Permutation compressors for provably faster distributed nonconvex optimization

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Building 9, Room 2322 Lecture Hall #1


We study the MARINA method of Gorbunov et al (ICML 2021) - the current state-of-the-art distributed non-convex optimization method in terms of theoretical communication complexity. Theoretical superiority of this method can be largely attributed to two sources: the use of a carefully engineered biased stochastic gradient estimator, which leads to a reduction in the number of communication rounds, and the reliance on {\em independent} stochastic communication compression operators, which leads to a reduction in the number of transmitted bits within each communication round. In this paper, we extend the theory of MARINA to support a much wider class of potentially {\em correlated} compressors, extending the reach of the method beyond the classical independent compressors setting, ii) show that a new quantity, for which we coin the name {\em Hessian variance}, allows us to significantly refine the original analysis of MARINA without any additional assumptions, and iii) identify a special class of correlated compressors based on the idea of {\em random permutations}, for which we coin the term PermK, the use of which leads to $O(\sqrt{n})$ (resp.\ $O(1 + d/\sqrt{n})$) improvement in the theoretical communication complexity of MARINA in the low Hessian variance regime when $d\geq n$ (resp.\ $d \leq n$), where $n$ is the number of workers and $d$ is the number of parameters describing the model we are learning. We corroborate our theoretical results with carefully engineered synthetic experiments with minimizing the average of nonconvex quadratics, and on autoencoder training with the MNIST dataset.


Peter Richtarik is a professor of Computer Science at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, where he leads the Optimization and Machine Learning Lab. At KAUST, he has a courtesy affiliation with the Applied Mathematics and Computational Sciences program and the Statistics program, and is a member of the Visual Computing Center, and the Extreme Computing Research Center. Prof Richtarik is a founding member and a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute (UK National Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence), and an EPSRC Fellow in Mathematical Sciences. During 2017-2019, he was a Visiting Professor at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Prior to joining KAUST, he was an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh, and held postdoctoral and visiting positions at Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium, and University of California, Berkeley, USA, respectively. He received his PhD in 2007 from Cornell University, USA. Prof Richtarik’s research interests lie at the intersection of mathematics, computer science, machine learning, optimization, numerical linear algebra, and high-performance computing. Through his work on randomized and distributed optimization algorithms, he has contributed to the foundations of machine learning, optimization and randomized numerical linear algebra. He is one of the original developers of Federated Learning – a new subfield of artificial intelligence whose goal is to train machine learning models over private data stored across a large number of heterogeneous devices, such as mobile phones or hospitals, in an efficient manner, and without compromising user privacy. In an October 2020 Forbes article, and alongside self-supervised learning and transformers, Federated Learning was listed as one of three emerging areas that will shape the next generation of Artificial Intelligence technologies. Prof Richtárik’s works attracted international awards, including a Best Paper Award at the NeurIPS 2020 Workshop on Scalability, Privacy, and Security in Federated Learning (joint with S. Horvath), Distinguished Speaker Award at the 2019 International Conference on Continuous Optimization, SIAM SIGEST Best Paper Award (joint with O. Fercoq), and the IMA Leslie Fox Prize (second prize, three times, awarded to two of his students and a postdoc). Several of his works are among the most read papers published by the SIAM Journal on Optimization and the SIAM Journal on Matrix Analysis and Applications. Prof Richtarik serves as an Area Chair for leading machine learning conferences, including NeurIPS, ICML and ICLR, and is an Area Editor of Journal of Optimization Theory and Applications, Associate Editor of Optimization Methods and Software, and a Handling Editor of the Journal of Nonsmooth Analysis and Optimization.

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