Democratizing Natural Language Processing on CPUs

How Hugging Face and Intel® Technologies Enhanced Performance of Falcon LLM 7-Billion Parameter Model 

Get the Latest on All Things CODE



More Effective NLP Training 

The Falcon 7-billion parameter model (aka Falcon 7B) is a breakthrough in natural language processing (NLP) and speech recognition, built on the foundation of Hugging Face's powerful transformers. With the integration of Intel's leading-edge Intel® Xeon® processors and oneAPI software stack, this model delivers unmatched performance for complex AI tasks.  

Falcon 7B in NLP on Intel Xeon CPUs is now possible through the fine-tuning and optimization techniques offered by the CPU’s Intel® Advanced Matrix Extensions (Intel® AMX) technology coupled with the Intel® Extension for PyTorch*. This breakthrough development empowers NLP practitioners to: 

  • Tackle complex language tasks efficiently 

  • Train and refine large-scale NLP models more effectively 

  • Delve into complex language tasks like question-answer or document summarization 

Moreover, fine-tuning Falcon 7B on CPUs offers notable advantages in terms of scalability and cost-efficiency. With elastic scalability inherent to CPU clusters, organizations can distribute training workloads across multiple nodes easily. By harnessing Hugging Face's transformers library alongside Intel's optimized software stack for deep learning tasks within oneAPI framework, developers gain enhanced control over resource allocation while minimizing infrastructure expenses. 

As a result, this approach democratizes access to state-of-the-art NLP models and opens doors for innovation across various industries. 

What are Falcon Models?  

Falcon is a decoder-only model developed by the Technology Innovation Institute (TII) in Abu Dhabi. It outperforms several models like LLaMA, StableLM, RedPajama, and MPT and utilizes the FlashAttention method to achieve faster and optimized inference, resulting in significant speed improvements across different tasks.  

The model currently sits at the top of the Hugging Face LLM leaderboard.  

This article focuses on fine-tuning the 7-Billion parameter version for causal language modeling.  

Why is Fine-tuning Falcon 7B on CPU is Essential? 

Because it’s crucial for achieving optimal performance in natural language processing tasks.  

By fine-tuning, we can train the model on specific datasets or tasks to make it more accurate and efficient. Hugging Face, a popular library for NLP tasks, provides an excellent framework to perform fine-tuning efficiently. With its easy-to-use API and vast collection of pre-trained models, researchers and developers can save time and resources by leveraging existing knowledge. 

What if Intel® CPUs Are Not There in the Process?  

You’ll face four specific challenges if using a CPU from another provider. 

  1. The specific optimizations and performance improvements discussed in the article might not be applicable or easily transferable to other CPU architectures or GPU platforms.  

  1. You may need to adapt the implementation to utilize the specific features, libraries, or frameworks provided by the alternative CPU or GPU, which could require additional effort and expertise.  

  1. The performance characteristics and capabilities of the alternative hardware might differ, potentially impacting the overall efficiency and speed of the language processing tasks.  

  1. Lack of availability or access to specialized accelerators. 

Intel Xeon processors play a vital role in accelerating the training process for large-scale models like Falcon 7-billion. Combining the power of the latest Xeons with the optimized libraries and frameworks found in multiarchitecture Intel® AI Analytics Toolkit, developers can best unlock the full potential of heterogeneous systems inclusive of CPU, GPU, FPGA, and AI accelerators. 

This combination allows distributed training across multiple devices while simultaneously utilizing hardware-specific optimizations. 

What are Hugging Face Pipelines?  

They are high-level interfaces that allow developers to perform various NLP tasks with ease. These pipelines provide pre-trained models and a simple API to perform tasks such as text classification, named entity recognition, and question-answering.  

Additionally, they include SFTT (Supervised Fine-tuning Trainer) which simplifies the fine-tuning process and workflow by providing a high-level API that abstracts the complexities. This allows developers to focus on the task. By leveraging SFTT, fine-tuning Falcon 7-billion becomes accessible to a broader audience, enabling faster iterations and experimentation. 

In the solution described in this article, Hugging Face pipelines were leveraged to quickly and efficiently implement NLP functionality, eliminating the need for manual model-building and preprocessing. By utilizing Hugging Face pipelines, developers could focus on integrating the NLP capabilities into their application without getting bogged down in the intricacies of model development and deployment. 

Hugging Face/Intel Collaboration Opens New NLP Opportunities 

The integration of Hugging Face's state-of-the-art SFTT with Intel AMX technology and its optimized PyTorch extension allows researchers and developers to further optimize their Falcon 7B models effortlessly and achieve improved training throughput, reduced memory footprint, and better latency during inference. 

Support of distributed training with Distributed Data Parallel, a significant component of Intel Extension for PyTorch, also contributes greatly to optimizing Falcon 7B, providing an efficient computational framework that leverages low-level optimizations specific to Intel processors. Its integration with the PyTorch extension ensures seamless utilization of AMX instructions at lower levels of operations granularity.  

This combination paves the way for accelerated training times and higher model inference speeds without sacrificing accuracy or performance quality. 

Using Hugging Face's user-friendly interface and Intel Xeon’s powerful capabilities, researchers and developers can fine-tune Falcon 7B models with ease while harnessing the immense computational power provided by Intel processors. This opens up new opportunities in natural language understanding research, as well as practical applications ranging from chatbots to language-translation systems. 


Falcon models leverage the power of Hugging Face pipelines, which provide a vast library of pre-trained models for developers and researchers to use. These models have been trained on a wide range of data and can be fine-tuned to suit specific tasks or domains. The Falcon 7-billion parameter model delivers reliable and high-quality text analysis and generation capabilities. 

The utilization of Intel Xeon CPUs in fine-tuning Falcon 7B exposes an interesting trend in AI development: the push for broader accessibility and reduced reliance on specialized hardware. Traditionally, training such immense models necessitated high-performance accelerators like GPUs or TPUs. However, thanks to advancements in optimization techniques powered by Intel oneAPI tools, developers can leverage powerful CPU platforms without sacrificing performance.  

Learn More: