Build CUDA projects with AppVeyor

AppVeyor is a great continuous integration tool for Visual Studio projects. You can use it for free to build and deploy your open-source code. AppVeyor has a great integration with GitHub which allows you to create seamless CI scenarios.

Today we will configure AppVeyor to build an open-source project which uses CUDA Toolkit as well as CuDNN framework. As of now we can only use Visual Stdio 2015 build environment, since NVidia doesn't provide out-of-the-box integration with Visual Studio 2017 and my hack doesn't work on AppVeyor.

Let's make a quick recap of how AppVeyor build environments work. When you start a new build, a new pre-configured virtual machine is deployed to the cloud. This machine has a lot of compilers, runtimes and toolkits installed. You can run some pre-build scripts and install custom tools that you need to build your project. Then an ordinary MSBuild is called to build the solution that you specify in project settings. After the solution is built and tests are run, virtual machine gets destroyed. As you can see, there is no persistent build environment that we can configure and run all our builds at. Instead, we need to setup the environment for each new build.

To build our project we need two things to be present in the environment: CUDA Toolkit and CuDNN framework. The easiest way to install CUDA Toolkit would be to download the whole distribution from NVidia's website and install the components that we need to build the project. The problem is that the whole distribution occupies 1.2G of disk space and it's highly inefficient to download it every time we want to build a project.

Customized CUDA Toolkit distribution

The best way to circumvent the size problem is to create a custom CUDA Toolkit distribution that contains only the components we need. Here's how we are going to do this:

  • Download current version of CUDA Toolkit from Be sure to choose the exe (local) version to get the full distro.
  • Extract the distribution using 7Zip or another archive tool.
  • Create a new folder to hold your custom distro and copy the following files and folders from the original distro:
  • Create a folder named _vs and copy files from the folder CUDAVisualStudioIntegration\extras\visual_studio_integration\MSBuildExtensions\ in the original distribution.
  • Pack the contents of your custom distribution folder with your favorite archiving tool and upload it to some location from which you will be able to download the file. For my project I uploaded the distro to a Dropbox folder, created a sharing link and modified the link so that "dl" parameter at the end is "1":[some stuff]/ Now you can use this link for direct download.

CuDNN framework

The second component that you may require is CuDNN framework. Unfortunately, you can't download it with a direct link because NVidia wants you to register a free developer account. Since the download is actually free, you can upload the archive to your private Dropbox account providing you register at NVidia and download the archive yourself. Let's assume you've uploaded CuDNN somewhere and now have a private download link.

Configuring AppVeyor project

Now we will write a simple batch file to download and install CUDA Toolkit and CuDNN to AppVeyor environment. Go to your AppVeyor project settings, open the Environment pane and choose cmd in the Install script option. Paste the following script:

echo Downloading CUDA toolkit 8  
appveyor DownloadFile  [link to CUDA Toolkit custom distribution]  
7z x -ocuda  
cd cuda  
echo Installing CUDA toolkit 8  
setup.exe -s compiler_8.0 cublas_8.0 cublas_dev_8.0 cudart_8.0 curand_8.0 curand_dev_8.0 

echo Installing VS integration  
copy _vs\*.* "c:\Program Files (x86)\MSBuild\Microsoft.Cpp\v4.0\V140\BuildCustomizations"

cd ..

echo Downloading cuDNN  
appveyor DownloadFile [link to CuDNN distribution]  
7z x -ocudnn

copy cudnn\cuda\bin\*.* "%ProgramFiles%\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v8.0\bin"  
copy cudnn\cuda\lib\x64\*.* "%ProgramFiles%\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v8.0\lib\x64"  
copy cudnn\cuda\include\*.* "%ProgramFiles%\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v8.0\include"

set PATH=%ProgramFiles%\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v8.0\bin;%ProgramFiles%\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v8.0\libnvvp;%PATH%  
set CUDA_PATH=%ProgramFiles%\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v8.0  
set CUDA_PATH_V8_0=%ProgramFiles%\NVIDIA GPU Computing Toolkit\CUDA\v8.0

nvcc -V  

Substitute the URLs for your distributions and click Save. Now our AppVeyor environment is ready to build any project that uses CUDA Toolkit and CuDNN.