# Improved distributed principal component analysis

## Abstract

We study the distributed computing setting in which there are multiple servers, each holding a set of points, who wish to compute functions on the union of their point sets. A key task in this setting is Principal Component Analysis (PCA), in which the servers would like to compute a low dimensional subspace capturing as much of the variance of the union of their point sets as possible. Given a procedure for approximate PCA, one can use it to approximately solve problems such as k-means clustering and low rank approximation. The essential properties of an approximate distributed PCA algorithm are its communication cost and computational efficiency for a given desired accuracy in downstream applications. We give new algorithms and analyses for distributed PCA which lead to improved communication and computational costs for k-means clustering and related problems. Our empirical study on real world data shows a speedup of orders of magnitude, preserving communication with only a negligible degradation in solution quality. Some of these techniques we develop, such as a general transformation from a constant success probability subspace embedding to a high success probability subspace embedding with a dimension and sparsity independent of the success probability, may be of independent interest.