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Training Quantized Neural Networks to Global Optimality via Semidefinite Programming

Burak Bartan · Mert Pilanci


Neural networks (NNs) have been extremely successful across many tasks in machine learning. Quantization of NN weights has become an important topic due to its impact on their energy efficiency, inference time and deployment on hardware. Although post-training quantization is well-studied, training optimal quantized NNs involves combinatorial non-convex optimization problems which appear intractable. In this work, we introduce a convex optimization strategy to train quantized NNs with polynomial activations. Our method leverages hidden convexity in two-layer neural networks from the recent literature, semidefinite lifting, and Grothendieck's identity. Surprisingly, we show that certain quantized NN problems can be solved to global optimality provably in polynomial time in all relevant parameters via tight semidefinite relaxations. We present numerical examples to illustrate the effectiveness of our method.

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