A Computationally Efficient Sparsified Online Newton Method

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Fnu Devvrit, Sai Surya Duvvuri, Rohan Anil, Vineet Gupta, Cho-Jui Hsieh, Inderjit Dhillon


Second-order methods hold significant promise for enhancing the convergence of deep neural network training; however, their large memory and computational demands have limited their practicality. Thus there is a need for scalable second-order methods that can efficiently train large models. In this paper, we introduce the Sparsified Online Newton~(SONew) method, a memory-efficient second-order algorithm that yields a sparsified yet effective preconditioner. The algorithm emerges from a novel use of the LogDet matrix divergence measure; we combine it with sparsity constraints to minimize regret in the online convex optimization framework. Empirically, we test our method on large scale benchmarks of up to 1B parameters. We achieve up to $30\\%$ faster convergence, $3.4\\%$ relative improvement in validation performance, and $80\\%$ relative improvement in training loss, in comparison to memory efficient optimizers including first order methods. Powering the method is a surprising fact -- imposing structured sparsity patterns, like tridiagonal and banded structure, requires little to no overhead, making it as efficient and parallelizable as first-order methods. In wall-clock time, tridiagonal SONew is only about $3\\%$ slower per step than first-order methods but gives overall gains due to much faster convergence. In contrast, one of the state-of-the-art (SOTA) memory-intensive second-order methods, Shampoo, is unable to scale to large benchmarks. Additionally, while Shampoo necessitates significant engineering efforts to scale to large benchmarks, SONew offers a more straightforward implementation, increasing its practical appeal. SONew code is available at: https://github.com/devvrit/SONew