Get free TPU Hardware for your Deep Learning Projects with TPU Research Cloud (TFRC)
Is your hardware too limited for your big ideas?
If you ever worked on a Deep Learning project, you are most likely familiar with the biggest bottleneck of Deep Learning: Hardware! And just like me, and everybody else, you surely have faced or are facing issues because your current hardware isn’t that performant. Well, guess what? There is a way to get FREE access to very powerful hardware From Google, thanks to their program “TPU Research Cloud (TRC)”. Read on fellow developers!
As you may know, the most recent advances in Deep Learning and Machine Learning have made it so far that it became more challenging to use simple hardware such as personal computers (unless you own a monster) for Deep Learning projects. Meaning that your current CPU or GPU will be your bottleneck as they will take an enormous amount of time to train models and finetune them.
As a result, you may need more robust and performant hardware, such as Cloud VMs that you can get from Google (GCP), Microsoft (Azure) and Amazon (AWS), and other similar platforms. However, those are sometimes very expensive, especially when your project is self-funded. In fact, students and young professionals who are working in companies, or on their personal projects, are struggling to get access to that kind of hardware.
LUCKY FOR US! Google gave us something amazing called “TPU Research Cloud” which is a grant that focuses specifically on Deep Learning researchers, who are facing the aforementioned issues, giving them free access to the currently most performant hardware available: The TPU (Tensor Processing Unit). This unit is hundreds of times faster than GPUs, and we’re not getting 1 but multiple TPUs FOR FREE! All they ask of you is to thank and mention them when your project gets published, as a way to get more people to use their products.
To apply, you simply visit their website, click on “apply now” and fill the form. Your project will then get reviewed by the Google Team (the more solid your project, the better chances it has to be approved). Once approved, you will get an email with a link to activate the TPU API grant on Google Cloud Platform (GCP), giving you 30-day FREE access to a cocktail of V2 and V3 TPUs. To activate the API, you will need to have an international credit card with a valid billing address. It won’t be used for any payments, but it is just a way for them to make sure that you are sincerely interested. In case you don’t have one, you can ask one of your friends or family members.
Keep in mind that in order to actually use the TPUs, you will need a Google VM and Cloud Storage, that you can also get in the Google Cloud Platform. These services are not included in the TRC grant though (Only access to TPUs is free), so you will need to pay for them. But, don’t worry! There is also a FREE TIER, where new customers get $300 in free credits to spend on Google Cloud. These free credits are valid for 1 year from the day you redeem them. Also note that $300 is more than enough for simple projects, and with adequate use, they can last you months!
So if you are a student, a researcher, or a Deep Learning enthusiast, and you don’t have that much money to spare, The TPU Research Cloud is a godsend. Even better is that as everything is on the Cloud, you can use whatever current computer you have to work on it, with the possibility of even linking Google Colab to your GCP project. In both cases most of the work will be done on the GCP, so you will have to get used to using the platform, finding documentation on Google and Tensorflow.
I personally used TPU Research Cloud during my Master to pre-train BERT models (you can imagine the workload) and I’m more than satisfied. It’s a great opportunity.
That being said, go ahead and check it for yourself! And good luck with your projects :)