Rethinking gradient sparsification as total error minimization

Atal Narayan Sahu, Trambak Banerjee, Aritra Dutta, Marco Canini, Ahmed M. Abdelmoniem, Panos Kalnis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Gradient compression is a widely-established remedy to tackle the communication bottleneck in distributed training of large deep neural networks (DNNs). Under the error-feedback framework, Top-k sparsification, sometimes with k as little as 0.1% of the gradient size, enables training to the same model quality as the uncompressed case for a similar iteration count. From the optimization perspective, we find that Top-k is the communication-optimal sparsifier given a per-iteration k element budget. We argue that to further the benefits of gradient sparsification, especially for DNNs, a different perspective is necessary — one that moves from per-iteration optimality to consider optimality for the entire training. We identify that the total error — the sum of the compression errors for all iterations — encapsulates sparsification throughout training. Then, we propose a communication complexity model that minimizes the total error under a communication budget for the entire training. We find that the hard-threshold sparsifier, a variant of the Top-k sparsifier with k determined by a constant hard-threshold, is the optimal sparsifier for this model. Motivated by this, we provide convex and non-convex convergence analyses for the hard-threshold sparsifier with error-feedback. We show that hard-threshold has the same asymptotic convergence and linear speedup property as SGD in both the case, and unlike with Top-k sparsifier, has no impact due to data-heterogeneity. Our diverse experiments on various DNNs and a logistic regression model demonstrate that the hard-threshold sparsifier is more communication-efficient than Top-k. Code is available at https://github.com/sands-lab/rethinking-sparsification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 - 35th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2021
EditorsMarc'Aurelio Ranzato, Alina Beygelzimer, Yann Dauphin, Percy S. Liang, Jenn Wortman Vaughan
PublisherNeural information processing systems foundation
Pages8133-8146
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781713845393
StatePublished - 2021
Event35th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Dec 6 2021Dec 14 2021

Publication series

NameAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
Volume10
ISSN (Print)1049-5258

Conference

Conference35th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2021
CityVirtual, Online
Period12/6/2112/14/21

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing

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