Build Configuration Options

RAJA uses BLT, a CMake-based build system. In Getting Started With RAJA, we described how to run CMake to configure RAJA with its default option settings. In this section, we describe all RAJA configuration options, their defaults, and how to enable or disable features.

Setting Options

The RAJA configuration can be set using standard CMake variables along with BLT and RAJA-specific variables. For example, to make a release build with some system default GNU compiler and then install the RAJA header files and libraries in a specific directory location, you could do the following in the top-level RAJA directory:

$ mkdir build-gnu-release
$ cd build-gnu-release
$ cmake \
  -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=../install-gnu-release ../
$ make
$ make install

Following CMake conventions, RAJA supports three build types: Release, RelWithDebInfo, and Debug. Similar to other CMake systems, when you choose a build type that includes debug information, you do not have to specify the ‘-g’ compiler flag to generate debugging symbols.

All RAJA options are set like standard CMake variables. All RAJA settings for default options, compilers, flags for optimization, etc. can be found in files in the RAJA/cmake directory. Configuration variables can be set by passing arguments to CMake on the command line when CMake is called, or by setting options in a CMake cache file and passing that file to CMake. For example, to enable RAJA OpenMP functionality, pass the following argument to cmake:


The RAJA repository contains a collection of CMake cache files (or ‘host-config’ files) that may be used as a guide for users trying to set their own options. See RAJA Example Build Configuration Files.

Next, we summarize RAJA options and their defaults.

Available RAJA Options and Defaults

RAJA uses a variety of custom variables to control how it is compiled. Many of these are used internally to control RAJA compilation and do not need to be set by users. Others can be used to enable or disable certain RAJA features. Most variables get translated to compiler directives and definitions in the RAJA config.hpp file that is generated when CMake runs. The config.hpp header file is included in other RAJA headers as needed so all options propagate consistently through the build process for all of the code. Each RAJA variable has a special prefix to distinguish it as being specific to RAJA; i.e., it is not a BLT variable or a standard CMake variable.

The following tables describe which variables set RAJA options and and their default settings:

  • Examples, tests, warnings, etc.

    Variables that control whether RAJA tests and examples are built when the library is compiled are:

    Variable Default

    RAJA can also be configured to build with compiler warnings reported as errors, which may be useful when using RAJA in an application:

    Variable Default

    RAJA Views/Layouts may be configured to check for out of bounds indexing:

    Variable Default
  • Programming model back-ends

    Variables that control which RAJA programming model back-ends are enabled are (names are descriptive of what they enable):

    Variable Default

    Other compilation options are available via the following:

    Variable Default
    ENABLE_CUB On (when CUDA enabled)

    Turning the ‘ENABLE_CLANG_CUDA’ variable on will build CUDA code with the native support in the Clang compiler. When using it, the ‘ENABLE_CUDA’ variable must also be turned on.

    The ‘ENABLE_CUB’ variable is used to enable NVIDIA CUB library support for RAJA CUDA scans. Since the CUB library is included in RAJA as a Git submodule, users should not have to set this in most scenarios.


See Setting RAJA Back-End Features for more information about setting compiler flags and other options for RAJA back-ends.

  • Data types, sizes, alignment, etc.

    RAJA provides type aliases that can be used to parameterize floating point types in applications, which makes it easy to switch between types.

    The following variables are used to set the data type for the type alias RAJA::Real_type:

    Variable Default

    Similarly, the ‘RAJA::Complex_type’ can be enabled to support complex numbers if needed:

    Variable Default

    When turned on, the RAJA Complex_type is ‘std::complex<Real_type>’.

    There are several variables to control the definition of the RAJA floating-point data pointer type RAJA::Real_ptr. The base data type is always Real_type. When RAJA is compiled for CPU execution only, the defaults are:

    Variable Default

    When RAJA is compiled with CUDA enabled, the defaults are:

    Variable Default

    The meaning of these variables is:

    Variable Meaning
    RAJA_USE_BARE_PTR Use standard C-style pointer
    RAJA_USE_RESTRICT_PTR Use C-style pointer with restrict qualifier
    RAJA_USE_RESTRICT_ALIGNED_PTR Use C-style pointer with restrict qualifier and alignment attribute (see RAJA_DATA_ALIGN below)
    RAJA_USE_PTR_CLASS Use pointer class with overloaded [] operator that applies restrict and alignment intrinsics. This is useful when a compiler does not support attributes in a typedef.

    RAJA internally uses parameters to define platform-specific constants for index ranges and data alignment. The variables that control these are:

    Variable Default

    What these variables mean:

    Variable Meaning
    RAJA_RANGE_ALIGN Constrain alignment of begin/end indices of range segments generated by index set builder methods; i.e., begin and end indices of such segments will be multiples of this value.
    RAJA_RANGE_MIN_LENGTH Sets minimum length of range segments generated by index set builder methods. This should be an integer multiple of RAJA_RANGE_ALIGN.
    RAJA_DATA_ALIGN Specifies data alignment used in intrinsics and typedefs; units of bytes.

    For details on the options in this section are used, please see the header file RAJA/include/RAJA/util/types.hpp.

  • Timer Options

    RAJA provides a simple portable timer class that is used in RAJA example codes to determine execution timing and can be used in other apps as well. This timer can use any of three internal timers depending on your preferences, and one should be selected by setting the ‘RAJA_TIMER’ variable. If the ‘RAJA_CALIPER’ variable is turned on (off by default), the timer will also offer caliper-based region annotations.

    Variable Values
    RAJA_TIMER chrono (default) gettime clock

    What these variables mean:

    Value Meaning
    chrono Use the std::chrono library from the C++ standard library
    gettime Use timespec from the C standard library time.h file
    clock Use clock_t from time.h
  • Other RAJA Features

    RAJA contains some features that are used mainly for development or may not be of general interest to RAJA users. These are turned off be default. They are described here for reference and completeness.

    Variable Meaning
    ENABLE_CHAI Enable/disable RAJA internal support for CHAI
    ENABLE_FT Enable/disable RAJA experimental loop-level fault-tolerance mechanism
    RAJA_REPORT_FT Enable/disable a report of fault- tolerance enabled run (e.g., number of faults detected, recovered from, recovery overhead, etc.)

Setting RAJA Back-End Features

To access compiler and hardware optimization features, it is often necessary to pass options to a compiler. This sections describes how to do this and which CMake variables to use for certain cases.

  • OpenMP Compiler Options

The variable OpenMP_CXX_FLAGS is used to pass OpenMP-related flags to a compiler. Option syntax follows the CMake list pattern. Here is an example showing how to specify OpenMP target back-end options for NVIDIA GPUs using the clang compiler as a CMake option:

cmake \
  • CUDA Compiler Options

When using the NVIDIA nvcc compiler for RAJA CUDA functionality, the variables:


which corresponding to the standard CMake build types are used to pass flags to nvcc.


When nvcc must pass options to the host compiler, the arguments can be included in these CMake variables. Each host compiler option must be prepended with the -Xcompiler directive.

To set the CUDA architecture level for the nvcc compiler, which should be chosen based on the NVIDIA GPU hardware you are using, you can use the CUDA_ARCH CMake variable. For example, the CMake option:


will tell the compiler to use the sm_60 SASS architecture in its second stage of compilation. It will pick the PTX architecture to use in the first stage of compilation that is suitable for the SASS architecture you specify.

Alternatively, you may specify the PTX and SASS architectures, using appropriate nvcc options in the CMAKE_CUDA_FLAGS_* variables.


RAJA requires a minimum CUDA architecture level of `sm_35` to use all supported CUDA features. Mostly, the architecture level affects which RAJA CUDA atomic operations are available and how they are implemented inside RAJA. This is described in Atomics.

  • If you do not specify a value for CUDA_ARCH, it will be set to sm_35 and CMake will emit a status message indicatting this is the case.
  • If you give a CUDA_ARCH value less than sm_35 (e.g., sm_30), CMake will report this and stop processing.

RAJA Example Build Configuration Files

The RAJA/scripts directory contains subdirectories with a variety of build scripts we use to build and test RAJA on various platforms with various compilers. These scripts pass files (CMake cache files) in the RAJA/host-configs directory to CMake using the ‘-C’ option. These files serve as useful examples of how to configure RAJA prior to compilation.