Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content


Analysis of Error Feedback in Federated Non-Convex Optimization with Biased Compression: Fast Convergence and Partial Participation

Xiaoyun Li · Ping Li

Ballroom A


In practical federated learning (FL) systems, the communication cost between the clients and the central server can often be a bottleneck. In this paper, we focus on biased gradient compression in non-convex FL problems. In the classical distributed learning, the method of error feedback (EF) is a common technique to remedy the downsides of biased gradient compression, but the performance of EF in FL still lacks systematic investigation. In this work, we study a compressed FL scheme with error feedback, named Fed-EF, with two variants depending on the global model optimizer. While directly applying biased compression in FL leads to poor convergence, we show that Fed-EF is able to match the convergence rate of the full-precision FL counterpart with a linear speedup w.r.t. the number of clients. Experiments verify that Fed-EF achieves the same performance as the full-precision FL approach, at the substantially reduced communication cost. Moreover, we develop a new analysis of the EF under partial participation (PP), an important scenario in FL. Under PP, the convergence rate of Fed-EF exhibits an extra slow-down factor due to a so-called ``stale error compensation'' effect, which is also justified in our experiments. Our results provide insights on a theoretical limitation of EF, and possible directions for improvements.

Chat is not available.