MicroRec: Efficient Recommendation Inference by Hardware and Data Structure Solutions

Part of Proceedings of Machine Learning and Systems 3 pre-proceedings (MLSys 2021)

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Wenqi Jiang, Zhenhao He, Shuai Zhang, Thomas B. Preußer, Kai Zeng, Liang Feng, Jiansong Zhang, Tongxuan Liu, Yong Li , Jingren Zhou, Ce Zhang, Gustavo Alonso


Deep neural networks are widely used in personalized recommendation systems. Unlike regular DNN inference workloads, recommendation inference is memory-bound due to the many random memory accesses needed to lookup the embedding tables. The inference is also heavily constrained in terms of latency because producing a recommendation for a user must be done in about tens of milliseconds. In this paper, we propose MicroRec, a high-performance inference engine for recommendation systems. MicroRec accelerates recommendation inference by (1) redesigning the data structures involved in the embeddings to reduce the number of lookups needed and (2) taking advantage of the availability of High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) in FPGA accelerators to tackle the latency by enabling parallel lookups. We have implemented the resulting design on an FPGA board including the embedding lookup step as well as the complete inference process. Compared to the optimized CPU baseline (16 vCPU, AVX2-enabled), MicroRec achieves 13.8~14.7x speedup on embedding lookup alone and 2.5~5.4x speedup for the entire recommendation inference in terms of throughput. As for latency, CPU-based engines needs milliseconds for inferring a recommendation while MicroRec only takes microseconds, a significant advantage in real-time recommendation systems.