
(vm)$ pip uninstall tensorflow tf-nightly tensorboard tb-nightly tbp-nightly

Running TensorBoard

In your local browser go to: http://localhost:6006/ and choose PROFILE from the drop-down menu to load your profiles.

Refer to TPU tools for information on the TensorBoard tools and how to interpret the output.