FP-NAS: Fast Probabilistic Neural Architecture Search

Zhicheng Yan, Xiaoliang Dai, Peizhao Zhang, Yuandong Tian, Bichen Wu, Matt Feiszli

Differential Neural Architecture Search (NAS) requires all layer choices to be held in memory simultaneously; this limits the size of both search space and final architecture. In contrast, Probabilistic NAS, such as PARSEC, learns a distribution over high-performing architectures, and uses only as much memory as needed to train a single model. Nevertheless, it needs to sample many architectures, making it computationally expensive for searching in an extensive space. To solve these problems, we propose a sampling method adaptive to the distribution entropy, drawing more samples to encourage explorations at the beginning, and reducing samples as learning proceeds. Furthermore, to search fast in the multi-variate space, we propose a coarse-to-fine strategy by using a factorized distribution at the beginning which can reduce the number of architecture parameters by over an order of magnitude.We call this method Fast Probabilistic NAS (FP-NAS). Compared with PARSEC, it can sample 64% fewer architectures and search 2.1x faster. Compared with FBNetV2, FP-NAS is 1.9x - 3.6x faster, and the searched models outperform FBNetV2 models on ImageNet. FP-NAS allows us to expand the giant FBNetV2 space to be wider (i.e. larger channel choices) and deeper (i.e. more blocks), while adding Split-Attention block and enabling the search over the number of splits. When searching a model of size 0.4G FLOPS, FP-NAS is 132x faster than EfficientNet, and the searched FP-NAS-L0 model outperforms EfficientNet-B0 by 0.6% accuracy. Without using any architecture surrogate or scaling tricks, we directly search large models up to 1.0G FLOPS. Our FP-NAS-L2 model with simple distillation outperforms BigNAS-XL with advanced inplace distillation by 0.7% accuracy with less FLOPS.

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