NIPS Proceedingsβ

Breaking the Nonsmooth Barrier: A Scalable Parallel Method for Composite Optimization

Part of: Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 30 (NIPS 2017) pre-proceedings


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Conference Event Type: Poster


Due to their simplicity and excellent performance, parallel asynchronous variants of stochastic gradient descent have become popular methods to solve a wide range of large-scale optimization problems on multi-core architectures. Yet, despite their practical success, support for nonsmooth objectives is still lacking, making them unsuitable for many problems of interest in machine learning, such as the Lasso, group Lasso or empirical risk minimization with convex constraints. In this work, we propose and analyze ProxASAGA, a fully asynchronous sparse method inspired by SAGA, a variance reduced incremental gradient algorithm. The proposed method is easy to implement and significantly outperforms the state of the art on several nonsmooth, large-scale problems. We prove that our method achieves a theoretical linear speedup with respect to the sequential version under assumptions on the sparsity of gradients and block-separability of the proximal term. Empirical benchmarks on a multi-core architecture illustrate practical speedups of up to 12x on a 20-core machine.