Using Intel® MKL with R


R is a programming language for statistical computing. The open source package also provides an environment for creating and running R programs. This guide will show how to use the BLAS and LAPACK libraries within Intel® Math Kernel Library (Intel® MKL) to improve the performance of R. To use other Intel MKL functions, you read this article on Extending R with Intel MKL.



Build R use with Intel MKL

R can be configured to use the Intel MKL BLAS and LAPACK by using --with-blas.

If you are building R with GNU gcc and GNU gfortran, to use the GNU OpenMP* threaded version of Intel MKL in R on a Linux operating system add the following:

source /opt/intel/mkl/bin/ intel64

MKL="-Wl,--no-as-needed -lmkl_gf_lp64 -Wl,--start-group -lmkl_gnu_thread  -lmkl_core  -Wl,--end-group -fopenmp  -ldl -lpthread -lm"

./configure --with-blas="$MKL" --with-lapack

The order of the libraries is important. --with-lapack will cause the LAPACK from Intel MKL to be used as well.

The intel MKL libraries link line actually is varied based on different compiler and threading model.  Developer can select the right libraries by the tool named Intel MKL Link Advisor to suit their own needs

( MKL Link Advisor webpage version:

Here are some other variations:

A: If you are building R with Intel C/C++ Compiler icc and Intel Fortran Compiler ifort, then please use 

source /opt/intel/ intel64/ intel64

MKL="   -Wl,--no-as-needed   -Wl,--start-group \

          -lmkl_intel_lp64       \

          -lmkl_intel_thread    \

          -lmkl_core          \

      -Wl,--end-group                           \

      -liomp5 -lpthread  -lm"

	./configure --with-blas="$MKL" --with-lapack 


source /opt/intel/ intel64/ intel64

MKL="-Wl,--no-as-needed   -lmkl_rt  -liomp5 -lpthread  -lm"

	./configure --with-blas="$MKL" --with-lapack 

The default number of threads will equal the number of physical cores on the system, but can be controlled by setting OMP_NUM_THREADS or MKL_NUM_THREADS.

B. You can use the following if you want to use a sequential version of Intel MKL and GNU GFORTRAN and GCC:

source /opt/intel/ intel64

MKL=" -L$(MKLROOT)/lib/intel64                       \

      -Wl,--start-group                         \

          -lmkl_gf_lp64       \

          -lmkl_sequential    \

          -lmkl_core          \



C. The following will link Intel MKL statically the GNU threading runtime:

source /opt/intel/ intel64

MKL=" -L$(MKLROOT)/lib/intel64                       \

      -Wl,--start-group                         \

         ${MKL_LIB_PATH}/libmkl_gf_lp64.a       \

         ${MKL_LIB_PATH}/libmkl_gnu_thread.a    \

         ${MKL_LIB_PATH}/libmkl_core.a          \

      -Wl,--end-group                           \

      -lgomp -lpthread"

Check if MKL is working

Check the config.log to see if MKL was working, 

configure:29075: checking for dgemm_ in -L/opt/intel/compilers_and_libraries_2018.0.128/linux/mkl/lib/intel64/ -lmkl_gf_lp64 -lmkl_sequential -lmkl_core
configure:29096: gcc -std=gnu99 -o conftest -g -O2  -I/usr/local/include  -L/usr/local/lib64 conftest.c -L/opt/intel/compilers_and_libraries_2018.0.128/linux/mkl/lib/intel64/ -lmkl_gf_lp64 -lmkl_sequential -lmkl_core  -lgfortran -lm -lrt -ldl -lm  >&5
conftest.c: In function 'main':
conftest.c:210: warning: implicit declaration of function 'dgemm_'
configure:29096: $? = 0
configure:29103: result: yes
configure:29620: checking whether double complex BLAS can be used
configure:29691: result: yes
configure:29711: checking whether the BLAS is complete

Or after build, If MKL library was dynamically linked in the R, type the simple command to verify this


$ ldd  ./R-3.4.2/lib/
 =>  (0x00007fffa45ff000)
 => /opt/intel/compilers_and_libraries_2018.0.128/linux/mkl/lib/intel64/ (0x00007fe963097000)


Performance Results

To provide some indication of the performance improvements that this can provide, I ran R-benchmark-25.R found on the R benchmarks site on a system with a 32-core Intel® Core™ i7-975 processor Extreme Edition processor (8MB LLC, 3.33GHz) with 6GB of RAM and running RHEL 6 x86_64. I first installed R-2.15.3 and ran the benchmark without Intel MKL. to get:

175.825 sec

After installing Intel MKL 11.0 update 2, and following the methods above I was able to get:

17.289 sec

For more complete information about compiler optimizations, see our Optimization Notice.


kiran s.'s picture

I have compiled with the same mkl library as shown below

its giving me the error while make install

./configure --with-blas="$MKL" --with-lapack="$MKL" --prefix=/home1/cdac/R-lang/mkl_thread CC=icc CXX=icpc FC=ifort F77=ifort



make[4]: Leaving directory `/home1/cdac/R-lang/R-3.1.2/src/library/tools'
make[4]: Entering directory `/home1/cdac/R-lang/R-3.1.2/src/library/tools'
make[5]: Entering directory `/home1/cdac/R-lang/R-3.1.2/src/library/tools/src'
../../../../etc/Makeconf:8: *** missing separator (did you mean TAB instead of 8 spaces?).  Stop.
make[5]: Leaving directory `/home1/cdac/R-lang/R-3.1.2/src/library/tools/src'
make[4]: *** [mksrc] Error 1
make[4]: Leaving directory `/home1/cdac/R-lang/R-3.1.2/src/library/tools'
make[3]: *** [all] Error 2
make[3]: Leaving directory `/home1/cdac/R-lang/R-3.1.2/src/library/tools'
make[2]: *** [R] Error 1
make[2]: Leaving directory `/home1/cdac/R-lang/R-3.1.2/src/library'
make[1]: *** [R] Error 1
make[1]: Leaving directory `/home1/cdac/R-lang/R-3.1.2/src'
make: *** [R] Error 1



Prad B.'s picture


Great article. A lot of people would like to use Intel MKL, however they find it difficult to integrate it with R or Python themselves, particularly with Windows.

Not sure if it is feasible for you, but it would be great if

1. You can write a similar article to show how to build R or Python with Intel MKL in Windows

2. Or, alternatively, instead of selling Intel MKL licenses for Windows, you can sell a license for R or Python binaries built with Intel MKL. That way Intel can sell much more of  Intel MKL licenses.



steven v.'s picture

Hi,  Thank you for the hint;

yes it is gcc with gfortran; calling composer made no difference

excerpt from shell env:


MKL=-Wl,--start-group -lmkl_gf_lp64 -lmkl_gnu_thread -lmkl_core -Wl,--end-group -lgomp -lpthread


./configure --with-blas="$MKL" --with-lapack

checking for cblas_cdotu_sub in vecLib framework... no
checking for dgemm_ in -Wl,--start-group -lmkl_gf_lp64 -lmkl_gnu_thread -lmkl_core -Wl,--end-group -lgomp -lpthread... no
checking for dgemm_... no
checking for ATL_xerbla in -latlas... no
checking for dgemm_ in -lblas... yes
checking for dgemm_ in -ldgemm... no
checking for dgemm_ in -lblas... (cached) yes


checking for cblas_cdotu_sub in vecLib framework... no
checking for dgemm_ in  -DMKL_ILP64 -m64 -I/opt/intel/composer_xe_2013_sp1.0.080/mkl/include -L/opt/intel/composer_xe_2013_sp1.0.080/mkl/lib/intel64 -lmkl_gf_ilp64 -lmkl_gnu_thread -lmkl_core -lgomp -ldl -lpthread -lm... no
checking for dgemm_... no

linked against libblas :( =>  (0x00007fff2f2ea000) => /usr/lib/ (0x00007f8daec19000) => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ (0x00007f8dae915000) => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ (0x00007f8dae6d2000) => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ (0x00007f8dae4b0000) => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ (0x00007f8dae2a8000) => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ (0x00007f8dae0a3000) => /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ (0x00007f8dade94000) => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ (0x00007f8dadc77000) => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ (0x00007f8dad8ae000)
    /lib64/ (0x00007f8daf206000) => /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ (0x00007f8dad596000) => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ (0x00007f8dad380000) => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ (0x00007f8dad156000) => /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ (0x00007f8dacf1a000)

thanks, steve






Ying H. (Intel)'s picture

Hi Steven, 

I saw you used intel64, do you have intel compiler installed? is it intel fortran compiler or C compiler?  on the other hand, from message, you mentioned, gcc , so  I guess you use gcc + gfortran, right? you may try call composer_xe_2013.x.xx/mkl/bin// intel64  or link all library explicitly. 

Best Regards,


steven v.'s picture


hello, for some reasons I can't get R linked with MKL;  can someone tell me where I am wrong?

>source /opt/intel/bin/ intel64 

>export MKL="-Wl,--start-group -lmkl_gf_lp64 -lmkl_gnu_thread -lmkl_core -Wl,--end-group -lgomp -lpthread"

>./configure --with-blas="$MKL" --with-lapack

gcc (Ubuntu 4.8.1-2ubuntu1~12.04) 4.8.1



checking whether ctanh exists and is declared... yes
checking for cblas_cdotu_sub in vecLib framework... no
checking for dgemm_ in -Wl,--start-group -lmkl_gf_lp64 -lmkl_intel_thread -lmkl_core -Wl,--end-group -liomp5 -lpthread... no
checking for dgemm_... no
checking for ATL_xerbla in -latlas... no
checking for dgemm_ in -lblas... no
checking for dgemm_ in -lblas... (cached) no
checking for dgemm_ in -lblas... (cached) no


Ying H. (Intel)'s picture

For troubleshooting, please read the two forum threads:


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