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QLLM: Accurate and Efficient Low-Bitwidth Quantization for Large Language Models

Jing Liu · Ruihao Gong · Xiuying Wei · Zhiwei Dong · Jianfei Cai · Bohan Zhuang

Halle B #88
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Wed 8 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT


Large Language Models (LLMs) have demonstrated unparalleled efficacy in natural language processing. However, their high computational demands and memory overheads hinder their broad deployment. To address this, two quantization strategies emerge, including Quantization-Aware Training (QAT) and Post-Training Quantization (PTQ). For LLMs, the billions of parameters make the QAT impractical due to the prohibitive training cost and thus PTQ becomes more prevalent. In existing studies, activation outliers in particular channels are identified as the biggest challenge to PTQ accuracy. They propose to transform the magnitudes from activations to weights, which however offers limited alleviation or suffers from unstable gradients, resulting in a severe performance drop at low-bitwidth. In this paper, we propose QLLM, an accurate and efficient low-bitwidth PTQ method designed for LLMs. QLLM introduces an adaptive channel reassembly technique that reallocates the magnitude of outliers to other channels, thereby mitigating their impact on the quantization range. This is achieved by channel disassembly and channel assembly, which first breaks down the outlier channels into several sub-channels to ensure a more balanced distribution of activation magnitudes. Then similar channels are merged to maintain the original channel number for efficiency. Additionally, an adaptive strategy is designed to autonomously determine the optimal number of sub-channels for channel disassembly. To further compensate for the performance loss caused by quantization, we propose an efficient tuning method that only learns a small number of low-rank weights while freezing the pre-trained quantized model. After training, these low-rank parameters can be fused into the frozen weights without affecting inference. Extensive experiments on LLaMA-1 and LLaMA-2 show that QLLM is able to obtain accurate quantized models efficiently. For example, QLLM quantizes the 4-bit LLaMA-2-70B within 10 hours on a single A100-80G GPU, outperforming the previous state-of-the-art method by 7.89% on the average accuracy across five zero-shot tasks. Code is available at ZIP Lab and ModelTC.

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