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A Case Study in CUDA Kernel Fusion: Implementing FlashAttention-2 on NVIDIA Hopper Architecture using the CUTLASS Library

We provide an optimized implementation of the forward pass of FlashAttention-2, a popular memory-aware scaled dot-product attention algorithm, as a custom fused CUDA® kernel targeting NVIDIA Hopper architecture and written using the open-source CUTLASS library. In doing so, we explain the challenges and techniques involved in fusing online-softmax with back-to-back GEMM kernels, utilizing the Hopper-specific Tensor Memory Accelerator (TMA) and Warpgroup Matrix-Multiply-Accumulate (WGMMA) instructions, defining and transforming CUTLASS Layouts and Tensors, overlapping copy and GEMM operations, and choosing optimal tile sizes for the Q, K and V attention matrices while balancing the register pressure and shared memory utilization. In head-to-head benchmarks on a single NVIDIA® H100 Tensor Core PCIe GPU for some common choices of hyperparameters, we observe 20-50% higher FLOPs/s over a version of FlashAttention-2 optimized for last-generation NVIDIA Ampere architecture.