PDL Abstract

Rateless Codes for Distributed Non-linear Computations

International Symposium on Topics in Coding, Montréal, Québec, Canada, from August 30th to September 3rd, 2021.

Ankur Mallick, Sophie Smith, Gauri Joshi

Carnegie Mellon University


Machine learning today involves massive distributed computations running on cloud servers, which are highly susceptible to slowdown or straggling. Recent work has demonstrated the effectiveness of erasure codes in mitigating such slowdown for linear computations, by adding redundant computations such that the entire computation can be recovered as long as a subset of nodes finish their assigned tasks. However, most machine learning algorithms typically involve non-linear computations that cannot be directly handled by these coded computing approaches. In this work, we propose a coded computing strategy for mitigating the effect of stragglers on non-linear distributed computations. Our strategy relies on the observation that many expensive non-linear functions can be decomposed into sums of cheap non-linear functions. We show that erasure codes, specifically rateless codes can be used to generate and compute random linear combinations of these functions at the nodes such that the original function can be computed as long as a subset of nodes return their computations. Simulations and experiments on AWS Lambda demonstrate the superiority of our approach over various uncoded baselines.