POET: Training Neural Networks on Tiny Devices with Integrated Rematerialization and Paging

by   Shishir G. Patil, et al.

Fine-tuning models on edge devices like mobile phones would enable privacy-preserving personalization over sensitive data. However, edge training has historically been limited to relatively small models with simple architectures because training is both memory and energy intensive. We present POET, an algorithm to enable training large neural networks on memory-scarce battery-operated edge devices. POET jointly optimizes the integrated search search spaces of rematerialization and paging, two algorithms to reduce the memory consumption of backpropagation. Given a memory budget and a run-time constraint, we formulate a mixed-integer linear program (MILP) for energy-optimal training. Our approach enables training significantly larger models on embedded devices while reducing energy consumption while not modifying mathematical correctness of backpropagation. We demonstrate that it is possible to fine-tune both ResNet-18 and BERT within the memory constraints of a Cortex-M class embedded device while outperforming current edge training methods in energy efficiency. POET is an open-source project available at https://github.com/ShishirPatil/poet


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1 Introduction

Deep learning models are widely deployed for inference on edge devices like smartphones and embedded platforms. In contrast, training is still predominantly done on large cloud servers with high-throughput accelerators such as GPUs. The centralized cloud training model requires transmitting sensitive data from edge devices to the cloud such as photos and keystrokes, thereby sacrificing user privacy and incurring additional data movement costs.

To enable users to personalize their models without relinquishing privacy, on-device training methods such as federated learning (federated-smith) perform local training updates without the need to consolidate data to the cloud. These methods have been widely deployed to personalize keyboard suggestions in Google Gboard (google-keyboard-federated)

and to improve Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) on iPhones 


Figure 1: POET optimizes state-of-the-art ML models for training on Edge devices. Operators of the ML model are profiled on target edge device to obtain fine-grained profiles. POET adopts an integrated integrated rematerialization and paging to produce an energy-optimal training schedule.

At the same time, current on-device training methods cannot support training modern architectures and large models. For example, Google Gboard fine-tunes a simple logistic regression model. Training larger models on edge devices is infeasible primarily due to the limited device memory which cannot store activations for backpropagation. A single training iteration for ResNet-50 

(resnet) requires 200 more memory than inference.

Prior work has proposed strategies including paging to auxiliary memory (capuchin) and rematerialization (chen2016b; checkmate; dtr) to reduce the memory footprint of training in the cloud. However, these methods result in a significant increase in total energy consumption. The data transfers associated with paging methods often require more energy than recomputing the data. Alternatively, rematerialization increases energy consumption at a rate of as the memory budget shrinks.

In this work, we show that paging and rematerialization are highly complementary. By carefully rematerializing cheap operations while paging results of expensive operations to auxiliary memory such as a flash or an SD card, we can scale effective memory capacity with minimal energy overhead. By combining these two methods, we demonstrate it is possible to train models like BERT on mobile-class edge devices. By framing edge training as an optimization problem, we discover optimal schedules with provably minimal energy consumption at a given memory budget. While the focus of this paper is edge deployemnts, the energy objective is increasingly becoming relevant even for cloud deployments (patterson2022carbon).

We present POET (Private Optimal Energy Training), an algorithm for energy-optimal training of modern neural networks on memory-constrained edge devices (Fig 1

). Given that it is prohibitively expensive to cache all activation tensors for backpropagation, POET optimally pages and rematerializes activations, thereby reducing memory consumption by up to 2x. We reformulate the edge training problem as an integer linear program (ILP) and find it is solved to optimality in under ten minutes by commodity solvers.

For models deployed on real-world edge devices, training happens when the edge device is relatively idle and spare compute cycles are available. For example, Google Gboard schedules model updates when the phone is put to charge. Hence POET also incorporates a hard training constraint. Given a memory constraint and the number of training epochs, POET generates solutions that also satisfy the given training deadline. POET transparently develops a comprehensive cost model by profiling the target hardware with the target network’s operators. Finally, POET is mathematically value preserving (

i.e, it makes no approximations), and it works for existing architectures out-of-the-box.

The novel contributions of this work include:

  1. A formulation of an integer linear program to find the energy-optimal schedule to train modern deep neural networks with a) memory and b) runtime as hard constraints.

  2. A unified algorithm for hybrid activation recomputation and paging.

  3. The first demonstration of how to train ResNet-18 and BERT on tiny Cortex M class devices with memory and timing constraints.

2 Related Work

Scarcity of compute and memory is one of the largest constraint for machine learning on edge devices. Large models with state-of-the-art performance have largely been exorbitantly expensive for edge devices. The research community has predominantly focused on addressing inference on edge devices via methods like efficient DNN architecture (squeezenet; efficientnetv2), quantization (hawq) or pruning (state_of_pruning).

Instead, we aim to make training large neural networks feasible on tiny edge devices. While compute is the limiting resource for inference on the edge, limited memory capacity constraints prevent training large models on the edge. Training via vanilla backpropagation requires caching the output of all intermediate layers (activations). We categorize methods to reduce memory usage of training as activation (1) compression, (2) rematerialization, and (3) paging. We then discuss prior work in energy-efficient training.

Activation quantization:    chen2021actnn, park-quantization, and others have proposed techniques to quantize activations while performing full-precision multiply-accumulates (MACs). However, these techniques compromise accuracy and correctness. Moreover, poor hardware support for quantized operations under 8 bits limits the practical savings of these techniques. We do not consider methods for pruning during training like lotterytickethypothesis as they do not reduce the size of activations.

Rematerialization:    Rematerialization discards activations in the forward pass and recomputes those values during gradient calculation. chen2016b proposed a simple and widely used algorithm for rematerialization where every layer is retained for the backward pass. griewank propose an optimal algorithm for rematerialization on unit-cost linear auto-diff graphs. However, they force the strong assumption that models have uniform compute requirements across layers. Checkmate (checkmate) identifies the optimal rematerialization schedule for arbitrary static graphs. monet extends Checkmate with operator implementation selection, but this is orthogonal to our work’s scheduling problem. Dynamic Tensor Rematerialization (DTR) (dtr)

finds an approximation of Checkmate that is near-optimal for common computer-vision models. Our work addresses the following limitations of Checkmate: (1) Checkmate does not consider energy nor latency as a constraint and (2) Checkmate does not page activations to secondary memory. POET is the first work that demonstrates provably optimal integrated paging and rematerialization.

Paging:    swapadvisor and deepspeedoffload page activations off a memory-scarce GPU to the CPU when out of memory. However, we find paging is very energy-intensive and is often less efficient than rematerialization. Capuchin (capuchin)

uses the Memory Saving Per Second (MSPS) heuristic to decide what to page. Only if paging is insufficient will Capuchin rematerialize activations thereby making it sub-optimal as demonstrated in Sec 

6.1. POFO (beaumont2021) formulates finding finding the optimal sequence combining rematerialization and paging as a dynamic programming problem. POFO makes many assumptions that limit generality: POFO only supports chain (linear) model graphs while we support arbitrary graphs such as BERT (Fig 3). POFO limits layers to a single rematerialization or page operation while POET can remat/page layers repeatedly. POFO forces all page-out operations to occur prior to calculating the loss while we have no such restriction. And finally, while POFO assumes paging is asynchronous (e.g., CUDA) but this is not universally true for the edge devices we evaluate. Notice that POET is not only optimizing a different metric (energy vis-a-vis time) but a) adhere’s to strict timing guarantees and b) is provably optimal.

Energy-efficient training: We are not the first to consider energy-optimal training. Prior work on energy-optimal training for the edge either a) required the design of new architectures (proxylessnas; efficientnetv2), or proposed b) new techniques of training by dropping activations, updating only select layers of the network, or c) used a different optimizer (e2-neurips19). Compared to these techniques, POET is a) mathematically value preserving (makes no approximations, or modifications), and b) works for existing and new architectures out-of-the-box.


Checkpoint all (PyTorch)

chen2016b greedy
Checkmate (checkmate)
POFO  (beaumont2021)
DTR (dtr)
POET (ours)
Table 1: Comparison of baseline methods under power, compute, memory and generality metrics. POET satisfies all criteria, enabling end-to-end training on the edge.

3 Background

Figure 2: Rematerialization and paging are complementary. This plot visualizes the execution schedule for an eight layer neural network. We represent logical timesteps in increasing order on the y-axis while different layers are represented by the x-axis. Layers 2 and 3 are cheap-to-compute operators and therefore can be rematerialized at low cost. However, layers 5 and 6 are compute intensive so it is more energy-efficient to page them to secondary flash storage.

A growing demand exists for edge machine learning applications for greater autonomy. In response, the community has developed systems to enable machine learning on edge devices. EdgeML (edgeml), CoreML (coreml)

and TensorFlow Lite 

(tf-lite) from Google are all efforts to meet this demand.

However, each of these efforts is application-specific and proposes new algorithms or optimizations to address the computational and memory requirements for machine learning inference on the edge (deep-x). While inference is already commonly deployed on edge devices, training remains ad-hoc and infeasible for large models.

Training on the edge is critical for privacy, cost, and connectivity. First, due to privacy concerns, many edge applications cannot transmit data to the cloud. Second, the energy consumed by bulk data transmission can significantly reduce battery life (trickle). Third, applications such as ocean sensing and communication (fadel-underwater), and those deployed in farms (farmbeats) are designed for offline operations – with no access to the internet.

Our objective of optimizing for energy is a non-trivial contribution. On edge devices, the energy objective can oftentimes conflict with the objective of running to completion. For example, on a given platform, rematerializing might consume lower energy, but paging might be quicker. This is because, on edge devices, it is common practise to turn-off/duty-cycle components that are not utilized (e.g., SD card, DMA, etc.) The energy profile may vary depending on the size of the tensor, and if the PCIe/DMA/SPI/I2C memory bus needs to be activated, etc. Exploiting this enables POET to find the most energy-efficient schedule which would not have been possible had we not optimized for energy.

While definitions differ on which devices are included in “the edge” (e.g., mobile phones, routers, gateways, or even self-driving cars). In the context of this paper, the edge refers to mobile phones and microcontrollers (Table 2). These devices are characterized by limited memory (ranging from KBs to a few GBs) and are commonly battery-powered ( few hundred mAh) for real-world deployment. Further, in our research we found that it is quite common for these edge devices to be augmented with an off-chip secondary storage such as a flash or an SD card as seen in  (farmbeats; fadel-underwater; gesturepod). This presents us with an opportunity to exploit the off-chip memory for paging.

4 Integrated paging and rematerialization

Rematerialization and paging are two techniques to lower the memory consumption of large, state-of-the-art ML models. In rematerialization, an activation tensor is deleted as soon as they are no longer needed, most often, during a forward pass. This frees up precious memory that can be used to store the activations of the following layers. When the deleted tensor is needed again, for example, to compute gradients during backpropagation, it is recomputed from the other dependent activations as dictated by the lineage. Paging, also known as offloading, is a complementary technique to reduce memory. In paging, an activation tensor that is not immediately needed is paged-out from the primary memory to a secondary memory such as a flash or an SD card. When the tensor is needed again, it is paged back in.

This is best understood with the representative neural-network training timeline from Figure 2

. Along the X-axis, each cell corresponds to a single layer of an eight-layered, linear, neural-network. The Y-axis represents the logical timesteps over one epoch. An occupied cell indicates that an operation (forward/backward pass computation, rematerialization, or paging) is executed at the corresponding timestep. For example, we can see that the activation for Layer 1 (L1) is computed at the first timestep (T1). At timestep T2 and T3, the activations of L2 and L3 are computed respectively. Suppose layers L2 and L3 happen to be memory-intensive but cheap-to-compute operators, such as non-linearities (tanH, ReLU, etc,) then rematerialization becomes the optimal choice. We can delete the activations ({T3, L2}, {T4, L3}) to free up memory, and when these activations are needed during backward propagation we can rematerialize them ({T14, L3}, {T16, L2}).

Suppose layers L5 and L6 are compute-intensive operators such as convolutions, dense matrix-multiplication, etc. For such operations, rematerializing the activations would lead to an increase in run-time and energy and is sub-optimal. For these layers, it is optimal to page-out the activation tensor to secondary storage ({T6,L5}, {T7, L6}), and page-in when they are needed ({T10,L6}, {T11, L5}).

One major advantage of paging is that depending on how occupied the memory bus is, it can be pipelined to hide latency. This is because modern systems have DMA (Direct Memory Access) which can move the activation tensor from the secondary storage to the primary memory while the compute engine is running in parallel. For example, at timestep T7, we are both paging L6 out and computing L7. However, rematerialization is compute-intensive, cannot be parallelized. This leads to an increase in run-time. For example, we have to dedicate timestep T14 to recompute L3 thereby delaying the rest of the backward pass execution.

5 POET: Private Optimal Energy Training

We introduce Private Optimal Energy Training (POET), a graph-level compiler for deep neural networks that rewrites training DAGs for large models to fit within the memory constraints of edge devices while remaining energy-efficient. POET is hardware-aware and first traces the execution of the forward and backward pass with associate memory allocation requests, runtime, and per-operation memory and energy consumption. This fine-grained profiling for each workload happens only once for a given hardware, is automated, cheap, and provides the most accurate cost model for POET. POET then generates a Mixed Integer Linear Programming (MILP) which can be efficiently solved. The POET optimizer searches for an efficient rematerialization and paging schedule that minimizes end-to-end energy consumption subject to memory constraints. The resulting schedule is then used to generate a new DAG to execute on the edge device. While the MILP is solved on commodity hardware, the generated schedule shipped to the edge device is only a few hundred bytes, making it highly memory efficient.

Rematerialization is most efficient for operations that are cheap-to-compute yet memory-intensive. These operations can be recalculated with low energy overhead. Paging, however, is best suited to compute-intensive operations where rematerialization would otherwise incur significant energy overhead. POET jointly considers both rematerialization and paging in an integrated search space.

Without a minimum training throughput limit, it is possible that the energy optimal strategy is also far too slow to train in practical applications. In reality, training needs to run while the device is idle where spare compute cycles are available. For example, Google Android schedules ML model updates when the phone is charging. To maintain high training throughputs, the POET optimizer can maintain a minimum training throughput to ensure that training completes during downtime.

Given a memory budget and a training time budget , POET finds an energy optimal schedule by choosing to either a) rematerialize or b) page the tensors to/from secondary storage such as an SD card. Our method scales to complex, realistic architectures and is hardware-aware through the use of microcontroller-specific, profile-based cost models. We build upon the formulation proposed by Checkmate (checkmate) and adapt it to jointly consider integrated rematerialization and paging, to optimize for an energy objective rather than the runtime, and to implement a minimum throughput constraint.

∑_T [R Φ_compute + M_in Φ_pagein + M_out Φ_pageout]_T R_t, i + S^RAM_t, i≥R_t, j  ∀t ∈V   ∀(v_i, v_j) ∈E R_t-1, i + S^RAM_t-1, i + M^in_t-1, i≥S^RAM_t, i∀k ∈K   ∀t ≥2   ∀i S^AUX_t-1, i + M^out_t-1, i≥S^AUX_t, i∀t ≥2   ∀i S^AUX_t, i≥M^in_t, i∀k ∈K   ∀t ≥2   ∀i S^RAM_t, i≥M^out_t, i∀k ∈K   ∀t ≥2   ∀i U^RAM_t,i≤μ_RAM∀t ∈V   ∀i ∈V ∑_T [R Ψ_compute]_T≤μ_deadline S_1, i=0∀i ∈V Rv,v= 1∀v ∈V R, S_SD, S_RAM, M_in, M_out∈{0, 1}^T ×T

Algorithm 1 POET optimizer: The complete memory constrained MILP with variables and constraints. The definition of (not listed) is from checkmate, Equations 2 and 3.

Assumptions:  We assume operations execute sequentially on edge devices without inter-operator parallelism. Moreover, we assume parameters and gradients are stored in a contiguous memory region without paging. Unlike prior work in rematerialization (chen2016b; dtr), we do not limit rematerialization to occur once. We assume auxiliary storage (e.g., flash/ SD card) is available. However, if auxiliary storage is not available, the POET optimizer will fall back to only performing rematerialization.

5.1 Optimal Rematerialization

Following the design of Checkmate (checkmate), we introduce the formulation of the rematerialization problem. Given a directed acyclic dataflow graph with nodes, a topological ordering is computed which constrains execution to that order of instructions. Two key decision variables are introduced: (1) where represents the decision to (re)materialize an operation at timestep and (2) where represents whether the result of an operation is resident in memory at timestep .

From the rematerialzation matrix , and the storage matrix , we define a series of constraints to maintain graph dependencies. All arguments for an operation must be resident in memory prior to running that operation, yielding constraint . Similarly, the result of an operation is only resident in memory in one of the two cases: a) if it was already resident in memory before, or b) if it was (re)materialized ().

To adhere to the strict constraints on the peak memory used during training, an intermediate variable is defined. is the total memory used by the system during training at timestep when evaluating operation . By bounding the maximum value of to the user-specified memory limit , we limit the total memory consumption during training.

5.2 Optimal integrated paging and rematerialization

While rematerialization can provide significant memory savings, it introduces significant energy consumption overheads from duplicate recomputations. Similarly, paging if done wrong will result in a wasteful shuffling of data between memories. Here, we formalize a joint search space for rematerialization and paging to enable the discovery of the energy-optimal hybrid schedule.

Like rematerialization, the discovery of the optimal paging schedule is a challenging combinatorial search problem. However, we find that independently solving for paging first, and then solving for rematerialization will not produce globally optimal solutions. As an example, consider a graph where the output depends on the result of two operations and where both nodes have equivalent memory costs but is cheaper to evaluate. A paging strategy may evict which would force rematerialization to recompute the more expensive rather than .

We represent a schedule as a series of nodes that are either being saved , (re)computed or paged from secondary storage . To model when a node is copied from secondary storage to RAM, we introduce a variable where represents paging a tensor from secondary storage to RAM between timesteps and . Similarly, we model page-out with .

We now present the intuition behind adding the following constraints to the optimization problem in order to search over optimal schedules for paging and rematerialization:

  • For to be in memory at time-step , either compute at timestep , or retain in memory from the previous timestep , or page-in if is resident on flash (at ).

  • Each node can reside on flash , either if it resided on flash at timestep (), or it was paged out at time-step ().

  • To page-in at time-step , it has to be resident on flash at timestep .

  • Each node can reside in memory at timestep , only if it was paged out of flash ().

Algorithm 1 defines the complete optimization problem.

5.3 Expressing an energy consumption objective

If we only consider rematerialization, then minimizing runtime will generally correlate with decreased energy usage. However, this is no longer true when considering paging; paging can be more energy-efficient than rematerializing a compute-intensive operation. To address this, we introduce a new objective function to the optimization problem that minimizes the combined energy consumption due to computation, page-in, and page-out.

When paging occurs on an edge device, the vast majority of energy consumed is due to powering-on the flash/SD block device. As this power is in addition to any power the CPU is consuming, the total power consumption is a linear combination of paging and CPU energy. We precompute each of these values, generally as the integral of the power of active components of the edge device integrated over the runtime of the operation. , and represent the energy consumed for each node for computing, paging in, and paging out respectively.

Therefore, the new objective function combining paging and rematerialization energy usage is:


5.4 Ensuring minimum training throughput

If we attempt to find the minimum energy schedule subject to only a memory constraint, the POET solver may select solutions with poor end-to-end training throughput. Ideally, training should occur in the downtime between interactive workloads on an edge device. To ensure this, we introduce a new constraint to the optimization problem that ensures schedules meet a minimum training throughput threshold. This constraint effectively trades off between energy consumption and training throughput.

To enforce a particular throughput, we compute a latency target. Via profiling, we capture denoting the runtime of each operation. We then constrain total runtime with the constraint:


5.5 Paging latency hiding via transfer planner

POET outputs the DAG schedule in terms of which nodes of the graph () to rematerialize, and which to page-in () or page-out () at each time-step (). Our Algorithm 2 takes the ILP solves to generate and dictate the strategy that determines which tensors are resident-in-memory () at a fine-grained (operator) level.

We factor in the latency introduced by paging. As described in Section 6.1, POET is hardware-aware by profiling the latency per platform for paging activations to secondary storage. Fine-grained profiling helps in fine-tuning when to start paging, such that the activation tensors arrive just-in-time. We then modify the page-in () and the page-out () schedule to ensure there is no contention for the memory bus as the tensors are paged-in just-in-time. For example, if () can contend with (), then we schedule one of them to page-in at an earlier time () and update the in-memory schedule () to account for the earlier paging-in. While this ensures the activations are paged in just-in-time, in parallel, () informs the PyTorch DAG scheduler to deallocate the tensors that we have chosen to rematerialize () at a future timestep ().

Input: Graph , schedule
for t=1,.., do
       for k=1,.., do
             if  then
                   add %r = pagein to
            if  then
                   add %r = compute to
            if  then
                   add %r = pageout to
            for  do
                   if  then
                         add deallocate %r to
Output: execution plan
Algorithm 2 Training Graph Execution Plan

6 Evaluation

Device Clock RAM FPU?
M0 (MKR1000) 48 MHz 32 KB
M4 (nrf52840) 64 MHz 256 KB
A72 (RPi-4B+). 1.5 GHz 2 GB
A57 (Jetson TX2) 2 GHz 8 GB
Table 2: We evaluate a wide variety of battery-powered edge devices. All devices have at least 32GB of flash memory via an SD card or flash to enable paging of activations or tensors. FPU is floating-point unit.

In our evaluation of POET we seek to answer three key questions. First, how much energy consumption does POET reduce across different models and platforms? Second, how does POET benefit from the hybrid paging and rematerialization strategy? Lastly, how does POET adapt to different runtime budgets?

6.1 Experimental setup

We evaluate POET on four distinct hardware devices listed in Table 2: the ARM Cortex M0 class MKR1000, ARM Cortex M4F class nrf52840, A72 class Raspberry Pi 4B+, and Nvidia Jetson TX2. POET is fully hardware-aware and relies on fine-grained profiling. For example, on the Jetson-TX2 hardware we profile each operator along with its variations in dimensionality (e.g., conv2d

with varying kernel-sizes, strides, padding, etc.) These fine-grained time, energy, and memory profiles then inform POET about the exact specifications. These devices test a diverse set of memory, compute, and power configurations. As POET is hardware and energy-aware, it takes device-specific characteristics into account.

We evaluate POET on VGG16 (vgg) and ResNet-18 (resnet)

trained on the CIFAR-10 dataset as well as BERT 

(bert). In all of our baselines, we limit all MILP solves to no more than 10 min on commodity CPUs. Our experiments are with a batch-size of 1. We compare POET to work PyTorch’s default scheduler, chen2016b, griewank, DTR (dtr), and Checkmate (checkmate).

Hyperparameters: POET only decides on the optimal scheduling of nodes in the training graph and does change the training routine (learning rate, optimizer, etc.). Hence, our system is robust to hyper-parameters.

Sensitivity to Batch-size: POET is mathematically preserving and can be easily scaled to arbitrary batch sizes without loss of generality. Of course, this is conditioned on the underlying device’s memory capacity. It is possible that as batch size varies, the underlying operator implementation might change. POET, with its fine-grained profiling is robust to these changes and transparently adapts to artifacts.

6.2 How much energy consumption does POET reduce across models and platforms?

Figure 3: POET consumes less energy across diverse models and devices:  We profile the energy usage of each method relative to a full-memory configuration as the device’s available memory capacity shrinks. For ResNet-18 (top row), VGG (middle row) and BERT (bottom), POET outperforms competitive methods in most configurations. When training ResNet-18 on the TX2, POET consumes up to 35% less energy than DTR while discovering solutions at tighter memory budgets.
Figure 4: Both rematerialization and paging are necessary for low-energy schedules with limited memory:  We compare ablations of POET on VGG for CIFAR-10 and find that both rematerialization and paging are required to achieve low-energy solutions at limited memory budgets across all runtime constraint values.
Figure 5: Optimal integrated rematerialization and paging outperforms Capuchin (log scale):  POET incurs 73% to 140% less energy overhead relative to a full-memory baseline by rematerializing earlier alongside paging. Capuchin strongly prefers paging before falling-back on rematerializing activations which makes it sub-optimal.
ResNet-18 Training
POET POFO (Beaumont et al. 2021)
Memory 285,873 kB 311,808 kB
Runtime 82.36 ms 94.79 ms
Table 3: POET’s MILP formulation lowers peak memory consumption by 8.3% and improves throughput by 13% compared to POFO (beaumont2021) on Nvidia’s Jetson TX2 edge device

Figure 3 shows the energy consumed for a single epoch of training. Each column represents a unique hardware platform as defined in Table 2. We notice that across all platforms, POET generates the most energy-optimal (Y-axis) schedule all the while reducing the peak memory consumed (X-axis) and adhering to the timing budget.

For the BERT model on the Cortex M4 and the TX2 platform, we noticed an interesting behavior: our ILP solves time-out. This is because we limit all solves to no more than 10 min. With a longer ILP solve budget (30 min), POET can predictably find more optimal solutions. Further, notice that a) POET has an additional timing budget which none of the other baselines do, and b) all of our baselines are already mature. Checkmate (checkmate) is provably optimal for rematerialization, while DTR (dtr) closely approximated Checkmate. Furthermore, POET tried to solve a much “harder” problem as its search space with rematerialization and paging together is larger.

6.3 How does POET benefit from integrated rematerialization and paging?

We compare our joint optimal paging and rematerialization schedule with Capuchin which optimizes each with a heuristic. Capuchin will effectively page until no longer feasible and only then will it begin to rematerialize. Instead, POET begins rematerializing cheap operations like ReLU much earlier which yields considerable energy savings (up to 141% lower overhead).

In Figure 5, we benchmark POET and Capuchin when training ResNet-18 on the A72. As the RAM budget decreases (to the right), Capuchin consumes 73% to 141% more energy than a baseline with full memory. In comparison, POET incurs less than a 1% energy overhead. This trend holds for all architectures and platforms we tested.

In Table 3 we benchmark POET and POFO when training ResNet-18 on Nvidia’s Jetson TX2. We find that POET finds an integrated rematerialization and paging schedule that lowers peak memory consumption by 8.3% and improves throughput by 13%. This showcases the benefit of POET’s Mixed-integer linear programming (MILP) solver, which is able to optimize over a much larger search-space. While POFO only supports linear models, POET generalizes to non-linear models as demonstrated in Fig 3.

6.4 How does POET adapt to varying runtimes?

Figure 4 highlights the benefit of the integrated strategies that POET adopts across different timing constraints. The run-time budget refers to the total time available for one epoch of training naïvely (without paging or rematerialization). For each of the runtimes, we plot the total energy consumed if we were to restrict to either of a) paging or b) rematerialization only, and the c) integrated solution.

We find that rematerialization is energy-optimal compared to paging at higher (looser) timing budgets. This is reflected in the POET (paging+remat) green curve, closely tracking the POET (remat only) yellow curve at runtime budgets of - ms. However, at lower runtime budget ( ms), paging is preferable as rematerialization strategies become infeasible. This is because, rematerialization is a compute intensive serial operation, however, our Algorithm 2 benefits from the ability to hide paging latencies by pipelining (see Section 6.2) to realize the tighter deadline bounds. POET’s optimal, integrated solution consumes up to lower energy compared to paging or rematerialization only solutions.

7 Conclusion

Enabling large models to be trained on edge devices is important due to privacy constraints as well as offline operation. Edge devices deployed in the real-world are powered by tiny microcontrollers that are low-powered, and have limited memory (e.g. KB). The low-power and limited memory, coupled with tight timing constraints imposed by real-time systems makes training on the edge challenging.

Our novel mixed-integer linear programming based Power Optimal Edge Training (POET) algorithm enables training on tiny chips with memory as low as 32 KB. Given a memory budget and a timing constraint, POET finds the most energy optimal schedule to train the model by choosing to either rematerialize or page the tensors to secondary storage.

Across a diverse set of models and devices, we discover low-power training schedules at less memory than baselines. POET enables new applications for privacy-preserving personalization of large models like BERT on tiny devices at the edge for the first time. Future directions include integrating activation compression as well as expanding POET’s search space to paging parameters.


We thank Prateek Jain, Charles Packer, Daniel Rothchild, Alex Smola, Pete Warden, and the anonymous reviewers whose insightful comments, and feedback helped improve the paper. This research is supported by a NSF CISE Expeditions Award CCF-1730628, and gifts from Amazon Web Services, Ant Group, Ericsson, Facebook, Futurewei, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Scotiabank, and VMware. This work was supported in part by the CONIX Research Center, one of six centers in JUMP, a Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) program sponsored by DARPA.