Enabling Fast 2-bit LLM on GPUs: Memory Alignment, Sparse Outlier, and Asynchronous Dequantization

Jinhao Li, Shiyao Li, Jiaming Xu,Shan Huang, Yaoxiu Lian,Jun Liu,Yu Wang,Guohao Dai


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Large language models (LLMs) have demonstrated impressive abilities in various domains while the inference cost is expensive. The state-of-the-art methods use 2-bit quantization for mainstream LLMs. However, challenges still exist: (1) Nonnegligible accuracy loss for 2-bit quantization. Weights are quantized by groups, while the ranges of weights are large in some groups, resulting in large quantization errors and nonnegligible accuracy loss (e.g. >3% for Llama2-7b with 2-bit quantization in GPTQ and Greenbit). (2) Limited accuracy improvement by adding 4-bit weights. Increasing 10% extra average bit more 4-bit weights only leads to <0.5% accuracy improvement on a quantized Llama2-7b. (3) Time-consuming dequantization operations on GPUs. The dequantization operations lead to >50% execution time, hindering the potential of reducing LLM inference cost. To tackle these challenges, we propose the following techniques: (1) We only quantize a small fraction of groups with the larger range using 4-bit with memory alignment consideration on GPUs. (2) We point out that the distribution of the sparse outliers with larger weights is different in 2-bit and 4-bit groups, and only a small fraction of outliers require 16-bit quantization. Such design leads to >0.5% accuracy improvement with <3% average increased bit for Llama2-7b. (3) We design the asynchronous dequantization on GPUs, leading to up to 3.92X speedup. We conduct extensive experiments on different model families and model sizes. We achieve 2.85-bit for each weight and the end-to-end speedup for Llama2-7b is 1.74X over the original model, and we reduce both runtime cost and hardware cost by up to 2.70X and 2.81X with less GPU requirements.
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