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Published: Jul 3, 2021 License: Apache-2.0



Making adaptive distributed machine learning easy and efficient.

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KungFu aims to help users achieve fast and adaptive distributed machine learning with minimal efforts. This is important because a machine learning system must cope with growing complex models and increasingly complicated deployment environments, making it difficult to constantly deliver high performance with an empirical configuration. To address this, KungFu provides the following unique features:

  • Simplicity: KungFu permits distributed training by adding minimal code in your training program. KungFu is also simple to install and run. It does not require extra deployment like parameter servers and heavy dependencies like MPI in Horovod.
  • Adaptable distributed training: KungFu provides useful advanced distributed optimizers such as communication-efficient PairAveragingOptimizer and hyper-parameter-robust SynchronousAveragingOptimizer to help you address the cases in which conventional Synchronous SGD does not scale. See Optimizers for how to choose the right KungFu optimizer for your training scenario.
  • Online monitoring and control: KungFu aims to support distributed SGD metrics such as gradient noise scale to help understand the training process with low overhead. KungFu further provides control operators such as barrier and resize_cluster to help reconfigure training online, even in response to monitored metrics.
  • Fast and scalable: KungFu has a decentralized architecture, an non-blocking runtime, and high-performance implementations of communication, monitoring and control operators. Check out its performance in Benchmark.

We have been using KungFu for scaling out different deep learning models such as ResNet, DenseNet, OpenPose, BERT, CycleGAN and Alpha Zero. Check out their examples.


KungFu currently support TensorFlow and Keras. To scale out your TensorFlow program, for example, you need to make two changes:

  1. Wrap your tf.train.optimizer in KungFu's SynchronousSGDOptimizer, SynchronousAveragingOptimizer, or PairAveragingOptimizer.

  2. Ensure all workers start with consistent states by broadcasting a worker's initial global variables.

import tensorflow as tf

# Build model...
loss = ...
opt = tf.train.AdamOptimizer(0.01)

# KungFu Step 1: Wrap tf.optimizer in KungFu optimizers
from kungfu.tensorflow.optimizers import SynchronousSGDOptimizer
opt = SynchronousSGDOptimizer(opt)

# Make training operation
train_op = opt.minimize(loss)

# Train your model
with tf.Session() as sess:

    # KungFu Step 2: ensure distributed workers start with consistent states
    from kungfu.tensorflow.initializer import BroadcastGlobalVariablesOp

    for step in range(10):

You can find more details in the Documentation, for example, for how to use KungFu with Session, TensorFlow Keras, Estimator, and GradientTape in TensorFlow 1 and 2. For KungFu with Keras, check out here.


KungFu is implemented in Go and C++. Currently, it has a Python binding for TensorFlow (including v1 and v2) and Keras (assuming you use TensorFlow as the backend).

KungFu for TensorFlow requires Python 3, CMake 3.5+, and Golang 1.13+. KungFu has been tested with TensorFlow 1.12, 1.13, 1.15 and 2.0.0. KungFu has a known installation issue with TensorFlow 1.14. Assuming you have the above pre-requites, you can install KungFu as follows:

git clone https://github.com/lsds/KungFu.git
cd KungFu
pip3 install --no-index -U --user .

KungFu provides kungfu-run to launch a KungFu process on a multi-GPU server. In a cluster, we need to launch kungfu-run on each node.

# Show the help of kungfu-run
kungfu-run -help

You can use KungFu with Docker. Check out the docker files for GPU and CPU machines.


We show how to run a KungFu program using a MNIST example. Download the MNIST dataset (script) first and then run the following training script:

# Train a Single Layer Perception (SLP) model for the MNIST dataset using 4 CPUs for 10 data epochs.
kungfu-run -np 4 python3 examples/tf1_mnist_session.py --data-dir=./mnist

You can run this example on two machines (assuming each with 8 GPUs) using the below command (NOTE: this command must be called on each machine):

# Assume the machines have NIC eth0 and their IPs are and
kungfu-run -np $NUM_GPUS \
    -H$NUM_GPU_SLOTS,$NUM_GPU_SLOTS -nic eth0 \
    python3 examples/tf1_mnist_session.py  --data-dir=./mnist

kungfu-run use the nic option to infer its IP and thus its role in the cluster.


We have been using KungFu in training different kinds of AI models. The following are representative examples:

  • ImageNet: KungFu can speed up the training of ResNet, VGG, DenseNet and others for ImageNet. Check out this in an ImageNet benchmark suite extended from the TensorFlow benchmark.

  • Pose estimation: Pose estimation models such as OpenPose are often batch-size sensitive. We used KungFu in a popular OpenPose implementation and improved time-to-accuracy using the model averaging optimizer which preserves the merits of small batch size.

  • Natural language processing: We have an example that shows how you can use few lines to enable distributed training for the Google BERT model.

  • Adversarial learning: Adversarial learning trains multiple networks in parallel and prefer using small batches for training. KungFu thus become an attractive option, because of its minimal changes to GAN programs and its optimizers that decouple batch size and system parallelism. See the CycleGAN example.

  • Reinforcement learning: We are working on an Alpha Zero distributed training example and will release it soon.

Choosing the right optimizer

KungFu aims to help users decrease the time to reach a desired accuracy (time-to-accuracy) through scaling. There are two major ways to improve time-to-accuracy in KungFu:

  • Synchronous SGD: Adopt parallel workers to improve the estimation of gradients, and reach a minima quickly using an increased learning rate.
  • Model Averaging: Adopt parallel workers to explore the solution space and collaborate through averaging diverged models in order to find a good minima quickly.

Synchronous SGD: Synchronous SGD (S-SGD) is implemented as SynchronousSGDOptimizer in KungFu, equivalent to the DistributedOptimizer in Horovod. The use of S-SGD, however, poses scalability and accuracy challenges. Scalability-wise, all S-SGD workers must exchange all gradients per iteration, making them hard to deal with limited bandwidth and stragglers; (ii) accuracy-wise, S-SGD couples training batch size with the number of workers, enforcing users to use large batch sizes, which can adversely affect the generality of a trained model (see paper). To compensate the loss in generality, users must explore various methods for tuning hyper-parameters.

Model averaging: Model averaging is implemented as SynchronousAveragingOptimizer and PairAveragingOptimizer in KungFu. The former realizes the hyper-parameter-robust SMA algorithm; while the latter implements the AD-PSGD algorithm which reduces bandwidth consumption and tolerates stragglers. In model averaging, each worker trains its local model using SGD, and average its model with peers to speed up the search for minima. Model averaging algorithms have a convergence guarantee (see EA-SGD paper) and can converge fast with DL models (see Lookahead paper). A useful property of model averaging is: it decouples batch size with system parallelism, often making it hyper-parameter robust. We find this property valuable as DL users often find it hard and expensive to tune synchronous SGD at scale.

Convergence evaluation: We have tested KungFu optimizers using ResNet-50 and ResNet-101 for ImageNet. When using 8 V100, all KungFu optimizers can reach the target 75% accuracy, the same as the baseline Horovod. When using 16 V100, Horovod and SynchronousSGDOptimizer suffer from the increased batch size and their accuracy drop to 59% while SynchronousAveragingOptimizer and PairAveragingOptimizer still reach the target 75%. All these tests use a per-GPU batch size as 64 and hyper-parameters suggested by the TensorFlow benchmark authors.


We benchmark KungFu in a cluster that has 16 V100 GPUs hosted by 2 DGX-1 machines. The machines are interconnected by a 100 Gbps network. We measure the training throughput of ResNet-50, VGG16 and InceptionV3. These models represent different kinds of training workloads.

In the synchronous training case, we compare KungFu (SynchronousSGDOptimizer) with Horovod (0.16.1). Horovod uses OpenMPI 4.0.0. We evaluate the spectrum of batch size (from 256 to 4096) commonly used by S-SGD users. This batch size is evenly shared by the 16 GPUs. KungFu outperforms Horovod on all tested models, in particular with small batch sizes which significantly raise the frequency of synchronization.


In the asynchronous training case, we compare KungFu (PairAveragingOptimizer) with TensorFlow parameter servers (1.13.1). We uses the same range of batch sizes as above. KungFu exhibits better scalability as well.


We have also run the same benchmark in a 16-server cluster (each has a P100). KungFu exhibits better scalability in this communication-challenging environment, and we thus only report the 16 V100 result here. You can find the benchmark scripts here.


KungFu is designed with extensibility in mind. It has a low-level API and a modular architecture, making it suitable for implementing new distributed training algorithms. Check out the developer guideline for more information.


Path Synopsis
from: https://github.com/lgarithm/go/blob/master/net/ssh/ssh.go Package ssh is a simple wrapper for golang.org/x/crypto/ssh
from: https://github.com/lgarithm/go/blob/master/net/ssh/ssh.go Package ssh is a simple wrapper for golang.org/x/crypto/ssh
deprecated, should use srcs/go/cmd/kungfu-config-server/kungfu-config-server.go
deprecated, should use srcs/go/cmd/kungfu-config-server/kungfu-config-server.go

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