How Powerful are Performance Predictors in Neural Architecture Search?

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Authors

Colin White, Arber Zela, Robin Ru, Yang Liu, Frank Hutter

Abstract

Early methods in the rapidly developing field of neural architecture search (NAS) required fully training thousands of neural networks. To reduce this extreme computational cost, dozens of techniques have since been proposed to predict the final performance of neural architectures. Despite the success of such performance prediction methods, it is not well-understood how different families of techniques compare to one another, due to the lack of an agreed-upon evaluation metric and optimization for different constraints on the initialization time and query time. In this work, we give the first large-scale study of performance predictors by analyzing 31 techniques ranging from learning curve extrapolation, to weight-sharing, to supervised learning, to zero-cost proxies. We test a number of correlation- and rank-based performance measures in a variety of settings, as well as the ability of each technique to speed up predictor-based NAS frameworks. Our results act as recommendations for the best predictors to use in different settings, and we show that certain families of predictors can be combined to achieve even better predictive power, opening up promising research directions. We release our code, featuring a library of 31 performance predictors.