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An efficient distributed learning algorithm based on effective local functional approximations

Dhruv Mahajan, Nikunj Agrawal, S. Sathiya Keerthi, Sundararajan Sellamanickam, Leon Bottou; 19(74):1−37, 2018.


Scalable machine learning over big data is an important problem that is receiving a lot of attention in recent years. On popular distributed environments such as Hadoop running on a cluster of commodity machines, communication costs are substantial and algorithms need to be designed suitably considering those costs. In this paper we give a novel approach to the distributed training of linear classifiers (involving smooth losses and $L_2$ regularization) that is designed to reduce the total communication costs. At each iteration, the nodes minimize locally formed approximate objective functions; then the resulting minimizers are combined to form a descent direction to move. Our approach gives a lot of freedom in the formation of the approximate objective function as well as in the choice of methods to solve them. The method is shown to have $O(\log(1/\epsilon))$ time convergence. The method can be viewed as an iterative parameter mixing method. A special instantiation yields a parallel stochastic gradient descent method with strong convergence. When communication times between nodes are large, our method is much faster than the Terascale method (Agarwal et al., 2011), which is a state of the art distributed solver based on the statistical query model (Chu et al., 2006) that computes function and gradient values in a distributed fashion. We also evaluate against other recent distributed methods and demonstrate superior performance of our method.

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