Optimizing Models at Training Time


Training-time model optimization is a way to get a more efficient and HW-friendly model when applying optimization methods with fine-tuning. It can help when the post-training optimization does not provide the desired accuracy or performance results. OpenVINO does not have training capabilities but it provides a Neural Network Compression Framework (NNCF) tool that can be used to integrate training-time optimizations supported by OpenVINO in the training scripts created using source frameworks, such as PyTorch or TensorFlow 2.

To apply training-time optimization methods you need typical artefacts used to train model:

  • A floating-point model in the framework representation.

  • Training script written with framework API.

  • Training and validation datasets.

Figure below shows a common workflow of applying training-time optimizations with NNCF.


Optimization methods

There are two methods available to improve model performance with OpenVINO :

  • 8-bit uniform quantization (or simply quantization) is a technique that allows moving from floating-point precision to 8-bit integer precision for weights and activations during the inference time. It helps to reduce the model size, memory footprint and latency as well as improve the computational efficiency using integer arithmetic. During the quantization process the model undergoes the transformation process when additional operations, that contain quantization information, are inserted into the model. However, the model continues to be the floating-point and can be fine-tuned to restore the accuracy degradation introduced by the quantization the same way as the original model. This procedure is called Quantization-aware Training (QAT). The actual transition to integer arithmetic happens at model inference.

  • Structured pruning is used to remove unnecessary or redundant groups of weights from Deep Neural Networks. In the case of Convolutional Neural Networks it usually results in Filter Pruning where the whole convolutional filters are being removed from the model reducing the model size and footprint as well as overall computational complexity. This process consists of two steps: 1. search and zero out redundant filters along with model fine-tuning 2. remove zero filters after the fine-tuning. Since this method changes the model structure it usually requires a long fine-tuning or even retraining depending on the pruning ratio.


NNCF is open-sourced on GitHub and distributed as a separate package. It is also available on PyPI. We recommend installing it to the Python* environment where the framework is installed.

Install from PyPI

To install the latest released version via pip manager run the following command:

pip install nncf


To install with specific frameworks, use the pip install nncf[extras] command, where extras is a list of possible extras, for example, torch, tf, onnx.

To install the latest NNCF version from source follow the instruction on GitHub.


NNCF does not have OpenVINO as an installation requirement. To deploy optimized models you should install OpenVINO separately.