GNA Plugin

Introducing the GNA Plugin

Intel® Gaussian & Neural Accelerator is a low-power neural coprocessor for continuous inference at the edge.

Intel® GNA is not intended to replace classic inference devices such as CPU, graphics processing unit (GPU), or vision processing unit (VPU). It is designed for offloading continuous inference workloads including but not limited to noise reduction or speech recognition to save power and free CPU resources.

The GNA plugin provides a way to run inference on Intel® GNA, as well as in the software execution mode on CPU.

Devices with Intel® GNA

Devices with Intel® GNA support:

NOTE: On platforms where Intel® GNA is not enabled in the BIOS, the driver cannot be installed, so the GNA plugin uses the software emulation mode only.

Drivers and Dependencies

Intel® GNA hardware requires a driver to be installed on the system.

Models and Layers Limitations

Because of specifics of hardware architecture, Intel® GNA supports a limited set of layers, their kinds and combinations. For example, you should not expect the GNA Plugin to be able to run computer vision models, except those specifically adapted for the GNA Plugin, because the plugin does not fully support 2D convolutions.

For the list of supported layers, see the GNA column of the Supported Layers section in Supported Devices.

Limitations include:

  • Only 1D convolutions are natively supported.
  • The number of output channels for convolutions must be a multiple of 4.
  • Permute layer support is limited to the cases where no data reordering is needed or when reordering is happening for two dimensions, at least one of which is not greater than 8.
  • Splits and concatenations are supported for continuous portions of memory (e.g., split of 1,2,3,4 to 1,1,3,4 and 1,1,3,4 or concats of 1,2,3,4 and 1,2,3,5 to 2,2,3,4).

Experimental Support for 2D Convolutions

The Intel® GNA hardware natively supports only 1D convolution.

However, 2D convolutions can be mapped to 1D when a convolution kernel moves in a single direction. GNA Plugin performs such a transformation for Kaldi nnet1 convolution. From this perspective, the Intel® GNA hardware convolution operation accepts an NHWC input and produces an NHWC output. Because OpenVINO™ only supports the NCHW layout, you may need to insert Permute layers before or after convolutions.

For example, the Kaldi model optimizer inserts such a permute after convolution for the rm_cnn4a network. This Permute layer is automatically removed by the GNA Plugin, because the Intel® GNA hardware convolution layer already produces the required NHWC result.

Operation Precision

Intel® GNA essentially operates in the low-precision mode, which represents a mix of 8-bit (I8), 16-bit (I16), and 32-bit (I32) integer computations. Outputs calculated using a reduced integer precision are different from the scores calculated using the floating point format, for example, FP32 outputs calculated on CPU using the Inference Engine CPU Plugin.

Unlike other plugins supporting low-precision execution, the GNA plugin calculates quantization factors at the model loading time, so you can run a model without calibration.

Execution Modes

Mode Description
GNA_AUTO Uses Intel® GNA if available, otherwise uses software execution mode on CPU.
GNA_HW Uses Intel® GNA if available, otherwise raises an error.
GNA_SW Deprecated. Executes the GNA-compiled graph on CPU performing calculations in the same precision as the Intel® GNA, but not in the bit-exact mode.
GNA_SW_EXACT Executes the GNA-compiled graph on CPU performing calculations in the same precision as the Intel® GNA in the bit-exact mode.
GNA_SW_FP32 Executes the GNA-compiled graph on CPU but substitutes parameters and calculations from low precision to floating point (FP32).

Supported Configuration Parameters

The plugin supports the configuration parameters listed below. The parameters are passed as std::map<std::string, std::string> on InferenceEngine::Core::LoadNetwork or InferenceEngine::SetConfig.

You can change the KEY_GNA_DEVICE_MODE parameter at run time using InferenceEngine::ExecutableNetwork::SetConfig, which works for any value excluding GNA_SW_FP32. This enables you to switch the execution between software emulation mode and hardware emulation mode after the model is loaded.

The parameter names below correspond to their usage through API keys, such as GNAConfigParams::KEY_GNA_DEVICE_MODE or PluginConfigParams::KEY_PERF_COUNT. When specifying key values as raw strings, that is, when using Python API, omit the KEY_ prefix.

Parameter Name Parameter Values Default Value Description
KEY_GNA_COMPACT_MODE YES/NO NO Enables I/O buffers reuse to save space. Makes debugging harder.
KEY_GNA_SCALE_FACTOR FP32 number 1.0 Sets the scale factor to use for input quantization.
KEY_GNA_DEVICE_MODE GNA_AUTO/GNA_HW/GNA_SW_EXACT/GNA_SW_FP32 GNA_AUTO One of the modes described in Execution Modes
KEY_GNA_FIRMWARE_MODEL_IMAGE std::string "" Sets the name for the embedded model binary dump file.
KEY_GNA_PRECISION I16/I8 I16 Sets the preferred integer weight resolution for quantization.
KEY_PERF_COUNT YES/NO NO Turns on performance counters reporting.
KEY_GNA_LIB_N_THREADS 1-127 integer number 1 Sets the number of GNA accelerator library worker threads used for inference computation in software modes.

How to Interpret Performance Counters

As a result of collecting performance counters using InferenceEngine::InferRequest::GetPerformanceCounts, you can find various performance data about execution on GNA. Returned map stores a counter description as a key, and a counter value in the realTime_uSec field of the InferenceEngineProfileInfo structure. Current GNA implementation calculates counters for the whole utterance scoring and does not provide per-layer information. The API enables you to retrieve counter units in cycles, you can convert cycles to seconds as follows:

seconds = cycles / frequency

Refer to the table below to learn about the frequency of Intel® GNA inside a particular processor.

Processor Frequency of Intel® GNA
Intel® Ice Lake processors 400MHz
Intel® Core™ i3-8121U processor 400MHz
Intel® Gemini Lake processors 200MHz

Performance counters provided for the time being:

  • Scoring request performance results
    • Number of total cycles spent on scoring in hardware including compute and memory stall cycles
    • Number of stall cycles spent in hardware

Multithreading Support in GNA Plugin

The GNA plugin supports the following configuration parameters for multithreading management:


    By default, the GNA plugin uses one worker thread for inference computations. This parameter allows you to create up to 127 threads for software modes.

NOTE: Multithreading mode does not guarantee the same computation order as the order of issuing. Additionally, in this case, software modes do not implement any serializations.

Network Batch Size

Intel® GNA plugin supports the processing of context-windowed speech frames in batches of 1-8 frames in one input blob using InferenceEngine::ICNNNetwork::setBatchSize. Increasing batch size only improves efficiency of Fully Connected layers.

NOTE: For networks with Convolutional, LSTM, or Memory layers, the only supported batch size is 1.

Compatibility with Heterogeneous Plugin

Heterogeneous plugin was tested with the Intel® GNA as a primary device and CPU as a secondary device. To run inference of networks with layers unsupported by the GNA plugin, such as Softmax, use the Heterogeneous plugin with the HETERO:GNA,CPU configuration.

NOTE: Due to limitation of the Intel® GNA backend library, heterogenous support is limited to cases where in the resulted sliced graph, only one subgraph is scheduled to run on GNA_HW or GNA_SW devices.

Recovery from Interruption by High-Priority Windows Audio Processes*

GNA is designed for real-time workloads such as noise reduction. For such workloads, processing should be time constrained, otherwise extra delays may cause undesired effects such as audio glitches. To make sure that processing can satisfy real-time requirements, the GNA driver provides a Quality of Service (QoS) mechanism, which interrupts requests that might cause high-priority Windows audio processes to miss the schedule, thereby causing long running GNA tasks to terminate early.

Applications should be prepared for this situation. If an inference in the GNA_HW mode cannot be executed because of such an interruption, then InferRequest::Wait() returns status code StatusCode::INFER_NOT_STARTED. In future releases, it will be changed to a more meaningful status code.

Any application working with GNA must properly react to this code. One of the strategies to adapt an application:

  1. Immediately switch to the GNA_SW emulation mode:
    std::map<std::string, Parameter> newConfig;
    newConfig[GNAConfigParams::KEY_GNA_DEVICE_MODE] = Parameter("GNA_SW_EXACT");
  2. Resubmit and switch back to GNA_HW expecting that the competing application has finished.

See Also