Gradient Coding from Cyclic MDS Codes and Expander Graphs
Proceedings of the 35th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 80:4305-4313, 2018.
Gradient coding is a technique for straggler mitigation in distributed learning. In this paper we design novel gradient codes using tools from classical coding theory, namely, cyclic MDS codes, which compare favourably with existing solutions, both in the applicable range of parameters and in the complexity of the involved algorithms. Second, we introduce an approximate variant of the gradient coding problem, in which we settle for approximate gradient computation instead of the exact one. This approach enables graceful degradation, i.e., the $\ell_2$ error of the approximate gradient is a decreasing function of the number of stragglers. Our main result is that the normalized adjacency matrix of an expander graph can yield excellent approximate gradient codes, and that this approach allows us to perform significantly less computation compared to exact gradient coding. We experimentally test our approach on Amazon EC2, and show that the generalization error of approximate gradient coding is very close to the full gradient while requiring significantly less computation from the workers.