Towards Unified INT8 Training for Convolutional Neural Network

CVPR 2020

Authors: Feng Zhu, Ruihao Gong, Fengwei Yu, Xianglong Liu, Yanfei Wang, Zhelong Li, Xiuqi Yang, Junjie Yan Description: Recently low-bit (e.g., 8-bit) network quantization has been extensively studied to accelerate the inference. Besides inference, low-bit training with quantized gradients can further bring more considerable acceleration, since the backward process is often computation-intensive. Unfortunately, the inappropriate quantization of backward propagation usually makes the training unstable and even crash. There lacks a successful unified low-bit training framework that can support diverse networks on various tasks. In this paper, we give an attempt to build a unified 8-bit (INT8) training framework for common convolutional neural networks from the aspects of both accuracy and speed. First, we empirically find the four distinctive characteristics of gradients, which provide us insightful clues for gradient quantization. Then, we theoretically give an in-depth analysis of the convergence bound and derive two principles for stable INT8 training. Finally, we propose two universal techniques, including Direction Sensitive Gradient Clipping that reduces the direction deviation of gradients and Deviation Counteractive Learning Rate Scaling that avoids illegal gradient update along the wrong direction. The experiments show that our unified solution promises accurate and efficient INT8 training for a variety of networks and tasks, including MobileNetV2, InceptionV3 and object detection that prior studies have never succeeded. Moreover, it enjoys a strong flexibility to run on off-the-shelf hardware, and reduces the training time by 22% on Pascal GPU without too much optimization effort. We believe that this pioneering study will help lead the community towards a fully unified INT8 training for convolutional neural networks.