Understanding Top-k Sparsification in Distributed Deep Learning

Anonymous

Sep 25, 2019 ICLR 2020 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Distributed stochastic gradient descent (SGD) algorithms are widely deployed in training large-scale deep learning models, while the communication overhead among workers becomes the new system bottleneck. Recently proposed gradient sparsification techniques, especially Top-$k$ sparsification with error compensation (TopK-SGD), can significantly reduce the communication traffic without obvious impact on the model accuracy. Some theoretical studies have been carried out to analyze the convergence property of TopK-SGD. However, existing studies do not dive into the details of Top-$k$ operator in gradient sparsification and use relaxed bounds (e.g., exact bound of Random-$k$) for analysis; hence the derived results cannot well describe the real convergence performance of TopK-SGD. To this end, we first study the gradient distributions of TopK-SGD during training process through extensive experiments. We then theoretically derive a tighter bound for the Top-$k$ operator. Finally, we exploit the property of gradient distribution to propose an approximate top-$k$ selection algorithm, which is computing-efficient for GPUs, to improve the scaling efficiency of TopK-SGD by significantly reducing the computing overhead.
  • Keywords: Distributed Deep Learning, SGD, Gradient Sparsification, Communication-efficient SGD, Top-k
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