VirtualFlow: Decoupling Deep Learning Models from the Underlying Hardware

Part of Proceedings of Machine Learning and Systems 4 pre-proceedings (MLSys 2022)


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Andrew Or, Haoyu Zhang, Michael None Freedman


We propose VirtualFlow, a system leveraging a novel abstraction called virtual node processing to decouple the model from the hardware. In each step of training or inference, the batch of input data is split across virtual nodes instead of hardware accelerators (e.g., GPUs and TPUs). Mapping multiple virtual nodes to each accelerator and processing them sequentially effectively time slices the batch, thereby allowing users to reduce the memory requirements of their workloads and mimic large batch sizes on small clusters. Using this technique, VirtualFlow enables many new use cases, such as reproducing training results across different hardware, resource elasticity, and heterogeneous training. In our evaluation, our implementation of VirtualFlow for TensorFlow achieved strong convergence guarantees across different hardware with out-of-the-box hyperparameters, up to 48% lower job completion times with resource elasticity, and up to 42% higher throughput with heterogeneous training.