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Adascale

Adascale is a technique used to enable large batch training that allows you to increase batch size without loss of accuracy. When increasing batch size with the number of devices, the learning rate is typically tuned based on the batch size. With Adascale, users no longer need to modify the learning rate schedule and still achieve the desired accuracy. Adascale has been implemented as the Adascale API in FairScale. This technique typically works well for SGD (with and without momentum) The assumption is that you already have a good learning rate schedule that works well for small batch sizes. (AdaScale has not been validated to work effectively with Adam, further research in that direction is needed.)

AdaScale adapts the learning rate schedule and determines when to stop based on comparing statistics of large-batch gradients with those of small-batch gradients. Small batch gradients are gradients that have been computed on each GPU and large batch gradients are the average of gradients computed on N such GPUs. Adascale uses the concept of gain ratio which is intuitively a measure of how much the variance has reduced by averaging N small batch gradients. It is a quantity between 1 and N. In practice, the implementation tracks estimates of the gradient variance and norm-squared which are smoothed using an exponentially-weighted moving average. If T is the number of steps used to train the original small batch size before scaling, Adascale stops training once the accumulated gain ratio is greater than T. As you use more and more GPUs in the training the total steps needed to train decreases, but due to the value of gain ratio between [1, N], the total steps does not linearly decrease as you increase the GPUs. Additional training steps are taken to maintain the model accuracy, when compared with original_total_step/N (i.e. linear scaling). In other words, whenever the gain ratio is less than N, we could not take as large a step as we may have hoped for, and so the total number of iterations ends up being larger than T / N. The current implementation in FairScale supports gradient accumulation training, can be used with Optimizer State Sharding (OSS), and works with PyTorch LR scheduler classes.

The training process is as follows:

  1. Compute the forward pass

  2. During the backward pass, hooks attached to each of the parameters fire before the allreduce operation. This is to enable us to calculate the accumulated squares of the local gradients.

  3. A final backward hook fires after all the gradients have been reduced using the allreduce op. Using the global gradient square and the accumulated local gradient square, the gradient square average and gradient variance average is calculated.

  4. These values are then used to calculate the gain ratio. During the step call of the optimizer, the learning rate is updated using this gain ratio value.

  5. The training loop terminates once maximum number of steps has been reached

Best practices for fairscale.optim.AdaScale

Adascale only works for the SGD optimizer (with and without momentum)

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