BNS-GCN: Efficient Full-Graph Training of Graph Convolutional Networks with Partition-Parallelism and Random Boundary Node Sampling

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

Bibtex Paper


Cheng Wan, Youjie Li, Ang Li, Nam Sung Kim, Yingyan Lin


Graph Convolutional Networks (GCNs) have emerged as the state-of-the-art method for graph-based learning tasks. However, training GCNs at scale is still challenging, hindering both the exploration of more sophisticated GCN architectures and their applications to real-world large graphs. While it might be natural to consider graph partition and distributed training for tackling this challenge, this direction has only been slightly scratched the surface in the previous works due to the limitations of existing designs. In this work, we first analyze why distributed GCN training is ineffective and identify the underlying cause to be the excessive number of boundary nodes of each partitioned subgraph, which easily explodes the memory and communication costs for GCN training. Furthermore, we propose a simple yet effective method dubbed BNS-GCN that adopts random Boundary-Node-Sampling to enable efficient and scalable distributed GCN training. Experiments and ablation studies consistently validate the effectiveness of BNS-GCN, e.g., boosting the throughput by up to 16.2× and reducing the memory usage by up to 58%, while maintaining a full-graph accuracy. Furthermore, both theoretical and empirical analysis show that BNS-GCN enjoys a better convergence than existing sampling-based methods. We believe that our BNS-GCN has opened up a new paradigm for enabling GCN training at scale. The code is available at