Mar 31st, 2024 @ justine's web page

LLaMA Now Goes Faster on CPUs

I just wrote 84 new matrix multiplication kernels for llamafile which enable it to read prompts / images faster. Compared to llama.cpp, prompt eval time with llamafile should go anywhere between 30% and 500% faster when using F16 and Q8_0 weights on CPU. The improvements are most dramatic for ARMv8.2+ (e.g. RPI 5), Intel (e.g. Alderlake), and AVX512 (e.g. Zen 4) computers. My kernels go 2x faster than MKL for matrices that fit in L2 cache, which makes them a work in progress, since the speedup works best for prompts having fewer than 1,000 tokens.


llamafile is a local LLM project I started with Mozilla back in Nov 2023. We're using Cosmopolitan Libc to package llama.cpp as a single-file cross-platform binary that runs on six OSes for AMD64 and ARM64, while making gentle modifications. I believe that by improving the core technology, we can give our users the best possible llama.cpp experience, while helping both projects reach a broader audience. Mozilla has been giving me the resources to do this.

Performance Gains on Enterprise Hardware

When I first got into LLMs, my workstation was an austere Hewlett Packard running Alpine with a spinning disk, slow RAM, an AVX2 processor, and no GPU. What I liked about llama.cpp is they were the first LLM project that cared about people like me. So I started volunteering full time and collaborated with guys like Slaren to introduce mmap() support, which made weights load instantly using half as much RAM. It was a leap forward for local LLMs at the time, but did little to improve evaluation speed. Most of the inference code was written by Georgi Gerganov himself, and it's so good that it'd take me another year to finally improve upon. Now that I have, let's see how much faster things go on my old Hewlett Packard.

[photo of an HP
     ProDesk 600 G5 workstation]

LLM Performance on HP Intel® Core™ i9-9900 ($439) w/ 2200 MT/s RAM c. 2020

model weights
data type
hardware software
28 7Mistral 7b q4_0Skylake llamafile-0.7
17 7Mistral 7b q4_0Skylake llama.cpp 2024-03-26
12 7Mistral 7b q4_0Skylake llamafile-0.6.2
32 4Mistral 7b q8_0Skylake llamafile-0.7
22 4Mistral 7b q8_0Skylake llama.cpp 2024-03-26
16 4Mistral 7b q8_0Skylake llamafile-0.6.2
23 2Mistral 7b f16Skylake llamafile-0.7
15 2Mistral 7b f16Skylake llama.cpp 2024-03-26
14 2Mistral 7b f16Skylake llamafile-0.6.2
205 26TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0Skylake llamafile-0.7
144 26TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0Skylake llama.cpp 2024-03-26
91 23TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0Skylake llamafile-0.6.2
171 15TinyLlama 1.1B f16Skylake llamafile-0.7
118 15TinyLlama 1.1B f16Skylake llama.cpp 2024-03-26
101 15TinyLlama 1.1B f16Skylake llamafile-0.6.2

Here we see that, on Skylake, llamafile users can expect to see a 2x speedup and llama.cpp users can expect 50% better performance. Please note this only applies to certain weights. So far, I've only written optimized kernels for the q8_0, f16, q4_1, q4_0, and f32 data types. I think both q8_0 and f16 are really solid choices. Possibly even f32 if you've got plenty of RAM. That's because my new kernels change the rules. They're doing such a good job fixing the memory bandwidth quants always solved, that quantization could become the bigger bottleck. That would be great news for the future of local language models, since it means less need to trade away knowledge for speed.

Performance Gains on Hobbyist Hardware

You don't need a large computer to run a large language model. One of the best personal computers available in stores today is the Raspberry Pi. They deliver good performance at a great price and consume very little power.

[photo of a raspberry pi 5 computer board]

LLM Performance on $100 Raspberry Pi v5 (ARMv8.2) and v4 (ARMv8.0)

model weights
data type
hardware software
62 5TinyLlama 1.1B f16RPI5 llamafile-0.7
28 5TinyLlama 1.1B f16RPI5 llama.cpp 2024-03-26
8 5TinyLlama 1.1B f16RPI5 llamafile-0.6.2
45 9TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0RPI5 llamafile-0.7
35 9TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0RPI5 llama.cpp 2024-03-26
20 9TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0RPI5 llamafile-0.6.2
10 3TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0RPI4 llamafile-0.7
10 3TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0RPI4 llama.cpp 2024-03-26
9 3TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0RPI4 llamafile-0.6.2
3 2TinyLlama 1.1B f16RPI4 llamafile-0.7
3 2TinyLlama 1.1B f16RPI4 llama.cpp 2024-03-26
4 2TinyLlama 1.1B f16RPI4 llamafile-0.6.2

Raspberry Pi released their fifth edition a few months ago and it's outrageously fast compared to their previous model. They also introduced support for the ARMv8.2 dotprod and fp16 arithmetic ISAs, which are very useful for LLMs. Those two features alone enabled llama.cpp to achieve a 10x performance boost for f16 weights last year. This week I teased out another 2x performance boost on top of that, by using a kernel that I originally intended for AVX512. You wouldn't think a kernel designed for beefy data center equipment would work out for a teensy tiny little Raspberry Pi, but it actually fit hand in glove since both CPUs have 32 vector registers.

It's worthwhile to note that the new ARMv8.2 fp16 ISA may introduce more errors than usual, since it causes llamafile to use fp16 words and we aren't using techniques like Kahan summation for computing dot products. So Q8_0 weights actually end up having slightly better perplexity, because it uses the dotprod ISA which lets us updot signed 8-bit integers into a 32-bit compute type which absorbs errors. However this doesn't mean the faster fp16 weights can't be useful. Many developers in this field view the differences as negligible.

For example, let's say you want to setup an email server on your pihole and have TinyLLaMA filter spam. It's possible to configure Postfix to filter content using a shell script which lets you run the llamafile command.

llamafile -m TinyLlama-1.1B-Chat-v1.0.f16.gguf \
          --grammar 'root ::= "yes" | "no"' --temp 0 -c 0 \
          --no-display-prompt --log-disable -p "<|user|>
Can you say for certain that the following email is spam?

From: Federal-Tax-DebtHelp <>
Subject: Reduce your payments to what you can afford

Reduce your payments to what you can afford 

When I run the shell script above on my RPI5, it takes 3 seconds.

jart@pi5:~/scratch$ time ./

real    0m3.168s
user    0m10.851s
sys     0m0.541s

There are several important things happening here:

Please note that spam filtering is just the tip of the iceberg. I've always thought that "generative ai" is a misnomer, because language models (more commonly known as "The Algorithm") have always been used by tech companies in the past to extract knowledge, curate information, and rank content. That requires reading rather than writing. AI has never traditionally needed to talk that much, because the English language just isn't that useful at the scale tech companies operate. Even if you could generate English summaries for exabytes of text a millionth its size, that would still be more words than any team could hope to read in a lifetime.

Performance Gains on Gaming Hardware

Gamers have the highest quality expectations of any value consumer, so any hardware built for them is usually pretty good. In the machine learning industry, we have thrived for years repurposing hardware that was intended for gamers. If it weren't for their important contribution, the AI Winter may have needed to last another ten years. So a few months ago, I asked a gamer to build me a computer that can replace my old Hewlett Packard.

[photo of computer in black box with metal panels and rgb fans]

LLM Performance on Intel® Core™ i9-14900K ($530) w/ 6400 MT/s RAM

model weights
data type
hardware software
63 12Mistral 7b q8_0Alderlake llamafile-0.7
40 9Mistral 7b q8_0Alderlake llama.cpp 2024-03-26
19 7Mistral 7b q8_0Alderlake llamafile-0.6.2
50 7Mistral 7b f16Alderlake llamafile-0.7
13 5Mistral 7b f16Alderlake llama.cpp 2024-03-26
10 4Mistral 7b f16Alderlake llamafile-0.6.2
406 67TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0Alderlake llamafile-0.7
273 53TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0Alderlake llama.cpp 2024-03-26
114 43TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0Alderlake llamafile-0.6.2
407 42TinyLlama 1.1B f16Alderlake llamafile-0.7
90 31TinyLlama 1.1B f16Alderlake llama.cpp 2024-03-26
68 30TinyLlama 1.1B f16Alderlake llamafile-0.6.2

I think Alderlake is a great CPU but it's popularly misunderstood, as evidenced by how easily I quintupled its float16 performance. Unlike ARMv8.2, I was able to do that without introducing rounding errors, since my x86 kernels use a float32 compute type internally. This means I can have an even smarter spam filter. For example, when I run my shell script, it only takes 420 milliseconds, which is 7x faster than my Raspberry Pi 5. That's right, when it comes to small workloads, this chip is able to finish before CUDA even gets started.

Alderlake owners can also look forward to the fact that llamafile takes special care to not run on your efficiency cores. This is one of the things that helps llamafile to go faster than llama.cpp. It also means you can run LLMs around the clock and there's still plenty of resources leftover for the other programs on your computer. The reason why that's important is because llama.cpp dispatches threads in lockstep, which would have meant that if any 1 core takes longer than the others to do its job, then all other n cores would need to busy loop until it completed.

However the greatest feature of this microprocessor is how quickly it can build all 2.6 million lines of code in the Cosmopolitan monorepo. My Hewlett Packard always took 64 seconds, but this gaming computer does it in 20. It actually took 35 seconds originally; what made it faster was applying liquid metal and AI overclocking. Another reason systems code is so fast on the Alderlake is there was a fire fight between the hackers and scientists in the creation of this CPU, and the hackers won. I hope they'll strike out a better compromise on AVX512 in the future, but overall I'm very happy with this chip, since I believe it represents significant progress over previous models.

Performance Gains on Apple Hardware

If there's a personal computer with the most class, it would definitely be the Mac Studio. Gaining the performance advantage here was harder for me, because it's the hardware platform the llama.cpp developers care about most, plus I'm working with a handicap due to my choice to use Stallman's compiler instead of Apple's proprietary tools.

[photo of a silvery Mac Studio computer cube]

LLM Performance on Mac Studio CPU w/ 24-core M2 Ultra ($5000)

model weights
data type
hardware software
90 25Mistral 7b q8_0M2 Ultra llamafile-0.7
90 27Mistral 7b q8_0M2 Ultra llama.cpp 2024-03-26
37 24Mistral 7b q8_0M2 Ultra llamafile-0.6.2
79 15Mistral 7b f16M2 Ultra llamafile-0.7
57 15Mistral 7b f16M2 Ultra llama.cpp 2024-03-26
21 15Mistral 7b f16M2 Ultra llamafile-0.6.2
457 95TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0M2 Ultra llamafile-0.7
564 108TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0M2 Ultra llama.cpp 2024-03-26
236 95TinyLlama 1.1B q8_0M2 Ultra llamafile-0.6.2
419 66TinyLlama 1.1B f16M2 Ultra llamafile-0.7
400 67TinyLlama 1.1B f16M2 Ultra llama.cpp 2024-03-26
141 66TinyLlama 1.1B f16M2 Ultra llamafile-0.6.2

I wouldn't want to pick a fight with an Apple user, because their M2 microprocessor turns llamafile into a firehose of synthetic content. The trick Apple used to do it is leveraging their vertical integration. If you buy a Mac Studio and look inside, you'll discover that they put the RAM DIMMs inside the CPU. It makes latency-bound operations like token generation go much faster, because the CPU no longer needs to make all these long distance phone calls. However, in terms of sheer flops (as measured by prompt tok/sec), we can see that compared to my much cheaper Intel computer, the M2 Ultra only exposes 30% more compute via the ARM ISA. You need to go through their proprietary frameworks like Metal and Accelerate if you want to access anything more. If you have xcode installed, then llamafile by default will compile a small stub module which does just that, since despite my values I'm happy to help you get in front of any closed source library standing between you and your silicon.

One important thing to know if you're considering buying a Mac Studio is that, like the Windows Executive, XNU does a really good job keeping your desktop stable, and that means protecting your system from you. It takes me 45 seconds on Mac Studio to compile the Cosmo monorepo, due to all these safety features; but if I fork bombed it, I'd be surprised if Netflix skipped a single frame. My script also goes 430ms, which is slower than Intel. However none of this concerns me, since I've seen the way Asahi Linux is able to unleash the M2's full potential.

Performance Gains on Professional Hardware

While llamafile cares deeply about helping the GPU poor, it offers a first-class experience to the 1% too. The AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO 7995WX was just launched several months ago and it's the most expensive CPU money can buy right now. It'll set you back $10,000 but you get 96 cores of AVX512, based on the Zen4 architecture.

[photo of AMD Ryzen 4 ThreadRipper Pro box]

LLM Performance on AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO 7995WX w/ 96 cores ($10,000)

model weights
data type
hardware software
557 17Mistral 7b bf167995WX llamafile-0.7
485 17Mistral 7b f167995WX llamafile-0.7
197 16Mistral 7b f167995WX llama.cpp 2024-03-29
52 18Mistral 7b f167995WX llamafile-0.6.2
480 10Mistral 7b f327995WX llamafile-0.7
221 10Mistral 7b f327995WX llama.cpp 2024-03-30
38 9Mistral 7b f327995WX llamafile-0.6.2
382 25Mistral 7b q8_07995WX llamafile-0.7
283 24Mistral 7b q8_07995WX llama.cpp 2024-03-29
37 25Mistral 7b q8_07995WX llamafile-0.6.2
1929 52TinyLlama 1.1B bf167995WX llamafile-0.7
1819 52TinyLlama 1.1B f167995WX llamafile-0.7
824 51TinyLlama 1.1B f167995WX llama.cpp 2024-03-29
295 89TinyLlama 1.1B f167995WX llamafile-0.6.2
1268 60TinyLlama 1.1B q8_07995WX llamafile-0.7
1127 60TinyLlama 1.1B q8_07995WX llama.cpp 2024-03-29
169 93TinyLlama 1.1B q8_07995WX llamafile-0.6.2

Here we see that, despite only being twice the price, the 7995WX x86 ISA offers 7x more raw compute power than the M2 Ultra ARM ISA, and nearly the same token generation speed, which is likely thanks to its 384mb L3 cache. When I bought this chip, I had to expand support in llama.cpp for bfloat16 and AVX512 before I could fully test its capabilities. My work means you can now run LLaMA 2.8x faster on Zen4 than you could before.

One thing I like about AVX512 is that Google's Gemma model can solve math riddles on AVX512 but not on AVX2 because the bigger vectors usually make it easier to reduce rounding errors. Its VDPBF16PS instruction helps us updot bf16 similar to VNNI and ARM dotprod. Having native support for bf16 is nice, since models like Mistral and TinyLLaMA distribute weights using bfloat16 as their canonical format. If we were to convert bf16 to fp16, then only 13% of the numbers that are possible can be accurately represented. In practice, it matters little, since 99.71% of the numbers Mistral 7b uses are among that 13%. However I believe that llamafile should deliver, to the best of its ability, whatever number of bits are being claimed. Especially when doing so also enables us to better exploit the capabilities of our hardware. Adding bf16 support is my first big step towards improving that.

Please be warned that a lot of people who bought this Threadripper ran into issues with sketchy RAM. I had to RMA the first DIMMs I bought for this computer, because most of them died and I was getting 5 eval tokens per second with Mistral. I've been having better luck with a new full kit of eight sticks that just arrived today. When I run sysbench memory run it reports 10,033,424 mops, which is oddly faster than my Mac Studio where 9,892,584 mops is reported, however my Intel computer does 14,490,952. I expected my Threadripper's RAM to have that speed since both set of components advertised 6400 MT/s with the same timings, but I'm told that I traded this away to have 256GB of ECC. As for disk speed, dd if=/dev/zero of=/tmp/output bs=128k count=50k; rm -f /tmp/output reports 1.6 GB/s which is 3.6x slower than my Mac Studio, and 3x slower than my Intel (which has the same M.2 stick). I'm told that Intel and Apple are just better at this, but I wish I understood why.

Last but not least, it runs my script in 323ms and builds the whole Cosmo monorepo in 13 seconds. It's actually capable of building it faster, since this is the first time I've ever seen my build config being constrained by an individual artifact blocking the critical path. I never thought I'd live to see the day. I'm also puzzled that llamafile v0.6.2 is somehow managing to do 93 tokens per second; that's 40% faster than my M2. It's exciting news, since after reviewing the breadth of this blog post, I would have wept if there were no more optimizations possible.

Source Code

The source code for my matrix multiplication kernels can be found at:

Both Mozilla and myself felt it would be worthwhile to contribute these improvements to the upstream project. Doing that required adapting the code to their preferred method of handling portability at compile-time. We also took the liberty of changing the license from Apache 2.0 to MIT, since the latter is what the llama.cpp developers prefer. Here are links to the most recent pull requests I've sent them:

Technical Details

How I Improved Prompt Eval Time on CPUs

There are dozens of mathematical operations a transformer model needs to perform in order to generate text, e.g. rope, transpose, reshape, softmax, rms_norm, etc. All of the performance improvements I described above, were achieved by focusing exclusively on a single one, which is GGML_OP_MUL_MAT, because that's what my Linux Perf profiler told me llamafile spends 95% of its time doing.

So what is this matrix multiplication thing? We shall start by defining the most important algorithm in the world using the pythonic dialect of Python that is most popular with developers today:

def matmul(A, B):
  assert len(B) == len(A[0])
  return [[sum(A[i][l] * B[l][j]
               for l in range(len(B)))
           for j in range(len(B[0]))]
          for i in range(len(A))]

As we can see, it's just three for loops and a multiply-add. How hard could it be?

On my workstation (which I call meatball), the code above goes a screeching 0.042 gigaflops. Most Python programmers are smart enough to know that they should delegate tasks like these to a library like np.matmul, which goes 29 gigaflops. NumPy achieves its speed using FORTRAN which for generations has been favored by real programmers who've led us to believe these libraries are something mysterious chiseled in stone by the hand of Moses himself; but if we look at the FORTRAN code NumPy actually uses, then it really isn't all that complicated and could clearly benefit from some revision.

*     .. Scalar Arguments ..
*     .. Array Arguments ..
      REAL A(LDA,*),B(LDB,*),C(LDC,*)
*           Form  C := alpha*A*B + beta*C.
              DO 90 J = 1,N
                  IF (BETA.EQ.ZERO) THEN
                      DO 50 I = 1,M
                          C(I,J) = ZERO
   50                 CONTINUE
                  ELSE IF (BETA.NE.ONE) THEN
                      DO 60 I = 1,M
                          C(I,J) = BETA*C(I,J)
   60                 CONTINUE
                  END IF
                  DO 80 L = 1,K
                      IF (B(L,J).NE.ZERO) THEN
                          TEMP = ALPHA*B(L,J)
                          DO 70 I = 1,M
                              C(I,J) = C(I,J) + TEMP*A(I,L)
   70                     CONTINUE
                      END IF
   80             CONTINUE
   90         CONTINUE

I like to define my subroutines using a modern language like C++, which goes 47 gigaflops. This means C++ is three orders of a magnitude faster than Python. That's twenty years of progress per Moore's law.

// multiplies matrices on cpu
// with column major ordering
//     m×k * k×n → m×n
//     k×m * k×n → m×n if aᵀ
//     m×k * n×k → m×n if bᵀ
//     k×m * n×k → m×n if aᵀ and bᵀ
template <typename T,  typename TA,
          typename TB, typename TC>
void GEMM(bool aᵀ, bool bᵀ,
          int m, int n, int k, T α,
          const TA *A, int lda,
          const TB *B, int ldb, T β,
          TC *C, int ldc) {
    assert(m >= 0 && n >= 0 && k >= 0);
    assert(lda >= std::max(1, aᵀ ? k : m));
    assert(ldb >= std::max(1, bᵀ ? n : k));
    assert(ldc >= std::max(1, m));
#pragma omp parallel for collapse(2) if (m * n * k > 300000)
    for (int i = 0; i < m; ++i)
        for (int j = 0; j < n; ++j) {
            T d = 0;
            for (int l = 0; l < k; ++l) {
                T a = A[aᵀ ? lda * i + l : lda * l + i];
                T b = B[bᵀ ? ldb * l + j : ldb * j + l];
                d += a * b;
            if (β) {
                T c = C[ldc * j + i];
                C[ldc * j + i] = α * d + β * c;
            } else {
                C[ldc * j + i] = α * d;

In order to do better than 47 gigaflops on CPU, most C++ developers are smart enough to know they should use a BLAS library. Mightiest of the open source BLAS is BLIS which is funded by Microsoft, Intel, Texas Instruments, AMD, HPE, Oracle, Huawei, Facebook, ARM, and the National Science Foundation.

"Any time somebody outside Intel beats MKL by a nontrivial amount, I report it to the MKL team. It is fantastic for any open-source project to get within 10% of MKL... [T]his is why Intel funds BLIS development." (@jeffhammond) blis/issues/264

That's very impressive. Matrix multiplication is the practical application of hardware that hardware makers care about optimizing most. Since nobody knows more about Intel hardware than Intel, I imagine it's not everday that somebody manages to challenge Intel for supremacy on their own platform. Based on my own evaluation, what BLIS says is true. However that is only true for single-threaded performance. Their multithreading mode is still experimental, but if I use a ./configure flag to turn it on, then I'm able to boost performance to 85 gigaflops.

llama.cpp had the important insight that less is more when it comes to linear algebra. The alpha and beta parameters are never used, so they're always set to to 1 and 0. The op graph for LLMs are designed in such a way that the A matrix is almost always transposed and B is almost never transposed, which means inner dimension dot product can vectorize over contiguous memory. The m/k dimensions are usually evenly divisible by 64. While generating tokens, n=1 is usually the case, which makes matmul a de facto matvec for the performance most people care about. BLAS libraries usually hurt more than they help for matrix-vector multiplication, because it's so computationally simple by comparison. Sort of like the difference between downloading a movie and pinging a server. Matrix vector multiplication is an operation where latency (not throughput) is the bottleneck, and the bloat of fancy libraries has a measurable impact. So llama.cpp does something like this, which goes 233 gigaflops.

template <typename T>
void LLMM(int m, int n, int k,
          const T *A, int lda,
          const T *B, int ldb,
          T *C, int ldc) {
#pragma omp parallel for collapse(2) if (m * n * k > 300000)
    for (int i = 0; i < m; ++i)
        for (int j = 0; j < n; ++j) {
            T d = 0;
            for (int l = 0; l < k; ++l)
                d += A[lda * i + l] * B[ldb * j + l];
            C[ldc * j + i] = d;

This gives us the best possible token generation speeds. However llama.cpp's Achilles heel on CPU has always been prompt processing speed, which goes much slower. That's because chewing through prompts requires bona fide matrix-matrix multiplication. Being able to do this fast is important if you care about text summarization and LLaVA image processing. That's the reason why support for countless BLAS libraries has been added to llama.cpp over the past year. The most formidable of them is Intel's Math Kernel Library (MKL) which goes 384 gigaflops.

The difference between 233 versus 384 gigaflops may not seem like much, at least not compared to Python, but it's a tremendous gulf. MKL is also closed source and proprietary. We aren't even allowed to disassemble it and try to reverse engineer how it works. Intel has been developing math kernels for fifty years and they hold the secrets they've acquired very close to their chest. But even if our desire for performance was so great that we were willing to overlook the ethics of an open source project spending the majority of its time inside a proprietary blob, the simple fact of the matter is that integrating foreign BLAS libraries into llama.cpp isn't that practical, due to the way its threading model works. In order to improve prompt processing speed, we must figure out the trick BLAS libraries use, and implement it in a scrappy dependency-free way that stays true to llama.cpp's roots.

I believe the trick with CPU math kernels is exploiting instruction level parallelism with fewer memory references. If you compile the example above with -O3 -ffast-math -march=native then the code your compiler generates should look like this:

void SLLMM(int m, int n, int k,
           const float *A, int lda,
           const float *B, int ldb,
           float *C, int ldc) {
#pragma omp parallel for collapse(2) if (m * n * k > 300000)
    for (int i = 0; i < m; ++i)
        for (int j = 0; j < n; ++j) {
            __m256 c = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            for (int l = 0; l < k; l += 8)
                c = _mm256_fmadd_ps(_mm256_loadu_ps(A + lda * i + l),
                                    _mm256_loadu_ps(B + ldb * j + l), c);
            C[ldc * j + i] = hsum(c);

So what llama.cpp usually does when it wants to improve things, is it'll unroll the innermost loop like this:

void SLLMM2(int m, int n, int k,
           const float *A, int lda,
           const float *B, int ldb,
           float *C, int ldc) {
#pragma omp parallel for collapse(2) if (m * n * k > 300000)
    for (int i = 0; i < m; ++i)
        for (int j = 0; j < n; ++j) {
            __m256 c0 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c1 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            for (int l = 0; l < k; l += 16) {
                c0 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(_mm256_loadu_ps(A + lda * i + l + 0),
                                     _mm256_loadu_ps(B + ldb * j + l + 0), c0);
                c1 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(_mm256_loadu_ps(A + lda * i + l + 8),
                                     _mm256_loadu_ps(B + ldb * j + l + 8), c1);
            C[ldc * j + i] = hsum(c0) + hsum(c1);

That may slightly improve numerical stability, but it does very little to enhance performance, since modern CPUs are perfectly capable of speculatively executing future loop iterations on their own. What we want to do instead is unroll the outer loop. The advantage of doing this becomes clear if we consider how it enables us to share the a0 register load across multiple floating point operations.

void SLLMM4(int m, int n, int k,
            const float *A, int lda,
            const float *B, int ldb,
            float *C, int ldc) {
#pragma omp parallel for collapse(2) if (m * n * k > 300000)
    for (int i = 0; i < m; ++i)
        for (int j = 0; j < n; j += 4) {
            __m256 c0 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c1 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c2 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c3 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            for (int l = 0; l < k; l += 8) {
                __m256 a0 = _mm256_loadu_ps(A + lda * (i + 0) + l);
                __m256 k0 = _mm256_loadu_ps(B + ldb * (j + 0) + l);
                __m256 k1 = _mm256_loadu_ps(B + ldb * (j + 1) + l);
                __m256 k2 = _mm256_loadu_ps(B + ldb * (j + 2) + l);
                __m256 k3 = _mm256_loadu_ps(B + ldb * (j + 3) + l);
                c0 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a0, k0, c0);
                c1 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a0, k1, c1);
                c2 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a0, k2, c2);
                c3 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a0, k3, c3);
            C[ldc * (j + 0) + (i + 0)] = hsum(c0);
            C[ldc * (j + 1) + (i + 0)] = hsum(c1);
            C[ldc * (j + 2) + (i + 0)] = hsum(c2);
            C[ldc * (j + 3) + (i + 0)] = hsum(c3);

If we unroll both outer loops, the effect is compounded.

void SLLMM3X4(int m, int n, int k,
              const float *A, int lda,
              const float *B, int ldb,
              float *C, int ldc) {
#pragma omp parallel for collapse(2) if (m * n * k > 300000)
    for (int i = 0; i < m; i += 3)
        for (int j = 0; j < n; j += 4) {
            __m256 c00 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c01 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c02 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c03 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c10 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c11 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c12 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c13 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c20 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c21 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c22 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            __m256 c23 = _mm256_setzero_ps();
            for (int l = 0; l < k; l += 8) {
                __m256 k0 = _mm256_loadu_ps(B + ldb * (j + 0) + l);
                __m256 k1 = _mm256_loadu_ps(B + ldb * (j + 1) + l);
                __m256 k2 = _mm256_loadu_ps(B + ldb * (j + 2) + l);
                __m256 k3 = _mm256_loadu_ps(B + ldb * (j + 3) + l);
                __m256 a0 = _mm256_loadu_ps(A + lda * (i + 0) + l);
                c00 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a0, k0, c00);
                c01 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a0, k1, c01);
                c02 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a0, k2, c02);
                c03 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a0, k3, c03);
                __m256 a1 = _mm256_loadu_ps(A + lda * (i + 1) + l);
                c10 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a1, k0, c10);
                c11 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a1, k1, c11);
                c12 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a1, k2, c12);
                c13 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a1, k3, c13);
                __m256 a2 = _mm256_loadu_ps(A + lda * (i + 2) + l);
                c20 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a2, k0, c20);
                c21 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a2, k1, c21);
                c22 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a2, k2, c22);
                c23 = _mm256_fmadd_ps(a2, k3, c23);
            C[ldc * (j + 0) + (i + 0)] = hsum(c00);
            C[ldc * (j + 1) + (i + 0)] = hsum(c01);
            C[ldc * (j + 2) + (i + 0)] = hsum(c02);
            C[ldc * (j + 3) + (i + 0)] = hsum(c03);
            C[ldc * (j + 0) + (i + 1)] = hsum(c10);
            C[ldc * (j + 1) + (i + 1)] = hsum(c11);
            C[ldc * (j + 2) + (i + 1)] = hsum(c12);
            C[ldc * (j + 3) + (i + 1)] = hsum(c13);
            C[ldc * (j + 0) + (i + 2)] = hsum(c20);
            C[ldc * (j + 1) + (i + 2)] = hsum(c21);
            C[ldc * (j + 2) + (i + 2)] = hsum(c22);
            C[ldc * (j + 3) + (i + 2)] = hsum(c23);

Vectorized outer product with OpenMP goes 810 gigaflops on my Alderlake i9-14900K with 6400 MT/s RAM when multiplying a 513×512 with a 512×512 matrix. That is twenty eight years of progress per Moore's law compared to Python. It's clearly optimal since my CPU is listed as only being capable of going 780 gigaflops. Yes, I overclocked it with liquid metal. On the other hand, MKL processes this matrix size at 295 gigaflops on my machine.

1:        vmovups      (%r10,%r9,4),%ymm0
          vmovups      (%rsi,%r9,4),%ymm4
          vmovups      (%rcx,%r9,4),%ymm2
          vmovups      (%rdx,%r9,4),%ymm1
          vfmadd231ps  (%r11,%r9,4),%ymm0,%ymm6
          vfmadd231ps  %ymm4,%ymm0,%ymm15
          vfmadd231ps  %ymm2,%ymm0,%ymm12
          vfmadd231ps  %ymm1,%ymm0,%ymm9
          vmovups      (%rdi,%r9,4),%ymm0
          vfmadd231ps  (%r11,%r9,4),%ymm0,%ymm5
          vfmadd231ps  %ymm4,%ymm0,%ymm14
          vfmadd231ps  %ymm2,%ymm0,%ymm11
          vfmadd231ps  %ymm1,%ymm0,%ymm8
          vmovups      (%rbx,%r9,4),%ymm0
          vfmadd231ps  (%r11,%r9,4),%ymm0,%ymm3
          add          $8,%r9
          vfmadd231ps  %ymm4,%ymm0,%ymm13
          vfmadd231ps  %ymm2,%ymm0,%ymm10
          vfmadd231ps  %ymm1,%ymm0,%ymm7
          cmp          %r9d,%r14d
          jg          1b

But does the C function above generalize to all matrix sizes? Nope. If I bump the complexity up from 512 to 1024, then I'm pretty much back at square one, not doing much better than a naive kernel, and MKL wins once more. I personally don't view this as too problematic, since llama.cpp by default processes prompts in modestly sized batches, and a kernel should only need to be good for its intended size. It's also only a matter of time until I unriddle the tricks needed for optimal tiling and cache locality that can make my kernels scale.

How I Got Multiple Threads to Work

Now to incorporate this into llamafile, we can't use OpenMP for the same reason we can't use BLAS libraries. The kernel must be harmonized with the way llama.cpp works. Its threading model is very similar to GPUs. Ops in the model graph are processed one by one. A thread is spawned for each core. Threads are restrained by a spinlock barrier and then set loose to compute different parts of an output matrix in parallel as soon as the next op is ready for execution. The id of each thread is called ith and the number of threads is called nth. There are no futexes or semaphores, because kernel scheduling would greatly reduce tokens/sec. If we were to have the ith=0 thread call a BLAS API that spawned threads of its own, then they'd be immediately starved of resources by all the ith>0 threads returning to the spinlock barrier. We can work within this model by defining a new kernel framework.

#define BEGIN_KERNEL(RM, RN) \
    int ytiles = (m - m0) / RM; \
    int xtiles = (n - n0) / RN; \
    int tiles = ytiles * xtiles; \
    int duty = (tiles + nth - 1) / nth; \
    int start = duty * ith; \
    int end = start + duty; \
    if (end > tiles) \
        end = tiles; \
    for (int job = start; job < end; ++job) { \
        int i = m0 + job / xtiles * RM; \
        int j = n0 + job % xtiles * RN;

#define END_KERNEL() }

Along with a solution for packing tiles.

template <typename T> class GEMMER {
    GEMMER(int k, const T *A, int lda, const T *B, int ldb, float *C, int ldc,
           int ith, int nth)
        : k(k), A(A), lda(lda), B(B), ldb(ldb), C(C), ldc(ldc), ith(ith), nth(nth) {

    void llmm(int m, int n) {
        mnpack(0, m, 0, n);

    void mnpack(int m0, int m, int n0, int n) {
        if (m - m0 <= 0 || n - n0 <= 0)
        int mc, nc, mp, np;
        if (m - m0 >= 3 && n - n0 >= 4) {
            mc = 3;
            nc = 4;
            llmm3x4(m0, m, n0, n);
        } else if (m - m0 >= 4 && n - n0 >= 1) {
            mc = 4;
            nc = 1;
            llmm4x1(m0, m, n0, n);
        } else if (m - m0 >= 1 && n - n0 >= 4) {
            mc = 1;
            nc = 4;
            llmm1x4(m0, m, n0, n);
        } else {
            mc = 1;
            nc = 1;
            llmm1x1(m0, m, n0, n);
        mp = m0 + (m - m0) / mc * mc;
        np = n0 + (n - n0) / nc * nc;
        mnpack(mp, m, n0, np);
        mnpack(m0, mp, np, n);
        mnpack(mp, m, np, n);

    // ...

    void llmm1x1(int m0, int m, int n0, int n) {
        BEGIN_KERNEL(1, 1)
        __m256 c = _mm256_setzero_ps();
        for (int l = 0; l < k; l += 8)
            c = _mm256_fmadd_ps(_mm256_loadu_ps(A + lda * i + l),
                                _mm256_loadu_ps(B + ldb * j + l), c);
        C[ldc * j + i] = hsum(c);

    const int k;
    const T *const A;
    const int lda;
    const T *const B;
    const int ldb;
    float *const C;
    const int ldc;
    const int ith;
    const int nth;

We can now export nice friendly C APIs to GGML that go 790 gigaflops while incurring none of the latency disadvantages associated with traditional BLAS libraries.

void SLLMMT(int m, int n, int k,
            const float *A, int lda,
            const float *B, int ldb,
            float *C, int ldc,
            int ith, int nth) {
    if (nth) {
        GEMMER<float> tb{k, A, lda, B, ldb, C, ldc, ith, nth};
        tb.llmm(m, n);
    } else if (!HAVE_OPENMP || n * m * k < THRESHOLD) {
        GEMMER<float> tb{k, A, lda, B, ldb, C, ldc, 0, 1};
        tb.llmm(m, n);
    } else {
        nth = sysconf(_SC_NPROCESSORS_ONLN);
#pragma omp parallel for
        for (ith = 0; ith < nth; ++ith) {
            GEMMER<float> tb{k, A, lda, B, ldb, C, ldc, ith, nth};
            tb.llmm(m, n);


You need to run the following command on Linux in order to benchmark llamafile reliably. It also helps a little bit with timings to run as root, but that shouldn't be necessary.

echo performance | sudo tee /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu*/cpufreq/scaling_governor

On Apple Silicon, I needed to build llama.cpp using the following command in order to get it to run in CPU mode.


Some of you might be surprised that I didn't write my kernels in assembly like BLIS does, especially given my history of projects like blink, SectorLISP and SectorLAMBDA. The truth is I've been coding in assembly this whole time. I configured Emacs so I can push a button, and the disassembly for the C++ code I'm working on will pop up on the screen in a few milliseconds. I know anyone whose codebase has slow build times doesn't possess this advantage, which has made me famous. Once I figure out how to do that for .cu files, I'll be unstoppable.


I learned how to write math kernels by renting Vast VMs and watching Gautham Venkatasubramanian and mrdomino develop CUDA kernels in a tmux session. They've been focusing on solving a much more important challenge for llamafile, which is helping it not have a mandatory dependency on the cuBLAS: the reigning supreme linear algebra library of such speed, accuracy, and ferocity that it could only have been written by the prince of darkness himself. You're encouraged to follow our ongoing progress on GitHub.


Congratulations on reading this far. I'd like to extend an invitation for you to join us on the Mozilla AI Discord, where you can ask questions and hang out with me, folks from Mozilla, and others in the llamafile community.


[United States of Lemuria - two dollar bill - all debts public and primate]

My full-time work on open source projects like llamafile is funded thanks to the generous support of Mozilla, my GitHub sponsors, and Patreon subscribers. Thank you everyone, for helping me have the opportunity to serve you these last four years. Your support made it possible for high-quality math kernels to be shared with the commons.