Data Formats

The CS system supports the following data formats:

  • 16-bit floating-point formats:

    • IEEE half-precision (binary16), also known as FP16.

    • CB16, a Cerebras 16-bit format with 6 exponent bits.

  • 32-bit floating-point format:

    • IEEE single-precision (binary32), also known as FP32.

The 16-bit arithmetic uses 16-bit words and is always aligned to a 16-bit boundary.

The single-precision arithmetic uses even-aligned register pairs for register operands and 32-bit aligned addresses for memory operands.


Memory is 16-bit word addressable. It is not byte addressable.


The FP16 implementation follows the IEEE standard for binary16 (half-precision), with 5-bit exponent and a 10-bit explicit mantissa.

Sign: 1

Exponent: 5

Mantissa: 10

CB16 half-precision

The CB16 is Cerebras’ 16-bit format, also referred to as cbfloat16. The CB16 is a floating-point format with 6-bit exponent and 9-bit explicit mantissa. This allows for double the dynamic range of FP16.


Fig. 1 Cerebras CB16 Format

With 1 bit more for the exponent compared to FP16, the CB16 provides a bigger range with the following benefits:

  • Denormals are far less frequent.

  • Dynamic loss scaling is not necessary on many networks.


The cbfloat16 data format is different from the bfloat16 Brain Floating Point format.

Using CB16

In your code, make sure the following two conditions are satisfied:

  1. In the parameters YAML file, in the csconfig section, set the key use_cbfloat16 to True.

      use_cbfloat16: True
  2. In your code, while constructing the CSRunConfig object, read the key-value pair for use_cbfloat16 from the csconfig list in the YAML file. See the following:

    # get cs-specific configs
    cs_config = get_csconfig(params.get("csconfig", dict()))
    est_config = CSRunConfig(
    warm_start_settings = create_warm_start_settings(
    est = CerebrasEstimator(


Ensure that the above both (1) and (2) conditions are true.

FP32 single-precision

The FP32 is equivalent to IEEE binary32 (single-precision), with 8-bit exponent and 23-bit explicit mantissa.

Sign: 1

Exponent: 8

Mantissa: 23

Mixed-precision training

The CS system currently supports only mixed-precision for the training. Ensure that in your models you have:

  • 16-bit input to arithmetic operations, and

  • FP32 accumulations.

Mixed-precision, when used in combination with Dynamic Loss Scaling, can result in speedups in training.

See the example in Step 5: Ensure mixed precision.