Hardware-Centric AutoML for Mixed-Precision Quantization


Model quantization is a widely used technique to compress and accelerate deep neural network (DNN) inference. Emergent DNN hardware accelerators begin to support flexible bitwidth (1–8 bits) to further improve the computation efficiency, which raises a great challenge to find the optimal bitwidth for each layer: it requires domain experts to explore the vast design space trading off accuracy, latency, energy, and model size, which is both time-consuming and usually sub-optimal. There are plenty of specialized hardware accelerators for neural networks, but little research has been done to design specialized neural networks optimized for a particular hardware accelerator. The latter is demanding given the much longer design cycle of silicon than neural nets. Conventional quantization algorithm ignores the different hardware architectures and quantizes all the layers in a uniform way. In this paper, we introduce the Hardware-Aware Automated Quantization (HAQ) framework which automatically determine the quantization policy, and we take the hardware accelerator’s feedback in the design loop. Rather than relying on proxy signals such as FLOPs and model size, we employ a hardware simulator to generate the direct feedback signals to the RL agent. Compared with other conventional methods, our framework is fully automated and can specialize the quantization policy for different neural network architectures and hardware architectures. Our framework effectively reduced the latency by 1.4–1.95 \(\times \) and the energy consumption by 1.9 \(\times \) with negligible loss of accuracy compared with the fixed bitwidth (8 bits) quantization. Our framework reveals that the optimal policies on different hardware architectures (i.e., edge and cloud architectures) under different resource constraints (i.e., latency, energy and model size) are drastically different. We interpreted the implication of different quantization policies, which offer insights for both neural network architecture design and hardware architecture design.

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We thank NSF Career Award #1943349, MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, Samsung, SONY, Xilinx, TI and AWS for supporting this research.

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Correspondence to Song Han.

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Communicated by Li Liu, Matti Pietikäinen, Jie Qin, Jie Chen, Wanli Ouyang, Luc Van Gool.

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Wang, K., Liu, Z., Lin, Y. et al. Hardware-Centric AutoML for Mixed-Precision Quantization. Int J Comput Vis (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11263-020-01339-6

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  • Model quantization
  • Mixed-precision
  • Automated ML
  • Hardware