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Adding vs. Averaging in Distributed Primal-Dual Optimization

Chenxin Ma, Virginia Smith, Martin Jaggi, Michael Jordan, Peter Richtarik, Martin Takac
Proceedings of The 32nd International Conference on Machine Learning, pp. 1973–1982, 2015


Distributed optimization methods for large-scale machine learning suffer from a communication bottleneck. It is difficult to reduce this bottleneck while still efficiently and accurately aggregating partial work from different machines. In this paper, we present a novel generalization of the recent communication-efficient primal-dual framework (COCOA) for distributed optimization. Our framework, COCOA+, allows for additive combination of local updates to the global parameters at each iteration, whereas previous schemes only allow conservative averaging. We give stronger (primal-dual) convergence rate guarantees for both COCOA as well as our new variants, and generalize the theory for both methods to cover non-smooth convex loss functions. We provide an extensive experimental comparison that shows the markedly improved performance of COCOA+ on several real-world distributed datasets, especially when scaling up the number of machines.

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