Welcome to Plato, a new software framework to facilitate scalable federated learning research.


Setting up your Python environment

It is recommended that Miniconda is used to manage Python packages. Before using Plato, first install Miniconda, update your conda environment, and then create a new conda environment with Python 3.8 using the command:

$ conda update conda -y
$ conda create -n federated python=3.8
$ conda activate federated

where federated is the preferred name of your new environment.

The next step is to install the required Python packages. PyTorch should be installed following the advice of its getting started website. The typical command in Linux with CUDA GPU support, for example, would be:

$ conda install pytorch torchvision torchaudio cudatoolkit=11.1 -c pytorch -c nvidia

The CUDA version, used in the command above, can be obtained on Ubuntu Linux systems by using the command:


In macOS (without GPU support), the typical command would be:

$ conda install pytorch torchvision -c pytorch

Installing Plato as a pip package

To use Plato as a Python framework, you only need to install it as a pip package:

$ pip install plato-learn

After Plato is installed, you can try to run any of the examples in examples/.

Installing Plato for development with PyTorch

If you wish to modify the source code in Plato (rather than just using it as a framework), first clone this repository to a desired directory.

We will need to install several packages using pip as well:

$ pip install -r requirements.txt --upgrade

Finally, we will install the current GitHub version of Plato as a local pip package:

$ pip install .

If you use Visual Studio Code, it is possible to use yapf to reformat the code every time it is saved by adding the following settings to ..vscode/settings.json:

"python.formatting.provider": "yapf", 
"editor.formatOnSave": true

In general, the following is the recommended starting point for .vscode/settings.json:

"python.linting.enabled": true,
"python.linting.pylintEnabled": true,
"python.formatting.provider": "yapf", 
"editor.formatOnSave": true,
"python.linting.pylintArgs": [
    "import sys; sys.path.append('/absolute/path/to/project/home/directory')"
"workbench.editor.enablePreview": false

It goes without saying that /absolute/path/to/project/home/directory should be replaced with the actual path in the specific development environment.

Tip: When working in Visual Studio Code as the development environment, one of the project developer's colour theme favourites is called Bluloco, both of its light and dark variants are excellent and very thoughtfully designed. The Pylance extension is also strongly recommended, which represents Microsoft's modern language server for Python.

Installing YOLOv5 as a Python package

If object detection using the YOLOv5 model and any of the COCO datasets is needed, it is necessary to install YOLOv5 as a Python package first:

cd packages/yolov5
pip install .

Installing Plato with MindSpore

Plato is designed to support multiple deep learning frameworks, including PyTorch, TensorFlow, and MindSpore. For MindSpore support, Plato currently supports MindSpore 1.1.1 (1.2.1 and 1.3.0 are not supported, as they do not support Tensor objects to be pickled and sent over a network). Though we provided a Dockerfile for building a Docker container that supports MindSpore 1.1.1, in rare cases it may still be necessary to install Plato with MindSpore in a GPU server running Ubuntu Linux 18.04 (which MindSpore requires). Similar to a PyTorch installation, we need to first create a new environment with Python 3.7.5 (which MindSpore 1.1.1 requires), and then install the required packages:

conda create -n mindspore python=3.7.5
pip install -r requirements.txt

We should now install MindSpore 1.1.1 with the command provided by the official MindSpore website.

MindSpore 1.1.1 may also need additional packages, which should installed if they do not exist:

sudo apt-get install libssl-dev
sudo apt-get install build-essential

If CuDNN has not yet been installed, it needs to be installed with the following commands:

sudo mv /etc/apt/preferences.d/cuda-repository-pin-600
sudo apt-key adv --fetch-keys
sudo add-apt-repository "deb /"
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install libcudnn8=

To check the current CuDNN version, the following commands are helpful:

function lib_installed() { /sbin/ldconfig -N -v $(sed 's/:/ /' <<< $LD_LIBRARY_PATH) 2>/dev/null | grep $1; }
function check() { lib_installed $1 && echo "$1 is installed" || echo "ERROR: $1 is NOT installed"; }
check libcudnn

To check if MindSpore is correctly installed on the GPU server, try to run the command:

python -c "import mindspore"

Finally, to use trainers and servers based on MindSpore, assign true to use_mindspore in the trainer section of the configuration file. If GPU is not available when MindSpore is used, assign true to cpuonly in the trainer section as well. These variables are unassigned by default, and Plato would use PyTorch as its default framework.

Running Plato

Running Plato using a configuration file

To start a federated learning training workload, run run from the repository's root directory. For example:

./run --config=configs/MNIST/fedavg_lenet5.yml
  • --config (-c): the path to the configuration file to be used. The default is config.yml in the project's home directory.
  • --log (-l): the level of logging information to be written to the console. Possible values are critical, error, warn, info, and debug, and the default is info.

Plato uses the YAML format for its configuration files to manage the runtime configuration parameters. Example configuration files have been provided in the configs directory.

Plato can opt to use wandb to produce and collect logs in the cloud. If this is needed, add use_wandb: true to the trainer section in your configuration file.

Running Plato in a Docker container

Most of the codebase in Plato is designed to be framework-agnostic, so that it is relatively straightfoward to use Plato with a variety of deep learning frameworks beyond PyTorch, which is the default framwork it is using. One example of such deep learning frameworks that Plato currently supports is MindSpore 1.1.1. Due to the wide variety of tricks that need to be followed correctly for running Plato without Docker, it is strongly recommended to run Plato in a Docker container, on either a CPU-only or a GPU-enabled server.

To build such a Docker image, use the provided Dockerfile for PyTorch and Dockerfile_MindSpore for MindSpore:

docker build -t plato -f Dockerfile .


docker build -t plato -f Dockerfile_MindSpore .

To run the docker image that was just built, use the command:


Or if GPUs are available, use the command:


To remove all the containers after they are run, use the command:

docker rm $(docker ps -a -q)

To remove the plato Docker image, use the command:

docker rmi plato

On Ubuntu Linux, you may need to add sudo before these docker commands.

The provided Dockerfile helps to build a Docker image running Ubuntu 20.04, with a virtual environment called plato pre-configured to support PyTorch 1.9.0 and Python 3.8.

If MindSpore support is needed, the provided Dockerfile_MindSpore contains two pre-configured environments for CPU and GPU environments, respectively, called plato_cpu or plato_gpu. They support MindSpore 1.1.1 and Python 3.7.5 (which is the Python version that MindSpore requires). Both Dockerfiles have GPU support enabled. Once an image is built and a Docker container is running, one can use Visual Studio Code to connect to it and start development within the container.

Potential runtime errors

If runtime exceptions occur that prevent a federated learning session from running to completion, the potential issues could be:

  • Out of CUDA memory.

    Potential solutions: Decrease the number of clients selected in each round (with the client simulation mode turned on); decrease the max_concurrency value in the trainer section in your configuration file; decrease the batch_size used in the trainer section.

  • The time that a client waits for the server to respond before disconnecting is too short. This could happen when training with large neural network models. If you get an AssertionError saying that there are not enough launched clients for the server to select, this could be the reason. But make sure you first check if it is due to the out of CUDA memory error.

    Potential solutions: Add ping_timeout in the server section in your configuration file. The default value for ping_timeout is 360 (seconds).

    For example, to run a training session on Google Colaboratory or Compute Canada with the CIFAR-10 dataset and the ResNet-18 model, and if 10 clients are selected per round, ping_timeout needs to be 360 when clients' local datasets are non-iid by symmetric Dirichlet distribution with the concentration of 0.01. Consider an even larger number if you run with larger models and more clients.

  • Running processes have not been terminated from previous runs.

    Potential solutions: Use the command pkill python to terminate them so that there will not be CUDA errors in the upcoming run.

Client simulation mode

Plato supports a client simulation mode, in which the actual number of client processes launched equals the number of clients to be selected by the server per round, rather than the total number of clients. This supports a simulated federated learning environment, where the set of selected clients by the server will be simulated by the set of client processes actually running. For example, with a total of 10000 clients, if the server only needs to select 100 of them to train their models in each round, only 100 client processes will be launched in client simulation mode, and a client process may assume a different client ID in each round.

To turn on the client simulation mode, add simulation: true to the clients section in the configuration file.

Plotting runtime results

If the configuration file contains a results section, the selected performance metrics, such as accuracy, will be saved in a .csv file in the results/ directory. By default, the results/ directory is under the path to the used configuration file, but it can be easily changed by modifying Config.result_dir in

As .csv files, these results can be used however one wishes; an example Python program, called, plots the necessary figures and saves them as PDF files. To run this program:

python --config=config.yml
  • --config (-c): the path to the configuration file to be used. The default is config.yml in the project's home directory.

Running unit tests

All unit tests are in the tests/ directory. These tests are designed to be standalone and executed separately. For example, the command python runs the unit tests for learning rate schedules.

Deploying Plato

Deploying Plato servers in a production environment in the cloud

The Plato federated learning server is designed to use Socket.IO over HTTP and HTTPS, and can be easily deployed in a production server environment in the public cloud. See /docs/ for more details on how the nginx web server can be used as a reverse proxy for such a deployment in production servers.

Uninstalling Plato

Remove the conda environment used to run Plato first, and then remove the directory containing Plato's git repository.

conda-env remove -n federated
rm -rf plato/

where federated (or mindspore) is the name of the conda environment that Plato runs in.

For more specific documentation on how Plato can be run on GPU cluster environments such as Google Colaboratory or Compute Canada, refer to docs/

Technical Support

Technical support questions should be directed to the maintainer of this software framework: Baochun Li ([email protected]).