Python module for finding available BLAS libraries in the system and linking wrapped C/C++ or FORTRAN code to it

blas, cython
pip install findblas==0.1.20



Python module for finding installed BLAS library in a system, along with its headers. Intended to be used for easily linking Cython-wrapped C/C++ code that calls BLAS functions to the corresponding system's library.

BLAS (basic linear algebra subroutines) is a standard module for fast linear algebra computations, widely used in packages for mathematical, statistical, and scientific computing. Unlike other tools such as R, Python does not come with a default BLAS installation, and any C/C++ or FORTRAN code intended to be wrapped (called from) Python that uses BLAS, requires either a system-wide install that would register -lblas, or manually supplying the path to the library before compiling the code. Some packages circumvent the requirement by supplying their own non-optimized replacements of BLAS functions that follow the same API and letting the user manually alter the linkage before compiling, but this approach leads to extra efforts and most users end up running slow code.

This package eases the usage of BLAS functions in wrapped code. It can find either Python installs (e.g. conda install openblas, pip install mkl) or system installs (e.g. apt-get install libopenblas-base libopenblas-dev), and will also work in Windows with libraries from m2w64 (e.g. conda install -c msys2 m2w64-openblas, conda install -c msys2 m2w64-gsl).

Supports the following BLAS implementations:

  • MKL (free of charge but not open-source)
  • OpenBLAS (open-source)
  • BLIS (open-source, puts LAPACK in a separate library), including AMD's distribution.
  • ATLAS (open-source, must be built from source as it makes system-specific optimizations)
  • GSL (open-source and copyleft, not very optimized and not recommended to use)

All of which conform to the CBLAS API (i.e. functions named like cblas_ddot, cblas_sgemm, etc.).

Also included is a build_ext_with_blas class built on top of Cython.Distutils.build_ext that can be passed to distutils and setuptools, and which will automatically add links to BLAS; and a header findblas.h that will include the function prototypes from the library that was found.

The build_ext_with_blas module works also in builds originating from without explicitly adding a specific BLAS dependency like mkl, so you can add findblas as a dependency for a Python package and host its documentation on RTD without additional hassle.

Note about RTD: when building in, it will only define BLAS functions, not LAPACK functions, so if your package uses LAPACK and is to be hosted at readthedocs, you'll need to use the mock system in the docs configuration, or alternatively, add a specific dependency for RTD outside of the default requirements.txt such as mkl-devel. You'll also have to undefine or redefine the environment variable 'READTHEDOCS' in the later case.

Package has been tested in Windows, Linux, Mac, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD.


Package is available in PyPI, can be installed with:

pip install findblas

It is recommended to install numpy and/or scipy as then it will try to take the same BLAS library that those are using. In non-Windows systems, if the file name does not match to any implementation-specific name (e.g. just, it will additionally try to use use pyelftools or system's readelf to check if it can identify the version.

Finding BLAS library

import findblas

blas_path, blas_file, incl_path, incl_file, flags = findblas.find_blas()

Compiling Python extension linked against BLAS

Example here requires Cython (e.g. conda install cython, pip install cython).

Example cfile.c using BLAS - important to incude findblas.h!:

#include "findblas.h"
double inner_prod(double *a, int n)
	return cblas_ddot(n, a, 1, a, 1);

Example pywrapper.pyx file wrapping it:

import numpy as np
cimport numpy as np
cdef extern from "cfile.c":
	double inner_prod(double *a, int n)
def call_inner_prod(np.ndarray[double, ndim=1] a):
	return inner_prod(&a[0], a.shape[0])

Example for packaging them:

    from setuptools import setup, Extension
    from distutils.core import setup
    from distutils.extension import Extension
import numpy as np
from findblas.distutils import build_ext_with_blas

    name  = "inner_prod",
    packages = ["inner_prod"],
    cmdclass = {'build_ext': build_ext_with_blas},
    ext_modules = [Extension("inner_prod", sources=["pywrapper.pyx"], include_dirs=[np.get_include()])]

The code can then be compiled with e.g. python build_ext --inplace or python install, and tested like this:

import numpy as np, inner_prod
inner_prod.call_inner_prod( np.arange(10).astype('float64') )
>>> 285.0

The build_ext_with_blas class can be subclassed in the same way as other build_ext modules - e.g. if you want to add compiler-specific arguments:

    from setuptools import setup, Extension
    from distutils.core import setup
    from distutils.extension import Extension
import numpy as np
from findblas.distutils import build_ext_with_blas

class build_ext_subclass( build_ext_with_blas ):
    def build_extensions(self):
        compiler = self.compiler.compiler_type
        if compiler == 'msvc': # visual studio
            for e in self.extensions:
                e.extra_compile_args += ['/O2']
        else: # everything else that cares about following standards
            for e in self.extensions:
                e.extra_compile_args += ['-Ofast', '-fopenmp', '-march=native', '-std=c99']
                e.extra_link_args += ['-fopenmp']

    name  = "inner_prod",
    packages = ["inner_prod"],
    cmdclass = {'build_ext': build_ext_subclass},
    ext_modules = [Extension("inner_prod", sources=["pywrapper.pyx"], include_dirs=[np.get_include()])]

Flags returned

The find_blas function can return the following flags (if using build_ext_with_blas, these will be available by the preprocessor in C files as if doing e.g. #define DEFINED_THIS_FLAG):

  • HAS_MKL : library found was Intel's MKL.
  • HAS_OPENBLAS : library found was OpenBLAS.
  • HAS_BLIS : library found was BLIS.
  • HAS_ATLAS : library found was ATLAS.
  • HAS_GSL : library found was the GNU Scientific Library.
  • UNKNWON_BLAS : specific implementation cannot be determined.
  • HAS_UNDERSCORES : library has functions named like the FORTRAN versions plus an underscore (e.g. ddot_, sgemm_) (does NOT exclude having cblas functions)
  • NO_CBLAS : library does not have cblas functions (e.g. cblas_ddot) - in this case, you might want to either raise an error, or declare function prototypes yourself.

Additionally, the build_ext_with_blas module might define the following:

  • NO_CBLAS_HEADER : no header with cblas functions was found, the prototypes were declared using e.g. int, double (v.s. e.g. MKL_INT, openblas_int), and might not be reliable in non-standard systems.
  • MKL_OWN_INCL_CBLAS : the header mkl.h was not found, but there was a mkl_cblas.h included, which contains only the cblas functions.
  • OPENBLAS_OWN_INCL : OpenBLAS header was named cblas-openblas.h rather than cblas.h.
  • GSL_OWN_INCL_CBLAS : GSL header is named gsl_cblas.h (this is the default name in GSL).
  • INCL_CBLAS : a standard header named cblas.h was included.
  • INCL_BLAS : a standard header named blas.h was included.

If HAS_MKL is defined and MKL_OWN_INCL_CBLAS is not defined, it means that it included the usual mkl.h (which is what should usually happen in MKL).