Large scale distributed training requires significant communication cost, which is especially true for large models. For example in traditional synchronous distributed setup with AllReduce to synchronize gradients (which is the case for many libraries, such as Horovod and PyTorch DDP), in each iteration of the training process, the gradient, whose size is equal to the model size, needs to be sent and received on each worker. Such communication cost soon becomes the training bottleneck in many scenarios.

There are many existing papers about how to apply model/gradient compression to save this communication cost. Bagua provides a built-in gradient compression algorithm called ByteGrad, which compresses the gradient floats to 8bit bytes before communication. This saves 3/4 of the original cost. It implements high accuracy min-max quantization operator with optimized CUDA kernels, and hierarchical communication. This makes it much faster (about 50% faster in our benchmark) than other compression implementations in existing frameworks (such as PyTorch PowerSGD) and in the same number of epochs ByteGrad converges similar to full precision algorithms on most tasks.

For comparison with other algorithms (may or may not be compression algorithms), refer to benchmark page.


ByteGrad does the following steps in each iteration. Assume we have nodes and each node has GPUs.

  1. Calculate gradient on the -th node's -th GPU for all
  2. The first GPU on each node does a reduce operation to compute the average of all GPUs' gradients on the same node, defined as for the -th node
  3. The first GPU on -th node quantize the gradient with a quantization function : , for all . Then each node exchange the quantized version between nodes so that each node has the average of all
  4. The first GPU on each node broadcast the average of all s to every other GPU on the same node, and all GPUs on all workers use this quantized average to update model

The quantization function calculates the minimum value and maximum value of its input, and the split into evenly spaced 256 intervals. Then represent each element of its input by a 8bit integer representing which interval the original element is in.

Example usage

A complete example of running ByteGrad can be found at Bagua examples with --algorithm bytegrad command line argument.

You need to initialize the Bagua algorithm with (see API documentation for what parameters you can customize):

from bagua.torch_api.algorithms import bytegrad
algorithm = bytegrad.ByteGradAlgorithm()

Then decorate your model with:

model = model.with_bagua([optimizer], algorithm)