Exploiting Iterativeness

Many large-scale machine learning (ML) applications use iterative algorithms to converge on parameter values that make the chosen model fit the input data. Often, this approach results in the same sequence of accesses to parameters repeating each iteration. In this project, we show that these repeating patterns can and should be exploited to improve the efficiency of the parallel and distributed ML applications that will be a mainstay in cloud computing environments. Focusing on the increasingly popular "parameter server" approach to sharing model parameters among worker threads, we describe and demonstrate how the repeating patterns can be exploited. Examples include replacing dynamic cache and server structures with static pre-serialized structures, informing prefetch and partitioning decisions, and determining which data should be cached at each thread to avoid both contention and slow accesses to memory banks attached to other sockets. Experiments show that such exploitation reduces per-iteration time by 33--98%, for three real ML workloads, and that these improvements are robust to variation in the patterns over time.

Two ways of collecting per-iteration access sequences.

(a) PageRank

(b) Collaborative Filtering

(c) Topic Modeling

Performance comparison of "IterStore with no optimizations", "IterStore with optimizations but collects access sequences at the first iteration", "IterStore with optimizations and collects access sequences during the virtual iteration", and "GraphLab".



Greg Ganger
Phil Gibbons
Garth Gibson
Eric Xing


Henggang Cui
Jinliang Wei
Wei Dai


  • Exploiting Iterative-ness for Parallel ML Computations
    Henggang Cui, Alexey Tumanov, Jinliang Wei, Lianghong Xu, Wei Dai, Jesse Haber-Kucharsky, Qirong Ho, Gregory R. Ganger, Phillip B. Gibbons, Garth A. Gibson, and Eric P. Xing (SoCC'14)
    Abstract / PDF [623KB]


We thank the members and companies of the PDL Consortium: Amazon, Google, Hitachi Ltd., Honda, Intel Corporation, IBM, Jane Street, Meta, Microsoft Research, Oracle Corporation, Pure Storage, Salesforce, Samsung Semiconductor Inc., Two Sigma, and Western Digital for their interest, insights, feedback, and support.