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Why we created HPE Deep Learning Cookbook

Natalia Vassilieva, Sergey Serebryakov

A history behind the Cookbook

In the beginning of 2014, when Hewlett Packard Labs (still HP Labs back then, within Hewlett-Packard), embarked on its journey towards Memory Driven Computing and The Machine, “software” people of Labs have been asked to find good applications where something like The Machine will shine. We started with algorithms and problems which were still challenging to run on existing systems. Monte Carlo simulations, graph inference, search space optimization and deep learning were, among others, on our list. We started to model the performance of these algorithms for different system architectures. How performance will change, if we have more powerful compute nodes or faster interconnect between nodes in the system? For deep learning we soon realized that answers largely depend on a topology of an artificial neural network. An optimal hardware system to train a deep convolutional neural network is not always the best one to train a fully connected model. Depending on a model which you want to train (or to use in production - run inference), you’ll need different hardware to minimize training or inference time. Similar to cooking, where depending on what do you want to cook, you need different ingredients in different proportions.

In parallel with our Memory Driven Computing efforts, artificial intelligence and deep learning started to gain interest from enterprise customers. During our interactions with customers, we started to hear questions about the choice of optimal hardware/software environment to run deep learning workloads. How to choose from a sea of available options today? How to size and configure infrastructure? A need for the Cookbook became clear.

On our journey towards the Cookbook, we first came up with analytical performance models to predict performance of various machine learning algorithms (including deep learning) depending on compute power and a number of compute nodes in a system, and properties of the interconnect between the compute nodes. These simple models were useful for rough estimates, but didn’t take into account many subtitles of compute systems. We had to get into benchmarking, in addition to analytical modeling, to reason based on real performance data.

Deep Learning Benchmarking Suite

We wanted to be able to collect performance data on various hardware systems with various software and for different deep learning workloads. We wanted the results to be consistent, reproducible and comparable. This means we need to make sure that we run exactly the same workloads on multiple systems. We needed a benchmarking tool. We had several options:

  1. Use existing projects that target the deep learning domain. One of the most recognized by a community are DeepBench from BAIDU and the convnet-benchmarks. These projects aim at benchmarking low-level functionality such as convolution or matrix multiply operations or use simplified models.

  2. Use example training scripts that are part of their respective frameworks, something what most companies do. Typical examples are TensorFlow's Inception​, MXNet's image classification and Caffe2's ResNet50​

Unfortunately, none of these options provides what we need - a way to collect performance data for different deep learning workloads (and not only low-level operations) in a consistent and reproducible manner across a range of software and hardware combinations. Thus, we decided to create our own tool - Deep Learning Benchmarking Suite. It is open sourced and available on github for everyone who wants to run reproducible and consistent deep learning benchmarks.

Deep Learning Performance Guide

We’ve been using Deep Learning Benchmarking Suite internally at HPE for some time already. We’ve collected a variety of performance data on many hardware and software configurations, and we continue to collect more and more data. Now we want to share this data with everyone, so we can guide the choice of optimal hardware and software environment in the open. Deep Learning Performance Guide is a tool to do so. It is a web-based tool connected to our vast database of benchmarking data. We plan to open this tool to the public at the end of March, 2018. The first version of this tool will be based entirely on data from actual benchmarks. In the future we plan to incorporate our analytical performance models into the Performance Guide so it will provide performance estimates for untested hardware/software configurations alongside with real collected performance measurements for tested configurations.

Reference Designs

Reference designs are the last component of our Cookbook toolset. These are default hardware recipes for selected classes of deep learning workloads. So far we have released Image Classification Reference Designs. We created those by collecting performance data (with our Benchmarking Suite) for most common convolutional neural networks (widely used for image classification problems), on multiple hardware and software configurations, and by analyzing the collected data with Performance Guide.

So, what is in the Cookbook?

HPE Deep Learning Cookbook is a toolset to characterize deep learning workloads and to guide the choice of optimal hardware and software configurations for any given workload. It consists of:

  • Deep Learning Benchmarking Suite - a tool to run deep learning benchmarks

  • Deep Learning Performance Guide - a web-based tool to compare and analyze the results of deep learning benchmarks. In the next version we will integrate into this tool analytical/machine learning models to predict performance of deep learning workloads for situations when we cannot run actual benchmarks. These performance models already exist, we just need to add them to the Performance Guide.

  • Reference Designs - recipes (descriptions) of default recommended hardware configurations for classes of selected deep learning workloads, such as image classification, natural language processing, speech recognition, video analytics, and others.

We created the Cookbook with the following objectives in mind:

  1. To be able to make recommendations to our customers on the optimal hardware/software combinations for running their specific and varied deep learning workloads for both the development (training) and deployment (inference) stages.

  2. To be able to run reproducible and consistent deep learning benchmarks in different hardware/software environments that include a range of hardware systems, deep learning frameworks and deep learning workloads. This would be especially useful for performance benchmarking, capacity planning and product qualification.

  3. Provide to the community a standard tool that enables apple to apple comparison of various systems.

  4. To be able to validate and justify design options for future products.