Parallelism and Hyperparameter Optimization Tutorial

Factorie has support for parallelism and distributed computation in some parts which are often bottlenecks when working with machine learning and natural language processing systems.

As a general rule, if some object doesn’t look like it accesses global mutable state it doesn’t, and can be safely used from one thread while other threads do other computations with no major drawbacks. At the same time, individual factorie objects shouldn’t be used from multiple threads unless explicitly specified in a comment.

In this tutorial we will go over the main parts of factorie which explicitly support parallelism, and how to use them efficiently. We will also cover factorie’s distributed computation facilities for hyperparameter optimization.

Often in feature-based models for classification or general structured linear models a big fraction of the training and testing time is spent doing feature extraction and creating the domain (see tutorial 010 on variables and domains), which is responsible for mapping from user-friendly names (usually strings) to the integers internally used to index into factorie tensors.

The most commonly used factorie domain is the CategoricalDomain

package cc.factorie.tutorial
object Tutorial90ParallelismAndHyperparameters extends App {
  import cc.factorie._
  import{ Document, Token }
  import{ DeterministicSentenceSegmenter, DeterministicTokenizer }
  import cc.factorie.optimize.Trainer
  import cc.factorie.variable.{ LabeledCategoricalVariable, BinaryFeatureVectorVariable, CategoricalVectorDomain, CategoricalDomain }
  import cc.factorie.infer.InferByBPChain
  implicit val random = new scala.util.Random(0)

  val c = new CategoricalDomain[String]()

The categorical domain maps from categories (which are usually strings but can be any scala type) to integers. It is fully thread-safe: a single domain object can be accessed from many threads with no additional set up required.

The one exception is that when the domain is being frozen no other thread should be writing to it.

  for (feature <- (0 until 1000).par) {
    // calling .index on a domain will add the category to the domain if it's not present,
    // and return its index. It is fine to do this from many threads at once.

Other objects which also use CategoricalDomains as their back ends, such as the CategoricalVectorDomain are then also thread-safe.

Also for all DocumentAnnotators calling annotator.process in multiple threads is safe.

Another big bottleneck in machine learning and natural language processing systems is parameter estimation (learning). Factorie has automatic support for many thread-based parallelism styles when doing parameter estimation. We will set up a parameter estimation problem and then go over the main facilities factorie provides for parallelizing it. For more information on parameter estimation and the optimize package see the relevant tutorials on learning and optimization.

Here we create a simple chain model and one document, with some labels and features.

  object LabelDomain extends CategoricalDomain[String]
  class Label(val token: Token, s: String) extends LabeledCategoricalVariable(s) {
    def domain = LabelDomain
  object FeaturesDomain extends CategoricalVectorDomain[String]
  class Features(val token: Token) extends BinaryFeatureVectorVariable[String] {
    def domain = FeaturesDomain
  object model extends ChainModel[Label, Features, Token](
    l => l.token.attr[Features],
    l => l.token,
    t => t.attr[Label])
  val document = new Document("The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.")
  document.tokens.foreach(t => t.attr += new Label(t, "A"))
  document.tokens.foreach(t => {
    val features = t.attr += new Features(t)
    features += "W=" + t.string.toLowerCase
    features += "IsCapitalized=" + t.string(0).isUpper.toString
  val example = new optimize.LikelihoodExample([Label]), model, InferByBPChain)

Though we only have one training example we can still use factorie’s parallel training facilities, and they should perform normally.

As seen in the learning tutorial, the main way of training a model with in batch model (that is, accumulating the gradients of all training examples and giving them to the optimizer all together) is by using Trainer.batchTrain

  Trainer.batchTrain(model.parameters, Seq(example))

Indeed, because there are no safety issues, Trainer.batchTrain uses parallelism by default. To disable it, call

  Trainer.batchTrain(model.parameters, Seq(example), useParallelTrainer = false)

It is also possible to control how many threads will be used in the parallel training process.

  Trainer.batchTrain(model.parameters, Seq(example), nThreads = 2)

By default factorie will use one learning thread per processor in your machine.

The default ParallelBatchTrainer stores one gradient tensor in memory and synchronizes updates to it. Factorie also provides the ThreadLocalBatchTrainer, which keeps a thread-local gradient tensor and uses no synchronization at all while computing the gradients. It can be used like any other trainer. See the optimization tutorial for more information.

Parallelism is also available in the online trainers, but it’s disabled by default. So, doing

  Trainer.onlineTrain(model.parameters, Seq(example))

will not use parallelism, and it has to be enabled explicitly, as in

  Trainer.onlineTrain(model.parameters, Seq(example), useParallelTrainer = true)

The default ParallelOnlineTrainer tries to keep the weights safe. It read locks the weights tensors when doing predictions and write locks them when doing updates.

Sometimes this is not the desired behavior, and hence we provide other parallel online trainers. These are the SynchronizedOptimizerOnlineTrainer, which does not lock the weight vectors but synchronizes all accesses to the optimizer, and the HogwildTrainer, which uses no locks at all, and should be used only if one is willing to pay the cost of race-conditions or if one is implementing one’s own locking system on top of factorie. To see how to use your own trainers see the optimization tutorial.

Finally, factorie provides facilities for distributed or locally parallel hyperparameter optimization.

The main object which drives the hyperparameter optimization process is a HyperparameterSearcher. To specify one we need to first define some command-line options to be optimized.

  import cc.factorie.util.CmdOptions
  object opts extends CmdOptions {
    val dummy1 = new CmdOption("dummy1", "A", "STRING", "Doesn't mean anything")
    val dummy2 = new CmdOption("dummy2", 0.1, "DOUBLE", "Doesn't mean much either")

Once we have the command-line options we need to creat Hyperparameter objects, which are templates for how each hyperparameter can take values.

  import cc.factorie.util.{ HyperParameter, SampleFromSeq, UniformDoubleSampler }
  val d1 = new HyperParameter(opts.dummy1, new SampleFromSeq(Seq("A", "B", "C")))
  val d2 = new HyperParameter(opts.dummy2, new UniformDoubleSampler(0, 1))

Finally, one needs an executor, which is a function which will take a list of strings, generated from those hyperparameters, and return a Future[Double].

Factorie doesn’t care how this Future is computed. The simplest (but not that useful) option is to just compute it right away and return a successful future

  import scala.concurrent.Future
  val executor0 = (a: Array[String]) => Future.successful(1.0)

A more interesting strategy is to return a future which will execute each training job in parallel in the same machine

  import scala.concurrent.future
  val executor1 = (a: Array[String]) => future { 1.0 }

The HyperparameterSearcher polls the futures every once in a while to see when they finish. It doesn’t wait for them all to finish, which might never happen in distributed cases. This is not a big problem because factorie uses random search for hyperparameter optimization, and hence which jobs succeed and which fail does not really matter.

So you also need to specify how long to wait until completion, how many jobs do you want to start, and for how many of those jobs do you wait until they finish.

Now we are ready to optimize the hyperparameters.

  val hyp = new cc.factorie.util.HyperParameterSearcher(opts, Seq(d1, d2), executor1, numTrials = 10, numToFinish = 5, secondsToSleep = 1)
  val optimizeArgs = hyp.optimize()
  assertStringEquals(optimizeArgs.length, "2")

args is a string containing the two winning hyperparameter values. We don’t know which because the optimization is non deterministic and we’re always returning the same value in this example.

Of course, optimizing the hyperparameters on the same machine is not always desirable. For this reason, Factorie provides two executor classes, QSubExecutor and SSHActorExecutor, which allow you to run jobs in other machines.

Both classes operate similarly: you give them some configuration options about the distribution process itself and the name of a class which extends HyperparameterMain, and that class’s main function will be run on each machine, results will be serialized to disk or through sockets, and the optimizer will proceed as desired.

QSubExecutor runs jobs in a job queue using a qsub command which can be seen in its source. It is easy to provide an alternative job queue running script, by extending JobQueueExecutor.

SSHActorExecutor will take a username, a list of machines, and a directory, and will ssh as that username into each machine, cd into the directory, and run jobs from there. Each machine will only run one job at a time, so if your machines can handle more than that just pass their names more than once in the list.

Since this tutorial should be runnable without distributed environments being properly set up we can’t run either of those classes. To see an example of how to use QSubExecutor see for instance the DepParser2Optimizer object.