Accelerate documentation

Fully Sharded Data Parallel

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Fully Sharded Data Parallel

To accelerate training huge models on larger batch sizes, we can use a fully sharded data parallel model. This type of data parallel paradigm enables fitting more data and larger models by sharding the optimizer states, gradients and parameters. To read more about it and the benefits, check out the Fully Sharded Data Parallel blog. We have integrated the latest PyTorch’s Fully Sharded Data Parallel (FSDP) training feature. All you need to do is enable it through the config.

How it works out of the box

On your machine(s) just run:

accelerate config

and answer the questions asked. This will generate a config file that will be used automatically to properly set the default options when doing

accelerate launch --args_to_my_script

For instance, here is how you would run the NLP example (from the root of the repo) with FSDP enabled:

compute_environment: LOCAL_MACHINE
debug: false
distributed_type: FSDP
downcast_bf16: 'no'
  fsdp_auto_wrap_policy: TRANSFORMER_BASED_WRAP
  fsdp_backward_prefetch_policy: BACKWARD_PRE
  fsdp_cpu_ram_efficient_loading: true
  fsdp_forward_prefetch: false
  fsdp_offload_params: false
  fsdp_sharding_strategy: 1
  fsdp_state_dict_type: SHARDED_STATE_DICT
  fsdp_sync_module_states: true
  fsdp_transformer_layer_cls_to_wrap: BertLayer
  fsdp_use_orig_params: true
machine_rank: 0
main_training_function: main
mixed_precision: bf16
num_machines: 1
num_processes: 2
rdzv_backend: static
same_network: true
tpu_env: []
tpu_use_cluster: false
tpu_use_sudo: false
use_cpu: false
accelerate launch examples/

Currently, Accelerate supports the following config through the CLI:

Sharding Strategy: [1] FULL_SHARD (shards optimizer states, gradients and parameters), [2] SHARD_GRAD_OP (shards optimizer states and gradients), [3] NO_SHARD (DDP), [4] HYBRID_SHARD (shards optimizer states, gradients and parameters within each node while each node has full copy), [5] HYBRID_SHARD_ZERO2 (shards optimizer states and gradients within each node while each node has full copy)

Offload Params: Decides Whether to offload parameters and gradients to CPU


Transformer Layer Class to Wrap: When using TRANSFORMER_BASED_WRAP, user specifies comma-separated string of transformer layer class names (case-sensitive) to wrap ,e.g, BertLayer, GPTJBlock, T5Block, BertLayer,BertEmbeddings,BertSelfOutput… This is important because submodules that share weights (e.g., embedding layer) should not end up in different FSDP wrapped units. Using this policy, wrapping happens for each block containing Multi-Head Attention followed by couple of MLP layers. Remaining layers including the shared embeddings are conveniently wrapped in same outermost FSDP unit. Therefore, use this for transformer based models. You can use the model._no_split_modules for 🤗 Transformer models by answering yes to Do you want to use the model's _no_split_modulesto wrap. Only applicable for 🤗 Transformers. It will try to use model._no_split_modules when available.

Min Num Params: minimum number of parameters when using SIZE_BASED_WRAP

Backward Prefetch: [1] BACKWARD_PRE, [2] BACKWARD_POST, [3] NO_PREFETCH


Forward Prefetch: if True, then FSDP explicitly prefetches the next upcoming all-gather while executing in the forward pass. only use with Static graphs.

Use Orig Params: If True, allows non-uniform requires_grad during init, which means support for interspersed frozen and trainable paramteres. Useful in cases such as parameter-efficient fine-tuning. Please refer this blog. This also enables to have different optimizer param groups. This should be True when creating optimizer object before preparing/wrapping the model with FSDP.

CPU RAM Efficient Model loading: If True, only the first process loads the pretrained model checkoint while all other processes have empty weights. Only applicable for 🤗 Transformers models. This should be set to False if you experience errors when loading the pretrained 🤗 Transformers model via from_pretrained method. When using this, Sync Module States needs to be True else all the processes expect the main process would have random empty weights leading to unexpected behaviour during training.

Sync Module States: If True, each individually wrapped FSDP unit will broadcast module parameters from rank 0

For additional and more nuanced control, you can specify other FSDP parameters via FullyShardedDataParallelPlugin. When creating FullyShardedDataParallelPlugin object, pass it the parameters that weren’t part of the accelerate config or if you want to override them. The FSDP parameters will be picked based on the accelerate config file or launch command arguments and other parameters that you will pass directly through the FullyShardedDataParallelPlugin object will set/override that.

Below is an example:

from accelerate import FullyShardedDataParallelPlugin
from torch.distributed.fsdp.fully_sharded_data_parallel import FullOptimStateDictConfig, FullStateDictConfig

fsdp_plugin = FullyShardedDataParallelPlugin(
    state_dict_config=FullStateDictConfig(offload_to_cpu=False, rank0_only=False),
    optim_state_dict_config=FullOptimStateDictConfig(offload_to_cpu=False, rank0_only=False),

accelerator = Accelerator(fsdp_plugin=fsdp_plugin)

Saving and loading

The new recommended way of checkpointing when using FSDP models is to use SHARDED_STATE_DICT as StateDictType when setting up the accelerate config. Below is the code snippet to save using save_state utility of accelerate.


Inspect the ckeckpoint folder to see model and optimizer as shards per process:

ls ckpt 
# optimizer_0  pytorch_model_0  random_states_0.pkl  random_states_1.pkl  scheduler.bin

cd ckpt

ls optimizer_0
# __0_0.distcp  __1_0.distcp

ls pytorch_model_0
# __0_0.distcp  __1_0.distcp

To load them back for resuming the training, use the load_state utility of accelerate


When using transformers save_pretrained, pass state_dict=accelerator.get_state_dict(model) to save the model state dict. Below is an example:

+     state_dict=accelerator.get_state_dict(model),

State Dict

accelerator.get_state_dict will call the underlying model.state_dict implementation using FullStateDictConfig(offload_to_cpu=True, rank0_only=True) context manager to get the state dict only for rank 0 and it will be offloaded to CPU.

You can then pass state into the save_pretrained method. There are several modes for StateDictType and FullStateDictConfig that you can use to control the behavior of state_dict. For more information, see the PyTorch documentation.

A few caveats to be aware of

  • In case of multiple models, pass the optimizers to the prepare call in the same order as corresponding models else accelerator.save_state() and accelerator.load_state() will result in wrong/unexpected behaviour.
  • This feature is incompatible with --predict_with_generate in the script of 🤗 Transformers library.

For more control, users can leverage the FullyShardedDataParallelPlugin. After creating an instance of this class, users can pass it to the Accelerator class instantiation. For more information on these options, please refer to the PyTorch FullyShardedDataParallel code.