Keywords: [ asynchronous SGD ] [ delayed SGD ] [ federated learning ] [ Stochastic Optimization ] [ Distributed Optimization ]

Abstract:
We study the asynchronous stochastic gradient descent algorithm, for distributed training over $n$ workers that might be heterogeneous. In this algorithm, workers compute stochastic gradients in parallel at their own pace and return them to the server without any synchronization.Existing convergence rates of this algorithm for non-convex smooth objectives depend on the maximum delay $\tau_{\max}$ and reach an $\epsilon$-stationary point after $O\!\left(\sigma^2\epsilon^{-2}+ \tau_{\max}\epsilon^{-1}\right)$ iterations, where $\sigma$ is the variance of stochastic gradients. In this work (i) we obtain a tighter convergence rate of $O\!\left(\sigma^2\epsilon^{-2}+ \sqrt{\tau_{\max}\tau_{avg}}\epsilon^{-1}\right)$ *without any change in the algorithm* where $\tau_{avg}$ is the average delay, which can be significantly smaller than $\tau_{\max}$. We also provide (ii) a simple delay-adaptive learning rate scheme, under which asynchronous SGD achieves a convergence rate of $O\!\left(\sigma^2\epsilon^{-2}+ \tau_{avg}\epsilon^{-1}\right)$, and does not require any extra hyperparameter tuning nor extra communications. Our result allows to show *for the first time* that asynchronous SGD is *always faster* than mini-batch SGD. In addition, (iii) we consider the case of heterogeneous functions motivated by federated learning applications and improve the convergence rate by proving a weaker dependence on the maximum delay compared to prior works.

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