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MicroNet: Team MIT-HAN-Lab


Our work has been accepted by PMLR! PMLR link; arXiv link.

Hanrui and Zhongxia gave a talk (Starts from 26:17) on the challenge in NeurIPS 2019, Vancouver.



This codebase provides the code, configurations, and commands for our submission to PMLR for representing our work in the NeurIPS 2019 MicroNet Challenge on the WikiText-103 Language Modeling task. The information for our submission to NeurIPS 2019 MicroNet Challenge can be found here.

Team members: Zhongxia Yan, Hanrui Wang, Demi Guo, Song Han.

Our work implements or make improvements to the following methods, integrating them to create an efficient language model for the Wikitext-103 task

Our best model achieves a validation perplexity of 34.1 and test perplexity of 35.0 on Wikitext-103, while using 1.8M 32-bit parameters and 8.8M 32-bit math operations.


The MicroNet challenge website can be found here. Our best model discussed below gets a MicroNet score of 0.0387. Note that this is better than our score 0.0475 on the MicroNet website, since we previously had an evaluation error which miscalculated the number of math operations.


We show our pipeline with incremental performance results. Each row in each column is an ablation on our best configuration quantize_prune0.358_distill_8.3M_cache2000_hebbian_step175000_cache3000_bits9. The left column does not use compression techniques, while the right column does. From top to bottom, each stack displays the progression of techniques. Each row displays associated metrics: parameters (top left), operations (top right), validation perplexity (bottom left), and estimated processing time (bottom right). Metrics are displayed when changed from the previous row, with green for desirable change and red for undesirable. Red rows represent Core LM techniques, blue rows represent compression techniques, and gray rows represent cache search; joined rows represent joint training.


We run our code on Python 3.6.8 and PyTorch 1.1.0+. We set up our environment using a mixture of Conda and Pip, though in theory Conda shouldn't be necessary. Our code has submodules, so make sure to use --recursive while cloning.

git clone --recursive

# If you need to install conda first, follow the instructions from
conda create -n micronet python=3.6
conda activate micronet

# Install distiller (pruning and quantization) requirements
pip install -r distiller/requirements.txt

# For using mixed precision training with
# This is not necessary but some experiments may benefit larger batch sizes with mixed precision training
# Depending on what CUDA version your PyTorch uses, you may have to change the CUDA_HOME environment
# variable in the command below
cd apex && CUDA_HOME=/usr/local/cuda-10.0 pip install -v --no-cache-dir --global-option="--cpp_ext" --global-option="--cuda_ext" ./

pip install enlighten future gitpython==3.1.2


Our code in setup_data.ipynb directly downloads and preprocesses the Wikitext-103 dataset. Just run all the cells!

Models and Configurations

All of our configurations are already in the results/ directory. For example, our best configuration evaluated by the MicroNet criteria is results/quantize_prune0.358_distill_8.3M_cache2000_hebbian_step175000_cache3000_bits9. You can download our trained models from here into your directory. The necessary files to evaluate a particular configuration are

results/<configuration_name>/config.yaml # this contains readable hyperparameters that we use
results/<configuration_name>/cache_step<searched_checkpoint_step>_n<search_cache_size>.yaml # this contains local searched cache parameters for the particular checkpoint step and local search cache size
results/<configuration_name>/models/model-<step>.pth # this contains the step number, saved weights of the network, and saved weights of any optimizer

Configuration names are mostly intuitive. We use attn129 and attn257 to denote C = 129 and C = 257, respectively, otherwise the default is C = 97. For quantization configurations, for example quantize_prune0.358_distill_8.3M_cache2000_hebbian_step175000_cache3000_bits9, the first cache<size> refers to the training cache size, the second cache<size> refers to the local search cache size, and step<number> refers to the checkpoint step of the model before quantization.


To evaluation our trained model, make sure to download it as mentioned above, then go to micronet_evaluate.ipynb and substitute in the configuration name. This gives the validation and test perplexities as well as the number of parameters and math operations after pruning and quantization.

Running the Pipeline

In general, we run the pipeline from the desired configuration directory (e.g. results/quantize_prune0.358_distill_8.3M_cache2000_hebbian_step175000_cache3000_bits9/).

Training the Core LM with or without Distillation

You can refer to results/ for examples of configurations for training with / without adaptive softmax, training cache, Hebbian softmax, or distillation. You may also use this to train a teacher model. To start training, you can use an existing configuration directory or create a new one, then run

cd <configuration_directory>
# Make sure your directory has the correct config.yaml file

CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES=<device> python ../../ .

We recommend that you modify the train_batch hyperparameter in the config.yaml to be the maximum that fits in memory. If you'd like to use mixed precision training with Apex Amp, make sure to install Apex as in the instruction, then opt_level=O1 as an argument to the command. Note that sometimes the cache or Hebbian softmax have instabilities with using mixed precision training. In that case you could try to debug the code or just use full precision.

Generating Soft Labels for Distillation

If you'd like to use distillation and you have already trained a teacher model, you may generate the top 30 soft labels for the training set tokens by running this from the teacher's <configuration_directory>

cd <configuration_directory>
CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES=<device> python ../../ .

Note that this takes around 40G of disk storage and may take several hours.


After you train a model for a configuration <configuration_directory> with the above instructions, you can run

cd <configuration_directory>
CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES=<device> python ../../ .

This will automatically create a new configuration directory <prune_configuration_directory> for you. Just follow the printed instruction to run pruning. Note that by default this uses the pruning configuration for sparsity 0.358. You can also use pruninf configuration for sparsity 0.239 and 0.477 by replacing the distiller_prune.yaml in your <prune_configuration_directory> with distiller_prune0.239.yaml or distiller_prune0.477.yaml.

Cache Local Search

You may run local search on either a pruned model or unpruned (but trained) model. This will generate a new <configuration_directory>/cache_step<searched_checkpoint_step>_n<search_cache_size>.yaml with your searched cache configuration.

cd <configuration_directory>
CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES=<device> python ../../ . n_cache=<search_cache_size>

This will by default run search on the checkpoint trained for the largest number of steps. If you want to run local search on an arbitrary saved checkpoint step, then add the argument step=<trained_step_that_you_want_to_search>.


You may quantize a trained model, pruned model, or a local-searched model.

cd <configuration_directory>
CUDA_VISIBLE_DEVICES=<device> python ../../ . bits=<bits_to_quantize_to>

This will by default quantize the largest checkpoint with the n_cache value in <configuration_directory>/config.yaml. If you'd like to quantize with a different cache size (possibly with local searched parameters), you can add the argument n_cache=<cache_size>. If you'd like to quantize a different step, add the argument step=<trained_step_that_you_want_to_quantize>, this will by default use your cache parameters if you performed local search with that step previously.

Common Questions / Errors

AssertionError: Training already exists

Usually this happens if you try to run training again after your training crashes. This is because we have a guard against accidentally running multiple trainings as the same time. Just remove the <configuration_directory>/is_training guard file and you should be fine.

Why is the perplexity nan?

To prevent obscenely large perplexities at the beginning of training, we set perplexities greater than e ** 5 to be nan.


If you have any further questions about our submission, please don't hesitate reaching out to us through Github Issues :) Thanks!


[JMLR'20] NeurIPS 2019 MicroNet Challenge Efficient Language Modeling, Champion








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