YellowFin and the Art of Momentum Tuning

Part of Proceedings of Machine Learning and Systems 1 (MLSys 2019)

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Authors

Jian Zhang, Ioannis Mitliagkas

Abstract

Hyperparameter tuning is one of the most time-consuming workloads in deep learning. State-of-the-art optimizers, such as AdaGrad, RMSProp and Adam, reduce this labor by adaptively tuning an individual learning rate for each variable. Recently researchers have shown renewed interest in simpler methods like momentum SGD as they may yield better test metrics. Motivated by this trend, we ask: can simple adaptive methods based on SGD perform as well or better? We revisit the momentum SGD algorithm and show that hand-tuning a single learning rate and momentum makes it competitive with Adam. We then analyze its robustness to learning rate misspecification and objective curvature variation. Based on these insights, we design YellowFin, an automatic tuner for momentum and learning rate in SGD. YellowFin optionally uses a negative-feedback loop to compensate for the momentum dynamics in asynchronous settings on the fly. We empirically show that YellowFin can converge in fewer iterations than Adam on ResNets and LSTMs for image recognition, language modeling and constituency parsing, with a speedup of up to 3.28x in synchronous and up to 2.69x in asynchronous settings.