Exponential Graph is Provably Efficient for Decentralized Deep Training

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

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Bicheng Ying, Kun Yuan, Yiming Chen, Hanbin Hu, PAN PAN, Wotao Yin


Decentralized SGD is an emerging training method for deep learning known for its much less (thus faster) communication per iteration, which relaxes the averaging step in parallel SGD to inexact averaging. The less exact the averaging is, however, the more the total iterations the training needs to take. Therefore, the key to making decentralized SGD efficient is to realize nearly-exact averaging using little communication. This requires a skillful choice of communication topology, which is an under-studied topic in decentralized optimization.In this paper, we study so-called exponential graphs where every node is connected to $O(\log(n))$ neighbors and $n$ is the total number of nodes. This work proves such graphs can lead to both fast communication and effective averaging simultaneously. We also discover that a sequence of $\log(n)$ one-peer exponential graphs, in which each node communicates to one single neighbor per iteration, can together achieve exact averaging. This favorable property enables one-peer exponential graph to average as effective as its static counterpart but communicates more efficiently. We apply these exponential graphs in decentralized (momentum) SGD to obtain the state-of-the-art balance between per-iteration communication and iteration complexity among all commonly-used topologies. Experimental results on a variety of tasks and models demonstrate that decentralized (momentum) SGD over exponential graphs promises both fast and high-quality training. Our code is implemented through BlueFog and available at https://github.com/Bluefog-Lib/NeurIPS2021-Exponential-Graph.