Gradiveq: Vector quantization for bandwidth-efficient gradient aggregation in distributed CNN training

Mingchao Yu, Zhifeng Lin, Krishna Narra, Songze Li, Youjie Li, Nam Sung Kim, Alexander Schwing, Murali Annavaram, Salman Avestimehr

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Data parallelism can boost the training speed of convolutional neural networks (CNN), but could suffer from significant communication costs caused by gradient aggregation. To alleviate this problem, several scalar quantization techniques have been developed to compress the gradients. But these techniques could perform poorly when used together with decentralized aggregation protocols like ring all-reduce (RAR), mainly due to their inability to directly aggregate compressed gradients. In this paper, we empirically demonstrate the strong linear correlations between CNN gradients, and propose a gradient vector quantization technique, named GradiVeQ, to exploit these correlations through principal component analysis (PCA) for substantial gradient dimension reduction. GradiVeQ enables direct aggregation of compressed gradients, hence allows us to build a distributed learning system that parallelizes GradiVeQ gradient compression and RAR communications. Extensive experiments on popular CNNs demonstrate that applying GradiVeQ slashes the wall-clock gradient aggregation time of the original RAR by more than 5X without noticeable accuracy loss, and reduces the end-to-end training time by almost 50%. The results also show that GradiVeQ is compatible with scalar quantization techniques such as QSGD (Quantized SGD), and achieves a much higher speed-up gain under the same compression ratio.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5123-5133
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
StatePublished - 2018
Event32nd Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2018 - Montreal, Canada
Duration: Dec 2 2018Dec 8 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


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