Is Local SGD Better than Minibatch SGD?

Jul 12, 2020

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We study local SGD (also known as parallel SGD and federated SGD), a natural and frequently used distributed optimization method. Its theoretical foundations are currently lacking and we highlight how all existing error guarantees in the convex setting are dominated by a simple baseline, minibatch SGD. (1) For quadratic objectives we prove that local SGD strictly dominates minibatch SGD and that accelerated local SGD is minmax optimal for quadratics; (2) For general convex objectives we provide the first guarantee that at least sometimes improves over minibatch SGD, but our guarantee does not always improve over, nor even match, minibatch SGD; (3) We show that indeed local SGD does not dominate minibatch SGD by presenting a lower bound on the performance of local SGD that is worse than the minibatch SGD guarantee.

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About ICML 2020

The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) is the premier gathering of professionals dedicated to the advancement of the branch of artificial intelligence known as machine learning. ICML is globally renowned for presenting and publishing cutting-edge research on all aspects of machine learning used in closely related areas like artificial intelligence, statistics and data science, as well as important application areas such as machine vision, computational biology, speech recognition, and robotics. ICML is one of the fastest growing artificial intelligence conferences in the world. Participants at ICML span a wide range of backgrounds, from academic and industrial researchers, to entrepreneurs and engineers, to graduate students and postdocs.

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