Updated: June 17, 2024

Read time: # mins

Ring Attention with Blockwise Transformers for Near-Infinite Context

Title:
Ring Attention with Blockwise Transformers for Near-Infinite Context

Authors:

  • Hao Liu
  • Matei Zaharia
  • Pieter Abbeel

Abstract Summary

This paper introduces Ring Attention with Blockwise Transformers, a novel approach that allows handling near-infinite context lengths in Transformers. This method utilizes blockwise computation of self-attention and feedforward networks, distributing long sequences across multiple devices. This innovation enables training and inference of sequences up to the device count times longer than those managed by previous memory-efficient Transformers without additional overheads. Extensive experiments demonstrate the approach's effectiveness in language modeling and reinforcement learning tasks.

Key Concepts

  1. Transformers:
    • Backbone of many state-of-the-art AI models using self-attention and position-wise feedforward mechanisms.
  2. Memory Efficiency:
    • Reducing memory demands of self-attention through blockwise computation without materializing the full softmax matrix.
  3. Blockwise Computation:
    • Dividing self-attention and feedforward networks into blocks to distribute computation and memory load across multiple devices.
  4. Ring Attention:
    • A mechanism where devices form a ring, sending and receiving key-value blocks during computation to overlap communication and computation processes.
  5. Large Context Handling:
    • Enabling context lengths up to device count times longer than those of prior models by efficiently managing memory and computation.

Problem Statement

The main problem addressed is the memory constraint in Transformers that limits their ability to handle long sequences, which is crucial for applications like video processing, long-form text analysis, and scientific data interpretation.

Methods and Techniques

  1. Blockwise Parallel Transformers:
    • Implement blockwise computation of self-attention and feedforward layers to reduce memory usage without approximations.
  2. Ring Attention:
    • Devices are organized in a ring topology to overlap the communication of key-value blocks with blockwise computation, reducing memory costs and enabling large context sizes.
  3. Fully Sharded Data Parallelism (FSDP):
    • Shards the model across multiple devices to manage larger context lengths effectively.

Key Results

  1. Memory Reduction:
    • Achieves significant memory reduction, enabling training and inference with sequence lengths up to 100 million tokens.
  2. Performance Improvement:
    • Outperforms prior memory-efficient models by up to 512 times in context size scaling on TPUv4-1024.
  3. Scalability:
    • Demonstrates linear scalability of context length with the number of devices, allowing near-infinite context sizes.

Contributions and Innovations

  1. Memory Efficient Architecture:
    • Proposes an architecture that scales context length linearly with device count, eliminating individual device memory bottlenecks.
  2. Efficient Blockwise Attention:
    • Overlaps blockwise computation and communication in a ring topology, providing zero-overhead scaling of context size.
  3. Experimental Validation:
    • Extensive experiments show effectiveness in language modeling and reinforcement learning, enabling handling of much longer sequences than previous models.

Future Work

The authors suggest exploring the application of their method to video-audio-language models, extended feedback learning in reinforcement learning, scientific data analysis such as gene sequences, and complex reasoning tasks from linked data.

Applications

  1. Video Processing:
    • Analyzing long videos with high-resolution sequences.
  2. Text Analysis:
    • Handling entire books or large documents for comprehensive text analysis.
  3. Scientific Research:
    • Processing complex datasets in scientific experiments, such as gene sequences or high-dimensional data.
  4. Code Analysis:
    • Understanding and generating codebases by analyzing extensive code sequences.

Relevant Links

  1. Code Repository: https://github.com/lhao499/llm_large_context

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