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ProxSkip: A Simple and Provably Effective Communication-Acceleration Technique for Federated Learning
Konstantin Mishchenko · Grigory Malinovsky · Sebastian Stich · Peter Richtarik

Wed Jul 20 03:30 PM -- 05:30 PM (PDT) @ Hall E #710
We introduce ProxSkip---a surprisingly simple yet fundamental method for minimizing the sum of a smooth ($f$) and a nonsmooth but proximable ($\psi$) functions. The canonical approach to solving such problems is via the proximal gradient descent (ProxGD) algorithm, which is based on the evaluation of the gradient of $f$ and the prox operator of $\psi$ in each iteration. In this work we are specifically interested in the regime in which the evaluation of prox is costly relative to the evaluation of the gradient, which is the case in many applications. ProxSkip allows for the expensive prox operator to be skipped in most iterations: while its iteration complexity is $\cO(\kappa \log \nicefrac{1}{\varepsilon})$, where $\kappa$ is the condition number of $f$, the number of prox evaluations is $\cO(\sqrt{\kappa} \log \nicefrac{1}{\varepsilon})$ only. Our main motivation comes from federated learning, where evaluation of the gradient operator corresponds to taking a local GD step independently on all devices, and evaluation of prox corresponds to (expensive) communication in the form of gradient averaging. In this context, ProxSkip offers an effective {\em acceleration} of communication complexity. Unlike other local gradient-type methods, such as FedAvg, Scaffold and FedLin, whose theoretical communication complexity is worse than that of vanilla GD in the heterogeneous data regime, we obtain a provable and large improvement without any heterogeneity-bounding assumptions.

Author Information

Konstantin Mishchenko (CNRS)
Grigory Malinovsky (KAUST)
Sebastian Stich (CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security gGmbH)
Peter Richtarik (KAUST)

Peter Richtarik is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics at KAUST and an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh. He is an EPSRC Fellow in Mathematical Sciences, Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute, and is affiliated with the Visual Computing Center and the Extreme Computing Research Center at KAUST. Dr. Richtarik received his PhD from Cornell University in 2007, and then worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Louvain, Belgium, before joining Edinburgh in 2009, and KAUST in 2017. Dr. Richtarik's research interests lie at the intersection of mathematics, computer science, machine learning, optimization, numerical linear algebra, high performance computing and applied probability. Through his recent work on randomized decomposition algorithms (such as randomized coordinate descent methods, stochastic gradient descent methods and their numerous extensions, improvements and variants), he has contributed to the foundations of the emerging field of big data optimization, randomized numerical linear algebra, and stochastic methods for empirical risk minimization. Several of his papers attracted international awards, including the SIAM SIGEST Best Paper Award, the IMA Leslie Fox Prize (2nd prize, twice), and the INFORMS Computing Society Best Student Paper Award (sole runner up). He is the founder and organizer of the Optimization and Big Data workshop series.​

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