Optimized Broadcast for Deep Learning Workloads on Dense-GPU InfiniBand Clusters: MPI or NCCL?

Ammar Ahmad Awan, Ching-Hsiang Chu, Hari Subramoni, Dhabaleswar K. Panda
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, The Ohio State University
arXiv:1707.09414 [cs.DC], (28 Jul 2017)


   title={Optimized Broadcast for Deep Learning Workloads on Dense-GPU InfiniBand Clusters: MPI or NCCL?},

   author={Awan, Ammar Ahmad and Chu, Ching-Hsiang and Subramoni, Hari and Panda, Dhabaleswar K.},






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Dense Multi-GPU systems have recently gained a lot of attention in the HPC arena. Traditionally, MPI runtimes have been primarily designed for clusters with a large number of nodes. However, with the advent of MPI+CUDA applications and CUDA-Aware MPI runtimes like MVAPICH2 and OpenMPI, it has become important to address efficient communication schemes for such dense Multi-GPU nodes. This coupled with new application workloads brought forward by Deep Learning frameworks like Caffe and Microsoft CNTK pose additional design constraints due to very large message communication of GPU buffers during the training phase. In this context, special-purpose libraries like NVIDIA NCCL have been proposed for GPU-based collective communication on dense GPU systems. In this paper, we propose a pipelined chain (ring) design for the MPI_Bcast collective operation along with an enhanced collective tuning framework in MVAPICH2-GDR that enables efficient intra-/inter-node multi-GPU communication. We present an in-depth performance landscape for the proposed MPI_Bcast schemes along with a comparative analysis of NVIDIA NCCL Broadcast and NCCL-based MPI_Bcast. The proposed designs for MVAPICH2-GDR enable up to 14X and 16.6X improvement, compared to NCCL-based solutions, for intra- and inter-node broadcast latency, respectively. In addition, the proposed designs provide up to 7% improvement over NCCL-based solutions for data parallel training of the VGG network on 128 GPUs using Microsoft CNTK.
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