Fairseq distributed training is largely built on top of the distributed training feature provided by Pytorch. A couple important notes from their tutorial that will be useful:

  1. The example provided in the tuorial is data-parallelism. It splits the training data to several different partitions and perform forward/backward pass independently on different machines, and average the gradients to update the parameter.
  2. init_process_group() defines the communication mechanisms for the processes to communicate. Can either specify store (dictionary of running instances) or init_method (address to find master process) to initialize.


Under the root of Fairseq there is a file called distributed_utils, which defines interfaces to setup distributed training.

# Check if rank is 0
def is_master(args):...
# Dynamically compute distributed arguments if available from environment
# Such as slurm envinronment variables
def infer_init_method(args):...
# Create processes
def distributed_init(args):...
# Get process rank, world size, process group
def get_rank():...
def get_world_size():...
def get_default_group():...
# For meaning of all_reduce/gather, see Pytorch tutorial
def all_reduce(tensor, group=None):...
def all_gather_list(data, group=None, max_size=16384):...
def all_reduce_dict(
    data: Mapping[str, Any],
) -> Dict[str, Any]:...


This method is the entry point for training a model using fairseq command line tools. The entry function is cli_main(). This method mainly determines the distributed training scheme according to arguments, in particular. Three distributed training scheme are possible:

  • Multi nodes, multi gpu training
  • Single node, multi gpu training
  • Single node, single gpu training Note that CPU training is not possible in fairseq.

the logics are written in pseudo-code as follows:

# Dynamically compute arguments for distribution init method
if args.distributed_init_method is not None:
  # Multi node, multi-gpu training
  if args.cuda.device_count() > 1 and not args.distributed_no_spawn:
    # Torch method that spawns processes
    torch.multiprocessing.spawn(distributed_main, args, ndevices)
elif args.distributed_world_size > 1:
  # Perform multi-gpu, single node training
  init_method = "tcp://localhost"
  torch.multiprocessing.spawn(distributed_main, args, ndevices)
  # Single node, single gpu training

Distributed_main is a wrapper for main in a distributed training scenario. The first argument is the rank of the process. It will passed to main via arg.distributed_rank. The rank will also be used to set devices_id in the cluster. At the start of main(), the following codes are used to setup:

if torch.cuda.is_available() and not args.cpu:
if init_distributed:
  args.distributed_rank = distributed_utils.distributed_init(args)

Remember in main() only a single process is running in syncchronized mode. The first line defines which gpu device the process has access to, the second line defines where to find the master process.

The data partition part is largely handled by different iterator classes.