Global Convergence Analysis of Local SGD for Two-layer Neural Network without Overparameterization

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Yajie Bao, Amarda Shehu, Mingrui Liu


Local SGD, a cornerstone algorithm in federated learning, is widely used in training deep neural networks and shown to have strong empirical performance. A theoretical understanding of such performance on nonconvex loss landscapes is currently lacking. Analysis of the global convergence of SGD is challenging, as the noise depends on the model parameters. Indeed, many works narrow their focus to GD and rely on injecting noise to enable convergence to the local or global optimum. When expanding the focus to local SGD, existing analyses in the nonconvex case can only guarantee finding stationary points or assume the neural network is overparameterized so as to guarantee convergence to the global minimum through neural tangent kernel analysis. In this work, we provide the first global convergence analysis of the vanilla local SGD for two-layer neural networks \emph{without overparameterization} and \textit{without injecting noise}, when the input data is Gaussian. The main technical ingredients of our proof are \textit{a self-correction mechanism} and \textit{a new exact recursive characterization of the direction of global model parameters}. The self-correction mechanism guarantees the algorithm reaches a good region even if the initialization is in a bad region. A good (bad) region means updating the model by gradient descent will move closer to (away from) the optimal solution. The main difficulty in establishing a self-correction mechanism is to cope with the gradient dependency between two layers. To address this challenge, we divide the landscape of the objective into several regions to carefully control the interference of two layers during the correction process. As a result, we show that local SGD can correct the two layers and enter the good region in polynomial time. After that, we establish a new exact recursive characterization of the direction of global parameters, which is the key to showing convergence to the global minimum with linear speedup in the number of machines and reduced communication rounds. Experiments on synthetic data confirm theoretical results.