4.5. Specifying compilers and flags

Changing the compilers that Open MPI uses to build itself uses the standard GNU Autoconf mechanism of setting special environment variables either before invoking configure or on the configure command line itself.

The following environment variables are recognized by configure:

  • CC: C compiler to use

  • CFLAGS: Compile flags to pass to the C compiler

  • CPPFLAGS: Preprocessor flags to pass to the C compiler

  • CXX: C++ compiler to use

  • CXXCFLAGS: Compile flags to pass to the C++ compiler

  • CXXCPPFLAGS: Preprocessor flags to pass to the C++ compiler

  • FC: Fortran compiler to use

  • FCFLAGS: Compile flags to pass to the Fortran compiler

  • LDFLAGS: Linker flags to pass to all compilers

  • LIBS: Libraries to pass to all compilers (it is rarely necessary for users to need to specify additional LIBS)

  • PKG_CONFIG: Path to the pkg-config utility


Open MPI v5.0.x does not contain any C++ code. The only tests that configure runs with the C++ compiler is for the purposes of determining an appropriate value for CXX to use in the mpic++ wrapper compiler. The CXXCFLAGS and CXXCPPFLAGS values are only used in these configure checks to ensure that the C++ compiler works.

For example, to build with a specific instance of gcc, g++, and gfortran:

shell$ ./configure \
    CC=/opt/gcc-a.b.c/bin/gcc \
    CXX=/opt/gcc-a.b.c/bin/g++ \
    FC=/opt/gcc-a.b.c/bin/gfortran ...

Here’s another example, this time showing building with the Intel compiler suite:

shell$ ./configure \
    CC=icc \
    CXX=icpc \
    FC=ifort ...


The Open MPI community generally suggests using the above command line form for setting different compilers (vs. setting environment variables and then invoking ./configure). The above form will save all variables and values in the config.log file, which makes post-mortem analysis easier if problems occur.

Note that the flags you specify must be compatible across all the compilers. In particular, flags specified to one language compiler must generate code that can be compiled and linked against code that is generated by the other language compilers. For example, on a 64 bit system where the compiler default is to build 32 bit executables:

# Assuming the GNU compiler suite
shell$ ./configure CFLAGS=-m64 ...

will produce 64 bit C objects, but 32 bit objects for Fortran. These codes will be incompatible with each other, and Open MPI will not build successfully. Instead, you must specify building 64 bit objects for all languages:

# Assuming the GNU compiler suite
shell$ ./configure CFLAGS=-m64 FCFLAGS=-m64 ...

The above command line will pass -m64 to all the compilers, and therefore will produce 64 bit objects for all languages.


Note that setting CFLAGS (etc.) does not affect the flags used by the wrapper compilers. In the above, example, you may also need to add -m64 to various --with-wrapper-FOO options:

shell$ ./configure CFLAGS=-m64 FCFLAGS=-m64 \
     --with-wrapper-cflags=-m64 \
     --with-wrapper-cxxflags=-m64 \
     --with-wrapper-fcflags=-m64 ...

Failure to do this will result in MPI applications failing to compile / link properly.

See the Customizing wrapper compiler behavior section for more details.

Note that if you intend to compile Open MPI with a make other than the default one in your PATH, then you must either set the $MAKE environment variable before invoking Open MPI’s configure script, or pass MAKE=your_make_prog to configure. For example:

shell$ ./configure MAKE=/path/to/my/make ...

This could be the case, for instance, if you have a shell alias for make, or you always type gmake out of habit. Failure to tell configure which non-default make you will use to compile Open MPI can result in undefined behavior (meaning: don’t do that).

Note that you may also want to ensure that the value of LD_LIBRARY_PATH is set appropriately (or not at all) for your build (or whatever environment variable is relevant for your operating system). For example, some users have been tripped up by setting to use a non-default Fortran compiler via the FC environment variable, but then failing to set LD_LIBRARY_PATH to include the directory containing that non-default Fortran compiler’s support libraries. This causes Open MPI’s configure script to fail when it tries to compile / link / run simple Fortran programs.

It is required that the compilers specified be compile and link compatible, meaning that object files created by one compiler must be able to be linked with object files from the other compilers and produce correctly functioning executables.