Published: April 9, 2021
Yanping Huang, Staff Software Engineer, Google Brain

GShard: Scaling Giant Models with Conditional Computation and Automatic Sharding


 Neural network scaling has been critical for improving the model quality in many real-world machine learning applications with vast amounts of training data and computation. Although this trend of scaling is affirmed to be a sure-fire approach for better model quality, there are challenges on the path such as the computation cost, ease of programming, and efficient implementation on parallel devices. GShard is a module composed of a set of lightweight annotation APIs and an extension to the XLA compiler. It provides an elegant way to express a wide range of parallel computation patterns with minimal changes to the existing model code. GShard enabled us to scale up multilingual neural machine translation Transformer models with Sparsely-Gated Mixture-of-Experts beyond 600 billion parameters using automatic sharding. We demonstrate that such a giant model can efficiently be trained on 2048 TPU v3 accelerators in 4 days to achieve far superior quality for translation from 100 languages to English compared to the prior art.

Bio: Yanping Huang is a software engineer at Google Brain. He received his PhD from University of Washington working on reinforcement learning and computational neuroscience. His main research interests include neural architecture search and large scale machine learning infrastructure. His work is published in top-tier machine learning and computer vision conferences and journals including NeurIPS, ICLR, CVPR, AAAI, Neural Computation. He also served as a program committee member for  several top machine learning workshops and conferences, including NeurIPS, KDD, AAAI, ICML, WWW, Neural Computation.