Co-Author: Andrew James
2022 was an exciting year for the PyTorch ecosystem. The PyTorch project joining the Linux Foundation was a major milestone, and PyTorch 2.0 was announced with loads of informative talks from the maintainers explaining new features. Additionally, there was marked progress on areas including sparse tensors, JAX-like transformations in PyTorch were released, and TorchVision announced a new Transforms API.
In this post, we will review how Quansight has been working hand-in-hand with the PyTorch team at Meta to enhance the PyTorch Project in regards to the above, and beyond.
The biggest PyTorch announcement in 2022 was, without a doubt, the release of PyTorch 2.0. The main feature this release adds is a more powerful and user-friendly compiler for PyTorch programs. This compiler is executed via the function/decorator
torch.compile and it wraps a PyTorch program or model and turns it into a compiled version of it. What makes this different from other ML frameworks, among other things, is that
torch.compile works with arbitrary Python programs, even in the presence of data-dependent control flow. This way, the user gets all the speed from a compiled framework, with the flexibility that characterizes PyTorch. Even more, for this reason, this release has the remarkable property of being fully backwards-compatible.
Of course, features of this caliber are composed of a number of subsystems. Quansight helped in the development of a few of these.
One of the first steps towards building any compiler that is worth its salt is to desugar the language in question. In the case of PyTorch, this meant implementing PyTorch operations in terms of simpler operations. This seems like a simple task at first sight, until you realize the amount of subtle features that PyTorch supports like type promotion, broadcasting,
out kwarg, inplace and view operations, and more. For more about this, see this post on Tracing with Primitives.
Quansight engineers helped design and implement many of these, as well as helped build the testing infrastructure to make sure they are all correct.
Another big part of a compiler is… well, the compiler itself. The PyTorch 2.0 compiler is called
TorchInductor, and it takes as input an FX graph and returns a compiled and optimized function that can be executed from Python. For CPU tensors, it compiles against C++ with OpenMP and SIMD instructions. On CUDA, it compiles against Triton.
We were involved in the implementation of a number of optimization passes to generate faster code.
Another feature that PyTorch 2.0 brings to the table is dynamic shapes. Consider a model to which you want to feed batches of different sizes as, perhaps, your data comes from a stream of data. You would not want to recompile the model repeatedly, as a program that is optimized to run on inputs of shape
[2, 512, 512] will probably do just fine on inputs of shape
[3, 512, 512].
Dynamic shapes allow for tracing a program and also tracing the size of some dimensions symbolically. For example, we know if inputs to
matmul have shapes
[m, k] and
[k, n], the output will have shape
[m, n]. By tracking these shapes symbolically, we save on plenty of recompilations on language models and we are able to export generic models that work for arbitrary lengths and batches.
We were – and continue to be – involved in fixing some correctness issues related to dynamic shapes across the PyTorch 2.0 stack.
NumPy With PyTorch as Its Backend
The PyTorch 2.0 tracer currently just knows how to trace Python programs that have PyTorch calls in them. But what if you have NumPy calls as well? Even more, what if you want to compile and run your good old NumPy model with autograd and CUDA acceleration? In PyTorch 2.X you will be able to do that right out of the box without having to change one line of code! Just stamp the entry point to your model with a
@torch.compile and you’re ready to go.
We are in the process of implementing an interface that translates NumPy to PyTorch. You could think of it as having PyTorch as a backend for your NumPy computations without having to change one file in your project!
SciPy And scikit-learn With PyTorch as Their Backend: Python Array API
In 2021-22, Quansight’s team did a fair amount of work to implement the Python Array API within PyTorch. For 2023, we are taking this one step further.
In parallel, a number of PyData maintainers within Quansight have started migrating parts of their codebase to use the Python Array API. These two together will allow users to run their programs that use NumPy, SciPy, or scikit-learn with PyTorch as their backend. In particular, you could create a compiled CUDA version of your favorite scikit-learn algorithms and even differentiate through them! What a time to be alive.
Additional Compiler Backends
It should be clear by now that the main feature of PyTorch 2.0 is its compiler. The compiler itself is built to be flexible and support multiple backends. Options are limited at launch, but we have been working to deliver alternatives.
There is ongoing work towards delivering a transpiler that translates a PyTorch program written in Python into a PyTorch program written in C++. This means that you can get all the performance improvements of writing your model using PyTorch’s C++ API, without having to write one line of C++! Further down the road, this will be integrated within TorchInductor, and we will intermix Triton kernels with hand-written CUDA fallbacks for those operations that are not supported by the compiler yet. This compiler backend will allow for compiled functions to stay fully in C++ without ever having to come back to sluggish Python-land.
PyTorch is designed and primarily targeted at deep learning applications, but scientific communities are also part of the vast user base. The wealth of numerical tools, autograd, and interfaces to powerful computing hardware backends such as CUDA make it an attractive choice for those working in these domains.
Our team is comprised of SciPy community veterans, and we have a wealth of expertise in various scientific domains. Quansight has been instrumental in expanding PyTorch to cover functionality from popular SciPy modules (in some cases going beyond SciPy) and we have continued to do so in 2022.
torch.sparse team has focused on enabling key workflows and developing a path toward stability. We have expanded support for data types and layouts in sparse-sparse and sparse-dense matrix multiplication, which has enabled PyTorch Linear layers to carry sparse weights. Specialized kernels have been added using Triton to support half-precision data types while continuing to utilize the newest features from NVIDIA’s cuSPARSE as they become available. While matrix multiplication represents the area where sparsity offers the largest potential performance gains, performance improvements have also been realized for point-wise multiplications, layout validations, and masking operations. Autograd integration has been steadily improving with more and more operators supporting sparse layouts on the backward path.
The next year is set to be an exciting one for sparsity in PyTorch. Experiments with new backends are showing promising performance in the realm of sparsity realistic for deep learning, with tensors that are 50-80% zero, where performance gains have only been seen previously when tensors are 90% zero or more. Integration with
torch.compile is also high on the list of priorities as that technology stack offers a route to solving problems like determining the best layouts for outputs in a sequence of operations. First, we need to get sparse to the “stable feature” designation.
JAX-like Function Transforms:
One of PyTorch’s big releases this year was that of
functorch) being merged into core. This module provides higher order functions that allow you to vectorize your computation by calling
vmap, to compute forward and backward vector products via
vjp, or to compute per-sample gradients, as popularized by JAX.
In order for this to become a thing, PyTorch maintainers needed to implement these operations for each and every one of the operators that PyTorch has. That is well over 2,600 operators. To make this task bearable, Quansight engineers helped implement many of the PyTorch operators in a composite way. A composite operator then inherits the implementation of
vjp and all these from the operators that compose it. This is a similar idea to the PrimTorch approach we discussed above. Quansight engineers also helped implement many other features now available in this shiny new PyTorch module.
Once you have complex numbers, as we helped deliver in 2021, and accelerators, the next thing you want is complex numbers in half precision. The issue, as always, is that PyTorch has thousands of operations. Each of them implemented in CPU and CUDA. And, for each device, implemented for each datatype. And each of those contributes to the size of the executable. And each of those needs to be compiled every time you compile PyTorch. And each of those takes a little bit of time to load whenever you run
import torch. And at some point you start wondering whether it is worthwhile to deliver half-precision complex numbers.
To solve this issue, Meta engineers put together a JIT compiler—yes, another compiler, different from the two we discussed above—that allows compiling
torch.complex32 versions of operators just as they are used for the first time in the program. This allows us to get fast compilation times, and smaller binaries at the cost of a tiny perf hit the first time we execute a function. Quansight engineers then helped expand the
torch.complex32 coverage throughout PyTorch.
With the help of the OSS community, Quansight engineers have helped design and implement SciPy’s
signal.windows module in PyTorch. This module is of particular interest for digital signal processing, and it couples particularly well with the previous work of Quansight engineers in bringing complex numbers and FFTs to PyTorch.
One of the areas of specialization of Quansight engineers is code optimization. A faster PyTorch means less money spent on cloud services, less energy spent in the world, and less time waiting for your model to finish training. Win, win, win!
A few highlights from 2022 are:
It is great to talk about the flashy new features and performance improvements we have worked on, but every project needs to be maintained at a level that most users will never see. When the project is as large and complex as PyTorch, this work is even more important, but often harder to see. Quansight engineers are constantly at work refactoring sub-systems to reduce technical debt and making improvements to PyTorch that allow the entire project to continue marching forward.
Build Time Improvements
In a project the size of PyTorch, keeping build times reasonable is paramount. Last year, Quansight engineers helped reduce the average fresh build time from 20 minutes to five minutes. This year, we continued working on recompilations. A huge number of compilation sources are generated at build time from specification files, such as all of the C++ to Python bindings, which are found in a single file. The generation system does not have a notion of what has changed, and what has not, between compilations so all of the generated sources are re-generated, and subsequently recompiled, any time that single file is edited in any way—even if the edit is a comment.
Our work entailed making recompilation more granular. If one signature is modified, you will just need to recompile the relevant files.
In 2021, the classes managing the memory where tensor data is stored, called “storage,” were modified such that all data was stored as raw bytes without a data type. This change made tensor storage more flexible and easier to maintain. The change was not duplicated to the Python interface for these classes to maintain backward compatibility. In 2022, we continued this work to begin the deprecation cycle and re-unify the two interfaces under the type-free storage system. This delicate task required diligent work to maintain the correctness of lower-level functionality such as serialization, but our team was equal to the task and typed storage is officially deprecated, and will be completely removed in PyTorch 2.1!
In 2021, a number of Quansight and Meta engineers designed and implemented the
fft modules based on their NumPy and SciPy counterparts. One year later, these modules are now completely stable, but we still provide guidance to users that find the sharper corners of the mathematically-involved functions in them.
Another front where Quansight spent a reasonable amount of time in 2022 was helping to set up a scalable and reliable testing infrastructure in the PyTorch project. At this time, the main structure and the tests are rather stable and provide a reliable way to test new features that are added to the library. Now, as any system that sets itself to tackle such a humongous task, it needs maintaining to stop it from growing out of control.
In 2022, Quansight engineers helped refactor the new testing infrastructure to keep parts of it more manageable and implemented a number of quality of life improvements for it, which helped find and fix a number of bugs it had.
PyTorch core provides critical functionality that is generally applicable to learning workflows, but it is not intended to cover all applications on its own. Domain specific extension libraries like TorchVision fill the gaps with specialized tools for a particular problem space. Not to be outshined by the PyTorch 2.0 release, we have worked to deliver some exciting new features in TorchVision as well.
Transforms API 2.0
One of the most tiring parts of doing real-world Machine Learning is data pre-processing. TorchVision offers a set of functions to help you in this task when you want to classify images. The issue is that image classification is so 2016. Modern Deep Learning deals with segmentation tasks with masks, object detection with bounding boxes, videos and more. This means that when you rotate an image, you may also need to rotate the annotations, cropping and all other transformations in general.
Quansight engineers designed and developed a more flexible API for these transforms that allows you to have more heterogeneous data and annotations, to go with modern vision tasks. This new API is not only backwards compatible, but actually faster than the previous one and will be released in a beta state with TorchVision 0.15. You can read more about it in this very nice blog post, Extending TorchVision’s Transforms to Object Detection, Segmentation & Video tasks.
Video Codecs Support
As discussed above, image preprocessing is annoying. Now, this is difficult to deal with when images are static. But when they move… that’s a whole different level.
One particular pain point when dealing with videos is the different formats they come in. We have been working on putting together a robust video reader that deals with these different codecs and prepares the data to be able to be processed by a neural network.
Yearly reviews are great! They help you see how much you moved forward in the last twelve months in one go. We also can’t hope to cover everything our team of 20 engineers have done in over 18,000 hours of work in 2022. These highlights show it was a truly impressive group effort together with Meta! Whether you are looking to get started or are already using PyTorch, Quansight has the experts to help you.
All this would not have been possible without the contributions from our fantastic team of PyTorch and TorchVision contributors: Peter Bell, Mario Lezcano, Andrew James, Nikita Vedeneev, Pearu Peterson, Kshiteej Kalambarkar, Philip Meier, Victor Fomin, Yukio Siraichi, Kurt Mohler, Evgeni Burovski, Aaron Meuer, Matthew Barber, Fabio Rocha, Aleksandar Samardžić, Bruno Korbar, Nikita Karetnikov, Sean Ross-Ross, Ralf Gommers, and Matti Picus.
The other part of the story comes from the great team of PyTorch and TorchVision engineers at Meta. Without their dedication and openness to collaboration this work would not be possible. In particular, we would like to thank Alban Desmaison, Natalia Gimelschein, Edward Yang, Anjali Chourdia, Christian Pursch, Jane Xu, Joel Schlosser, Nikita Shulga, Richard Zou, Brian Hirsh, Horace He, Jason Ansel, Joe Isaacson, and Soumith Chintala (PyTorch) and Vasilis Vryniotis, Prabhat Roy, and Nicolas Hug (TorchVision). Thank you all for making this collaboration so fruitful and enjoyable.