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Increasing Accuracy of Iterative Refinement in Limited Floating-Point Arithmetic on Half-Precision Accelerators


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The emergence of deep learning as a leading computational workload for machine learning tasks on large-scale cloud infrastructure installations has led to plethora of accelerator hardware releases. However, the reduced precision and range of the floating-point numbers on these new platforms makes it a non-trivial task to leverage these unprecedented advances in computational power for numerical linear algebra operations that come with a guarantee of robust error bounds. In order to address these concerns, we present a number of strategies that can be used to increase the accuracy of limited-precision iterative refinement. By limited precision, we mean 16-bit floating-point formats implemented in modern hardware accelerators and are not necessarily compliant with the IEEE half-precision specification. We include the explanation of a broader context and connections to established IEEE floating-point standards and existing high-performance computing (HPC) benchmarks. We also present a new formulation of LU factorization that we call signed square root LU which produces more numerically balanced Land U factors which directly address the problems of limited range of the low-precision storage formats. The experimental results indicate that it is possible to recover substantial amounts of the accuracy in the system solution that would otherwise be lost. Previously, this could only be achieved by using iterative refinement based on single-precision floating-point arithmetic. The discussion will also explore the numerical stability issues that are important for robust linear solvers on these new hardware platforms.



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