The CEEP API Library: Code for Efficient Extensible Discretizations
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libCEED: the CEED API Library

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Code for Efficient Extensible Discretization

This repository contains an initial low-level API library for the efficient high-order discretization methods developed by the ECP co-design Center for Efficient Exascale Discretizations (CEED). While our focus is on high-order finite elements, the approach is mostly algebraic and thus applicable to other discretizations in factored form, as explained in the API documentation portion of the Doxygen documentation.

One of the challenges with high-order methods is that a global sparse matrix is no longer a good representation of a high-order linear operator, both with respect to the FLOPs needed for its evaluation, as well as the memory transfer needed for a matvec. Thus, high-order methods require a new "format" that still represents a linear (or more generally non-linear) operator, but not through a sparse matrix.

The goal of libCEED is to propose such a format, as well as supporting implementations and data structures, that enable efficient operator evaluation on a variety of computational device types (CPUs, GPUs, etc.). This new operator description is based on algebraically factored form, which is easy to incorporate in a wide variety of applications, without significant refactoring of their own discretization infrastructure.

The repository is part of the CEED software suite, a collection of software benchmarks, miniapps, libraries and APIs for efficient exascale discretizations based on high-order finite element and spectral element methods. See for more information and source code availability.

The CEED research is supported by the Exascale Computing Project (17-SC-20-SC), a collaborative effort of two U.S. Department of Energy organizations (Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration) responsible for the planning and preparation of a capable exascale ecosystem, including software, applications, hardware, advanced system engineering and early testbed platforms, in support of the nation’s exascale computing imperative.

For more details on the CEED API see


The CEED library, libceed, is a C99 library with no external dependencies. It can be built using


or, with optimization flags

make OPT='-O3 -march=skylake-avx512 -ffp-contract=fast'

These optimization flags are used by all languages (C, C++, Fortran) and this makefile variable can also be set for testing and examples (below).


The test suite produces TAP output and is run by:

make test

or, using the prove tool distributed with Perl (recommended)

make prove


libCEED comes with several examples of its usage, ranging from standalone C codes in the /examples/ceed directory to examples based on external packages, such as MFEM, PETSc and Nek5000.

To build the examples, set the MFEM_DIR, PETSC_DIR and NEK5K_DIR variables and run:

# libCEED examples on CPU and GPU
cd examples/ceed
./ex1 -ceed /cpu/self
./ex1 -ceed /gpu/occa
cd ../..

# MFEM+libCEED examples on CPU and GPU
cd examples/mfem
./bp1 -ceed /cpu/self -no-vis
./bp1 -ceed /gpu/occa -no-vis
cd ../..

# PETSc+libCEED examples on CPU and GPU
cd examples/petsc
./bp1 -ceed /cpu/self
./bp1 -ceed /gpu/occa
cd ../..

# Nek+libCEED examples on CPU and GPU
cd examples/nek5000
./ -ceed /cpu/self -b 3
./ -ceed /gpu/occa -b 3
cd ../..

The above code assumes a GPU-capable machine enabled in the OCCA backend. Depending on the available backends, other Ceed resource specifiers can be provided with the -ceed option, for example:

CEED resource (-ceed) Backend
/cpu/self/blocked Serial blocked implementation
/cpu/self/ref Serial reference implementation
/cpu/self/tmpl Backend template, dispatches to /cpu/self/blocked
/cpu/occa Serial OCCA kernels
/gpu/occa CUDA OCCA kernels
/omp/occa OpenMP OCCA kernels
/ocl/occa OpenCL OCCA kernels
/gpu/magma CUDA MAGMA kernels


To install libCEED, run

make install prefix=/usr/local

or (e.g., if creating packages),

make install prefix=/usr DESTDIR=/packaging/path

Note that along with the library, libCEED installs kernel sources, e.g. OCCA kernels are installed in $prefix/lib/okl. This allows the OCCA backend to build specialized kernels at run-time. In a normal setting, the kernel sources will be found automatically (relative to the library file However, if that fails (e.g. if is moved), one can copy (cache) the kernel sources inside the user OCCA directory, ~/.occa using

$(OCCA_DIR)/bin/occa cache ceed $(CEED_DIR)/lib/okl/*.okl

This will allow OCCA to find the sources regardless of the location of the CEED library. One may occasionally need to clear the OCCA cache, which can be accomplished by removing the ~/.occa directory or by calling $(OCCA_DIR)/bin/occa clear -a.


In addition to library and header, libCEED provides a pkg-config file that can be used to easily compile and link. For example, if $prefix is a standard location or you set the environment variable PKG_CONFIG_PATH,

cc `pkg-config --cflags --libs ceed` -o myapp myapp.c

will build myapp with libCEED. This can be used with the source or installed directories. Most build systems have support for pkg-config.


You can reach the libCEED team by emailing or by leaving a comment in the issue tracker.


The following copyright applies to each file in the CEED software suite, unless otherwise stated in the file:

Copyright (c) 2017, Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC. Produced at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. LLNL-CODE-734707. All Rights reserved.

See files LICENSE and NOTICE for details.