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Communication-Efficient Distributed Optimization with Quantized Preconditioners

Foivos Alimisis · Peter Davies · Dan Alistarh

Abstract: We investigate fast and communication-efficient algorithms for the classic problem of minimizing a sum of strongly convex and smooth functions that are distributed among $n$ different nodes, which can communicate using a limited number of bits. Most previous communication-efficient approaches for this problem are limited to first-order optimization, and therefore have \emph{linear} dependence on the condition number in their communication complexity. We show that this dependence is not inherent: communication-efficient methods can in fact have sublinear dependence on the condition number. For this, we design and analyze the first communication-efficient distributed variants of preconditioned gradient descent for Generalized Linear Models, and for Newton's method. Our results rely on a new technique for quantizing both the preconditioner and the descent direction at each step of the algorithms, while controlling their convergence rate. We also validate our findings experimentally, showing faster convergence and reduced communication relative to previous methods.

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