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Highly Scalable Deep Learning Training System with Mixed-Precision: Training ImageNet in Four Minutes

Xianyan Jia, Shutao Song, Wei He, Yangzihao Wang, Haidong Rong, Feihu Zhou, Liqiang Xie, Zhenyu Guo, Yuanzhou Yang, Liwei Yu, Tiegang Chen, Guangxiao Hu, Shaohuai Shi, Xiaowen Chu

Synchronized stochastic gradient descent (SGD) optimizers with data parallelism are widely used in training large-scale deep neural networks. Although using larger mini-batch sizes can improve the system scalability by reducing the communication-to-computation ratio, it may hurt the generalization ability of the models. To this end, we build a highly scalable deep learning training system for dense GPU clusters with three main contributions: (1) We propose a mixed-precision training method that significantly improves the training throughput of a single GPU without losing accuracy. (2) We propose an optimization approach for extremely large mini-batch size (up to 64k) that can train CNN models on the ImageNet dataset without losing accuracy. (3) We propose highly optimized all-reduce algorithms that achieve up to 3x and 11x speedup on AlexNet and ResNet-50 respectively than NCCL-based training on a cluster with 1024 Tesla P40 GPUs. On training ResNet-50 with 90 epochs, the state-of-the-art GPU-based system with 1024 Tesla P100 GPUs spent 15 minutes and achieved 74.9\% top-1 test accuracy, and another KNL-based system with 2048 Intel KNLs spent 20 minutes and achieved 75.4\% accuracy. Our training system can achieve 75.8\% top-1 test accuracy in only 6.6 minutes using 2048 Tesla P40 GPUs. When training AlexNet with 95 epochs, our system can achieve 58.7\% top-1 test accuracy within 4 minutes, which also outperforms all other existing systems.

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