Sparse Finetuning for Inference Acceleration of Large Language Models

Published on Oct 10, 2023


We consider the problem of accurate sparse finetuning of large language models (LLMs), that is, finetuning pretrained LLMs on specialized tasks, while inducing sparsity in their weights. On the accuracy side, we observe that standard loss-based finetuning may fail to recover accuracy, especially at high sparsities. To address this, we perform a detailed study of distillation-type losses, determining an L2-based distillation approach we term SquareHead which enables accurate recovery even at higher sparsities, across all model types. On the practical efficiency side, we show that sparse LLMs can be executed with speedups by taking advantage of sparsity, for both CPU and GPU runtimes. While the standard approach is to leverage sparsity for computational reduction, we observe that in the case of memory-bound LLMs sparsity can also be leveraged for reducing memory bandwidth. We exhibit end-to-end results showing speedups due to sparsity, while recovering accuracy, on T5 (language translation), Whisper (speech translation), and open GPT-type (MPT for text generation). For MPT text generation, we show for the first time that sparse finetuning can reach 75% sparsity without accuracy drops, provide notable end-to-end speedups for both CPU and GPU inference, and highlight that sparsity is also compatible with quantization approaches. Models and software for reproducing our results are provided in Section 6.


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