Session 5: Gradients and Precision

Moderator: Ameet Talwalkar


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Wed 7 April 9:10 - 9:30 PDT
An Efficient Statistical-based Gradient Compression Technique for Distributed Training Systems

Ahmed M. Abdelmoniem · Ahmed Elzanaty · Mohamed-Slim Alouini · Marco Canini

The recent many-fold increase in the size of deep neural networks makes efficient distributed training challenging. Many proposals exploit the compressibility of the gradients and propose lossy compression techniques to speed up the communication stage of distributed training. Nevertheless, compression comes at the cost of reduced model quality and extra computation overhead. In this work, we design an efficient compressor with minimal overhead. Noting the sparsity of the gradients, we propose to model the gradients as random variables distributed according to some sparsity-inducing distributions (SIDs). We empirically validate our assumption by studying the statistical characteristics of the evolution of gradient vectors over the training process. We then propose Sparsity-Inducing Distribution-based Compression (SIDCo), a threshold-based sparsification scheme that enjoys similar threshold estimation quality to deep gradient compression (DGC) while being faster by imposing lower compression overhead. Our extensive evaluation of popular machine learning benchmarks involving both recurrent neural network (RNN) and convolution neural network (CNN) models shows that SIDCo speeds up training by up to ~41.7X, 7.6X, and 1.9X compared to the no-compression baseline, Topk, and DGC compressors, respectively.

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Wed 7 April 9:30 - 9:50 PDT
Adaptive Gradient Communication via Critical Learning Regime Identification

Saurabh Agarwal · Hongyi Wang · Kangwook Lee · Shivaram Venkataraman · Dimitris Papailiopoulos

Distributed model training suffers from communication bottlenecks due to frequent model updates transmitted across compute nodes. To alleviate these bottlenecks, practitioners use gradient compression techniques like sparsification, quantization, low rank updates etc. The techniques usually require choosing a static compression ratio, often requiring users to balance the trade-off between model accuracy and per-iteration speedup. In this work, we show that such performance degradation due to choosing a high compression ratio is not fundamental and that an adaptive compression strategy can reduce communication while maintaining final test accuracy.Inspired by recent findings on critical learning regimes, in which small gradient errors can have irrecoverable impact on model performance, we propose ACCORDION a simple yet effective adaptive compression algorithm. While ACCORDION maintains a high enough compression rate on average, it avoids detrimental impact by not compressing gradients too much whenever in critical learning regimes, detected by a simple gradient-norm based criterion. Our extensive experimental study over a number of machine learning tasks in distributed environments indicates that ACCORDION, maintains similar model accuracy to uncompressed training, yet achieves up to 5.5×better compression and up to 4.1×end-to-end speedup over static approaches. We show that ACCORDION also works for adjusting the batch size, another popular strategy for alleviating communication bottlenecks. Our code is available at

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Wed 7 April 9:50 - 10:10 PDT
Don't Forget to Sign the Gradients!

Omid Aramoon · Pin-Yu Chen · Gang Qu

Engineering a top-notch deep learning model is an expensive procedure that involves collecting data, hiring human resources with expertise in machine learning, and providing high computational resources. For that reason, deep learning models are considered as valuable Intellectual Properties (IPs) of the model vendors. To ensure reliable commercialization of deep learning models, it is crucial to develop techniques to protect model vendors against IP infringements. One of such techniques that recently has shown great promise is digital watermarking. However, current watermarking approaches can embed very limited amount of information and are vulnerable against watermark removal attacks. In this paper, we present GradSigns, a novel watermarking framework for deep neural networks (DNNs). GradSigns embeds the owner's signature into the gradient of the cross-entropy cost function with respect to inputs to the model. Our approach has a negligible impact on the performance of the protected model and it allows model vendors to remotely verify the watermark through prediction APIs. We evaluate GradSigns on DNNs trained for different image classification tasks using CIFAR-10, SVHN, and YTF datasets. Experimental results show that GradSigns is robust against all known counter-watermark attacks and can embed a large amount of information into DNNs.

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Wed 7 April 10:10 - 10:30 PDT
Rethinking Floating Point Overheads for Mixed Precision DNN Accelerators

Hamzah Abdelaziz · ali shafiee · Jong Hoon Shin · Ardavan Pedram · Joseph Hassoun

Mixed precision DNN accelerators become more ubiquitous especially when both efficient training and inference are required. In this paper, we propose a mixed-precision convolution unit architecture which supports different integer and floating point~(FP) precisions. The proposed architecture is based on low-bit inner product units and realizes higher precision based on temporal decomposition. We illustrate how to integrate FP computations on integer-based architecture and evaluate overheads incurred by FP arithmetic support. We argue that alignment and addition overhead for FP inner product can be significant since the maximum exponent difference could be up to 58 bits, which results into a large alignment logic. To address this issue, we illustrate empirically that at least 8 bits of alignment logic are required to maintain inference accuracy. We present novel optimizations based on the above observations to reduce the FP arithmetic hardware overheads. Our empirical results, based on simulation and hardware implementation, show significant reduction in FP16 overhead. Over typical mixed precision implementation, the proposed architecture achieves area improvements of up to 25\% in TFLOPS/$mm^2$ and up to 46\% in TOPS/$mm^2$ with power efficiency improvements of up to 40\% in TFLOPS/W and up to 63\% in TOPS/W.

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Wed 7 April 10:30 - 10:50 PDT
Bit Error Robustness for Energy-Efficient DNN Accelerators

David Stutz · Nandhini Chandramoorthy · Matthias Hein · Bernt Schiele

Deep neural network (DNN) accelerators received considerable attention in past years due to saved energy compared to mainstream hardware. Low-voltage operation of DNN accelerators allows to further reduce energy consumption significantly, however, causes bit-level failures in the memory storing the quantized DNN weights. In this paper, we show that a combination of robust fixed-point quantization, weight clipping, and random bit error training (RandBET) improves robustness against random bit errors in (quantized) DNN weights significantly. This leads to high energy savings from both low-voltage operation as well as low-precision quantization. Our approach generalizes across operating voltages and accelerators, as demonstrated on bit errors from profiled SRAM arrays. We also discuss why weight clipping alone is already a quite effective way to achieve robustness against bit errors. Moreover, we specifically discuss the involved trade-offs regarding accuracy, robustness and precision: Without losing more than 1% in accuracy compared to a normally trained 8-bit DNN, we can reduce energy consumption on CIFAR-10 by 20%. Higher energy savings of, e.g., 30%, are possible at the cost of 2.5% accuracy, even for 4-bit DNNs.

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