Yunfei Teng, Wenbo Gao, François Chalus, Anna E. Choromanska, Donald Goldfarb, Adrian Weller
We consider distributed optimization under communication constraints for training deep learning models. We propose a new algorithm, whose parameter updates rely on two forces: a regular gradient step, and a corrective direction dictated by the currently best-performing worker (leader). Our method differs from the parameter-averaging scheme EASGD in a number of ways: (i) our objective formulation does not change the location of stationary points compared to the original optimization problem; (ii) we avoid convergence decelerations caused by pulling local workers descending to different local minima to each other (i.e. to the average of their parameters); (iii) our update by design breaks the curse of symmetry (the phenomenon of being trapped in poorly generalizing sub-optimal solutions in symmetric non-convex landscapes); and (iv) our approach is more communication efficient since it broadcasts only parameters of the leader rather than all workers. We provide theoretical analysis of the batch version of the proposed algorithm, which we call Leader Gradient Descent (LGD), and its stochastic variant (LSGD). Finally, we implement an asynchronous version of our algorithm and extend it to the multi-leader setting, where we form groups of workers, each represented by its own local leader (the best performer in a group), and update each worker with a corrective direction comprised of two attractive forces: one to the local, and one to the global leader (the best performer among all workers). The multi-leader setting is well-aligned with current hardware architecture, where local workers forming a group lie within a single computational node and different groups correspond to different nodes. For training convolutional neural networks, we empirically demonstrate that our approach compares favorably to state-of-the-art baselines.