Learning Generalizable Device Placement Algorithms for Distributed Machine Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

AuthorFeedback Bibtex MetaReview Metadata Paper Reviews Supplemental


ravichandra addanki, Shaileshh Bojja Venkatakrishnan, Shreyan Gupta, Hongzi Mao, Mohammad Alizadeh


We present Placeto, a reinforcement learning (RL) approach to efficiently find device placements for distributed neural network training.

Unlike prior approaches that only find a device placement for a specific computation graph, Placeto can learn generalizable device placement policies that can be applied to any graph.

We propose two key ideas in our approach: (1) we represent the policy as performing iterative placement improvements, rather than outputting a placement in one shot; (2) we use graph embeddings to capture relevant information about the structure of the computation graph, without relying on node labels for indexing.

These ideas allow Placeto to train efficiently and generalize to unseen graphs.

Our experiments show that Placeto requires up to 6.1x fewer training steps to find placements that are on par with or better than the best placements found by prior approaches. Moreover, Placeto is able to learn a generalizable placement policy for any given family of graphs that can be used without any re-training to predict optimized placements for unseen graphs from the same family.

This eliminates the huge overhead incurred by the prior RL approaches whose lack of generalizability necessitates re-training from scratch every time a new graph is to be placed.