Accelerating Transformer Decoding via a Hybrid of Self-attention and Recurrent Neural Network

09/05/2019
by   Chengyi Wang, et al.
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Due to the highly parallelizable architecture, Transformer is faster to train than RNN-based models and popularly used in machine translation tasks. However, at inference time, each output word requires all the hidden states of the previously generated words, which limits the parallelization capability, and makes it much slower than RNN-based ones. In this paper, we systematically analyze the time cost of different components of both the Transformer and RNN-based model. Based on it, we propose a hybrid network of self-attention and RNN structures, in which, the highly parallelizable self-attention is utilized as the encoder, and the simpler RNN structure is used as the decoder. Our hybrid network can decode 4-times faster than the Transformer. In addition, with the help of knowledge distillation, our hybrid network achieves comparable translation quality to the original Transformer.

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