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On the Effect of Batch Size in Byzantine-Robust Distributed Learning

Yi-Rui Yang · Chang-Wei Shi · Wu-Jun Li

Halle B #153
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Wed 8 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT


Byzantine-robust distributed learning (BRDL), in which computing devices are likely to behave abnormally due to accidental failures or malicious attacks, has recently become a hot research topic. However, even in the independent and identically distributed (i.i.d.) case, existing BRDL methods will suffer a significant drop on model accuracy due to the large variance of stochastic gradients. Increasing batch sizes is a simple yet effective way to reduce the variance. However, when the total number of gradient computation is fixed, a too-large batch size will lead to a too-small iteration number (update number), which may also degrade the model accuracy. In view of this challenge, we mainly study the effect of batch size when the total number of gradient computation is fixed in this work. In particular, we show that when the total number of gradient computation is fixed, the optimal batch size corresponding to the tightest theoretical upper bound in BRDL increases with the fraction of Byzantine workers. Therefore, compared to the case without attacks, a larger batch size is preferred when under Byzantine attacks. Motivated by the theoretical finding, we propose a novel method called Byzantine-robust stochastic gradient descent with normalized momentum (ByzSGDnm) in order to further increase model accuracy in BRDL. We theoretically prove the convergence of ByzSGDnm for general non-convex cases under Byzantine attacks. Empirical results show that when under Byzantine attacks, compared to the cases of small batch sizes, setting a relatively large batch size can significantly increase the model accuracy, which is consistent with our theoretical results. Moreover, ByzSGDnm can achieve higher model accuracy than existing BRDL methods when under deliberately crafted attacks. In addition, we empirically show that increasing batch sizes has the bonus of training acceleration.

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