Keywords: quantization, post-training, hardware, systolic array, tensor core, performance, sparsity
TL;DR: We propose a sparsity-aware quantization method (SPARQ), in which activation sparsity is leveraged in different representation granularities---from 1-bit to 8-bit. SPARQ is efficient in both accuracy and hardware implementation.
Abstract: Quantization is a technique used in deep neural networks (DNNs) to increase execution performance and hardware efficiency. Uniform post-training quantization (PTQ) methods are common, since they can be implemented efficiently in hardware and do not require extensive hardware resources or a training set. Mapping FP32 models to INT8 using uniform PTQ yields models with negligible accuracy degradation; however, reducing precision below 8 bits with PTQ is challenging, as accuracy degradation becomes noticeable, due to the increase in quantization noise. In this paper, we propose a sparsity-aware quantization (SPARQ) method, in which the unstructured and dynamic activation sparsity is leveraged in different representation granularities. 4-bit quantization, for example, is employed by dynamically examining the bits of 8-bit values and choosing a window of 4 bits, while first skipping zero-value bits. Moreover, instead of quantizing activation-by-activation to 4 bits, we focus on pairs of 8-bit activations and examine whether one of the two is equal to zero. If one is equal to zero, the second can opportunistically use the other's 4-bit budget; if both do not equal zero, then each is dynamically quantized to 4 bits, as described. SPARQ achieves minor accuracy degradation and a practical hardware implementation.
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