Run Distributed Training

In this article, we explain how to run distributed Paddle training jobs on clusters. We will create the distributed version of the single-process training example, recommendation.

Scripts used in this article launch distributed jobs via SSH. They also work as a reference for users running more sophisticated cluster management systems like MPI and Kubernetes.


  1. Aforementioned scripts use a Python library fabric to run SSH commands. We can use pip to install fabric:

    pip install fabric
  2. We need to install PaddlePaddle on all nodes in the cluster. To enable GPUs, we need to install CUDA in /usr/local/cuda; otherwise Paddle would report errors at runtime.

  3. Set the ROOT_DIR variable in [cluster_train/] on all nodes. For convenience, we often create a Unix user paddle on all nodes and set ROOT_DIR=/home/paddle. In this way, we can write public SSH keys into /home/paddle/.ssh/authorized_keys so that user paddle can SSH to all nodes without password.

Prepare Job Workspace

We refer to the directory where we put dependent libraries, config files, etc., as workspace.

These train/test data should be prepared before launching cluster job. To satisfy the requirement that train/test data are placed in different directory from workspace, PADDLE refers train/test data according to index file named as train.list/test.list which are used in model config file. So the train/test data also contains train.list/test.list two list file. All local training demo already provides scripts to help you create these two files, and all nodes in cluster job will handle files with same logical code in normal condition.

Generally, you can use same model file from local training for cluster training. What you should have in mind that, the batch_size set in setting function in model file means batch size in each node of cluster job instead of total batch size if synchronization SGD was used.

Following steps are based on demo/recommendation demo in demo directory.

You just go through demo/recommendation tutorial doc until Train section, and at last you will get train/test data and model configuration file. Finaly, just use demo/recommendation as workspace for cluster training.

At last your workspace should look like as follow:

|-- data
|   |-- config.json
|   |--
|   |-- meta.bin
|   |-- meta_config.json
|   |--
|   |-- ml-1m
|   |--
|   |-- ratings.dat.test
|   |-- ratings.dat.train
|   |--
|   |-- test.list
|   `-- train.list
|-- requirements.txt

Not all of these files are needed for cluster training, but it’s not necessary to remove useless files. Indicates the model config file.

train.list and test.list File index. It stores all relative or absolute file paths of all train/test data at current node. used to read train/test samples. It’s same as local training.

data all files in data directory are refered by train.list/test.list which are refered by data provider.

Prepare Cluster Job Configuration

The options below must be carefully set in cluster_train/

HOSTS all nodes hostname or ip that will run cluster job. You can also append user and ssh port with hostname, such as root@

ROOT_DIR workspace ROOT directory for placing JOB workspace directory

PADDLE_NIC the NIC(Network Interface Card) interface name for cluster communication channel, such as eth0 for ethternet, ib0 for infiniband.

PADDLE_PORT port number for cluster commnunication channel

PADDLE_PORTS_NUM the number of port used for cluster communication channle. if the number of cluster nodes is small(less than 5~6nodes), recommend you set it to larger, such as 2 ~ 8, for better network performance.

PADDLE_PORTS_NUM_FOR_SPARSE the number of port used for sparse updater cluster commnunication channel. if sparse remote update is used, set it like PADDLE_PORTS_NUM

LD_LIBRARY_PATH set addtional LD_LIBRARY_PATH for cluster job. You can use it to set CUDA libraries path.

Default Configuration as follow:


workspace configuration

#root dir for workspace
ROOT_DIR = "/home/paddle"

network configuration
#pserver nics
PADDLE_NIC = "eth0"
#pserver port
#pserver ports num
#pserver sparse ports num

#environments setting for all processes in cluster job

Launching Cluster Job provides automatical scripts to start all PaddlePaddle cluster processes in different nodes. By default, all command line options can set as command options and will transparently and automatically set these options to PaddlePaddle lower level processes.

paddle.pyprovides two distinguished command option for easy job launching.

job_dispatch_package set it with local workspacedirectory, it will be dispatched to all nodes set in It could be helpful for frequent hacking workspace files, otherwise frequent mulit-nodes workspace deployment could make your crazy. job_workspace set it with already deployed workspace directory, will skip dispatch stage to directly launch cluster job with all nodes. It could help to reduce heavy dispatch latency.

cluster_train/ provides command line sample to run demo/recommendation cluster job, just modify job_dispatch_package and job_workspace with your defined directory, then:


The cluster Job will start in several seconds.

Kill Cluster Job can capture Ctrl + C SIGINT signal to automatically kill all processes launched by it. So just stop to kill cluster job. You should mannally kill job if program crashed.

Check Cluster Training Result

Check log in $workspace/log for details, each node owns same log structure.

paddle_trainer.INFO It provides almost all interal output log for training, same as local training. Check runtime model convergence here.

paddle_pserver2.INFO It provides pserver running log, which could help to diagnose distributed error.

server.log It provides stderr and stdout of pserver process. Check error log if training crashs.

train.log It provides stderr and stdout of trainer process. Check error log if training crashs.

Check Model Output

After one pass finished, model files will be writed in output directory in node 0. nodefile in workspace indicates the node id of current cluster job.