Understanding How Consistency Works in Federated Learning via Stage-wise Relaxed Initialization

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

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Yan Sun, Li Shen, Dacheng Tao


Federated learning (FL) is a distributed paradigm that coordinates massive local clients to collaboratively train a global model via stage-wise local training processes on the heterogeneous dataset. Previous works have implicitly studied that FL suffers from the "client-drift" problem, which is caused by the inconsistent optimum across local clients. However, till now it still lacks solid theoretical analysis to explain the impact of this local inconsistency. To alleviate the negative impact of the "client drift" and explore its substance in FL, in this paper, we first design an efficient FL algorithm FedInit, which allows employing the personalized relaxed initialization state at the beginning of each local training stage. Specifically, FedInit initializes the local state by moving away from the current global state towards the reverse direction of the latest local state. This relaxed initialization helps to revise the local divergence and enhance the local consistency level. Moreover, to further understand how inconsistency disrupts performance in FL, we introduce the excess risk analysis and study the divergence term to investigate the test error of the proposed FedInit method. Our studies show that on the non-convex objectives, optimization error is not sensitive to this local inconsistency, while it mainly affects the generalization error bound in FedInit. Extensive experiments are conducted to validate this conclusion. Our proposed FedInit could achieve state-of-the-art (SOTA) results compared to several advanced benchmarks without any additional costs. Meanwhile, stage-wise relaxed initialization could also be incorporated into the current advanced algorithms to achieve higher performance in the FL paradigm.