Artificial intelligence and machine learning are experiencing widespread adoption in industry and academia. This has been driven by rapid advances in the applications and accuracy of AI through increasingly complex algorithms and models; this, in turn, has spurred research into specialized hardware AI accelerators. Given the rapid pace of advances, it is easy to forget that they are often developed and evaluated in a vacuum without considering the full application environment. This article emphasizes the need for a holistic, end-to-end analysis of artificial intelligence (AI) workloads and reveals the “AI tax.” We deploy and characterize Face Recognition in an edge data center. The application is an AI-centric edge video analytics application built using popular open source infrastructure and machine learning (ML) tools. Despite using state-of-the-art AI and ML algorithms, the application relies heavily on pre- and post-processing code. As AI-centric applications benefit from the acceleration promised by accelerators, we find they impose stresses on the hardware and software infrastructure: storage and network bandwidth become major bottlenecks with increasing AI acceleration. By specializing for AI applications, we show that a purpose-built edge data center can be designed for the stresses of accelerated AI at 15% lower TCO than one derived from homogeneous servers and infrastructure.
Data engineering is one of the fastest-growing fields within machine learning (ML). As ML becomes more common, the appetite for data grows more ravenous. But ML requires more data than individual teams of data engineers can readily produce, which presents a severe challenge to ML deployment at scale. Much like the software-engineering revolution, where mass adoption of open-source software replaced the closed, in-house development model for infrastructure code, there is a growing need to enable rapid development and open contribution to massive machine learning data sets. This article shows that open-source data sets are the rocket fuel for research and innovation at even some of the largest AI organizations. Our analysis of nearly 2000 research publications from Facebook, Google and Microsoft over the past five years shows the widespread use and adoption of open data sets. Open data sets that are easily accessible to the public are vital to accelerate ML innovation for everyone. But such open resources are scarce in the wild. So, can we accelerate data set creation and enable the rapid development of open data sets, akin to the rapid development of open-source software? Moreover, can we develop automatic data set generation frameowrks and tools to avert the data scarcity crisis?
Conventional hardware-friendly quantization methods, such as fixed-point or integer, tend to perform poorly at very low word sizes as their shrinking dynamic ranges cannot adequately capture the wide data distributions commonly seen in sequence transduction models. We present AdaptivFloat, a floating-point inspired number representation format for deep learning that dynamically maximizes and optimally clips its available dynamic range, at a layer granularity, in order to create faithful encoding of neural network parameters. AdaptivFloat consistently produces higher inference accuracies compared to block floating-point, uniform, IEEE-like float or posit encodings at very low precision (≤ 8-bit) across a diverse set of state-of-the-art neural network topologies. And notably, AdaptivFloat is seen surpassing baseline FP32 performance by up to +0.3 in BLEU score and -0.75 in word error rate at weight bit widths that are ≤ 8-bit. Experimental results on a deep neural network (DNN) hardware accelerator, exploiting AdaptivFloat logic in its computational datapath, demonstrate per-operation energy and area that is 0.9× and 1.14×, respectively, that of equivalent bit width integer-based accelerator variants.
In this article, we describe the design choices behind MLPerf, a machine learning performance benchmark that has become an industry standard. The first two rounds of the MLPerf Training benchmark helped drive improvements to software-stack performance and scalability, showing a 1.3× speedup in the top 16-chip results despite higher quality targets and a 5.5× increase in system scale. The first round of MLPerf Inference received over 500 benchmark results from 14 different organizations, showing growing adoption.
Machine-learning (ML) hardware and software system demand is burgeoning. Driven by ML applications, the number of different ML inference systems has exploded. Over 100 organizations are building ML inference chips, and the systems that incorporate existing models span at least three orders of magnitude in power consumption and five orders of magnitude in performance; they range from embedded devices to data-center solutions. Fueling the hardware are a dozen or more software frameworks and libraries. The myriad combinations of ML hardware and ML software make assessing ML-system performance in an architecture-neutral, representative, and reproducible manner challenging. There is a clear need for industry-wide standard ML benchmarking and evaluation criteria. MLPerf Inference answers that call. In this paper, we present our benchmarking method for evaluating ML inference systems. Driven by more than 30 organizations as well as more than 200 ML engineers and practitioners, MLPerf prescribes a set of rules and best practices to ensure comparability across systems with wildly differing architectures. The first call for submissions garnered more than 600 reproducible inference-performance measurements from 14 organizations, representing over 30 systems that showcase a wide range of capabilities. The submissions attest to the benchmark's flexibility and adaptability.
Machine learning (ML) needs industry-standard performance benchmarks to support design and competitive evaluation of the many emerging software and hardware solutions for ML. But ML training presents three unique benchmarking challenges absent from other domains: optimizations that improve training throughput can increase the time to solution, training is stochastic and time to solution exhibits high variance, and software and hardware systems are so diverse that fair benchmarking with the same binary, code, and even hyperparameters is difficult. We therefore present MLPerf, an ML benchmark that overcomes these challenges. Our analysis quantitatively evaluates MLPerf's efficacy at driving performance and scalability improvements across two rounds of results from multiple vendors.
Recent work has shown that quantization can help reduce the memory, compute, and energy demands of deep neural networks without significantly harming their quality. However, whether these prior techniques, applied traditionally to image-based models, work with the same efficacy to the sequential decision making process in reinforcement learning remains an unanswered question. To address this void, we conduct the first comprehensive empirical study that quantifies the effects of quantization on various deep reinforcement learning policies with the intent to reduce their computational resource demands. We apply techniques such as post-training quantization and quantization aware training to a spectrum of reinforcement learning tasks (such as Pong, Breakout, BeamRider and more) and training algorithms (such as PPO, A2C, DDPG, and DQN). Across this spectrum of tasks and learning algorithms, we show that policies can be quantized to 6-8 bits of precision without loss of accuracy. We also show that certain tasks and reinforcement learning algorithms yield policies that are more difficult to quantize due to their effect of widening the models' distribution of weights and that quantization aware training consistently improves results over post-training quantization and oftentimes even over the full precision baseline. Finally, we demonstrate real-world applications of quantization for reinforcement learning. We use half-precision training to train a Pong model 50% faster, and we deploy a quantized reinforcement learning based navigation policy to an embedded system, achieving an 18 speedup and a 4 reduction in memory usage over …