Konečný, Jakub, Liu, Jie, Richtárik, Peter, Takáč, Martin

We propose mS2GD: a method incorporating a mini-batching scheme for improving the theoretical complexity and practical performance of semi-stochastic gradient descent (S2GD). We consider the problem of minimizing a strongly convex function represented as the sum of an average of a large number of smooth convex functions, and a simple nonsmooth convex regularizer. Our method first performs a deterministic step (computation of the gradient of the objective function at the starting point), followed by a large number of stochastic steps. The process is repeated a few times with the last iterate becoming the new starting point. The novelty of our method is in introduction of mini-batching into the computation of stochastic steps. In each step, instead of choosing a single function, we sample $b$ functions, compute their gradients, and compute the direction based on this. We analyze the complexity of the method and show that it benefits from two speedup effects. First, we prove that as long as $b$ is below a certain threshold, we can reach any predefined accuracy with less overall work than without mini-batching. Second, our mini-batching scheme admits a simple parallel implementation, and hence is suitable for further acceleration by parallelization.

Konečný, Jakub, Richtárik, Peter

In this paper we study the problem of minimizing the average of a large number ($n$) of smooth convex loss functions. We propose a new method, S2GD (Semi-Stochastic Gradient Descent), which runs for one or several epochs in each of which a single full gradient and a random number of stochastic gradients is computed, following a geometric law. The total work needed for the method to output an $\varepsilon$-accurate solution in expectation, measured in the number of passes over data, or equivalently, in units equivalent to the computation of a single gradient of the loss, is $O((\kappa/n)\log(1/\varepsilon))$, where $\kappa$ is the condition number. This is achieved by running the method for $O(\log(1/\varepsilon))$ epochs, with a single gradient evaluation and $O(\kappa)$ stochastic gradient evaluations in each. The SVRG method of Johnson and Zhang arises as a special case. If our method is limited to a single epoch only, it needs to evaluate at most $O((\kappa/\varepsilon)\log(1/\varepsilon))$ stochastic gradients. In contrast, SVRG requires $O(\kappa/\varepsilon^2)$ stochastic gradients. To illustrate our theoretical results, S2GD only needs the workload equivalent to about 2.1 full gradient evaluations to find an $10^{-6}$-accurate solution for a problem with $n=10^9$ and $\kappa=10^3$.

Zinkevich, Martin, Weimer, Markus, Li, Lihong, Smola, Alex J.

With the increase in available data parallel machine learning has become an increasingly pressing problem. In this paper we present the first parallel stochastic gradient descent algorithm including a detailed analysis and experimental evidence. Unlike prior work on parallel optimization algorithms our variant comes with parallel acceleration guarantees and it poses no overly tight latency constraints, which might only be available in the multicore setting. Our analysis introduces a novel proof technique --- contractive mappings to quantify the speed of convergence of parameter distributions to their asymptotic limits. As a side effect this answers the question of how quickly stochastic gradient descent algorithms reach the asymptotically normal regime.

Stochastic Gradient Descent (SGD) is a very powerful technique, currently employed to optimize all deep learning models. However, the vanilla algorithm has many limitations, in particular when the system is ill-conditioned and could never find the global minimum. In this post, we're going to analyze how it works and the most important variations that can speed up the convergence in deep models.

Uniform sampling of training data has been commonly used in traditional stochastic optimization algorithms such as Proximal Stochastic Gradient Descent (prox-SGD) and Proximal Stochastic Dual Coordinate Ascent (prox-SDCA). Although uniform sampling can guarantee that the sampled stochastic quantity is an unbiased estimate of the corresponding true quantity, the resulting estimator may have a rather high variance, which negatively affects the convergence of the underlying optimization procedure. In this paper we study stochastic optimization with importance sampling, which improves the convergence rate by reducing the stochastic variance. Specifically, we study prox-SGD (actually, stochastic mirror descent) with importance sampling and prox-SDCA with importance sampling. For prox-SGD, instead of adopting uniform sampling throughout the training process, the proposed algorithm employs importance sampling to minimize the variance of the stochastic gradient. For prox-SDCA, the proposed importance sampling scheme aims to achieve higher expected dual value at each dual coordinate ascent step. We provide extensive theoretical analysis to show that the convergence rates with the proposed importance sampling methods can be significantly improved under suitable conditions both for prox-SGD and for prox-SDCA. Experiments are provided to verify the theoretical analysis.