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The State of Machine Learning Frameworks (thegradient.pub)
752 points by hughzhang on Oct 10, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 193 comments

I work at a small company as an engineer and recently was asked to do a project that would require some neural net magic. I had some experience with keras/tensorflow so that was my first choice.

Despite the absolute nightmare of getting it installed and running on a gpu, I managed it and had a fantastic model. It was doing so well that the company wanted to expand the project and build out a multi-gpu rig as part of it. So I get building that environment and install the latest CUDA, cuDNN, nvidia driver and use tensorflow 2.0 aaaaaand it wouldn't work. I actually spent a long time hacking on it till on a forum I read that it was just a bug that hadn't been fixed yet.

At this point I decided to see what Pytorch was like. In literally one day I installed everything and migrated my project completely over to pytorch. Same speed, same accuracy, works perfectly on a multi-gpu rig when I set it to. It was like a breath of fresh air.

The next day I wrote some C++ to import a saved pytorch model so it could run in a deployment environment. The C++ api is also great. The docs are lacking a little bit, but an Facebook researcher mentioned to me on the forums that they're hoping to have it all done by next month.

It's unlikely that I'll be going back to tensorflow.

When I used TensorFlow (briefly), it seemed there were tons of hidden assumptions my stuff had to follow or it wouldn’t work. PyTorch has a few I’ve run into, but mostly seems to “just work”. That’s why I think it’s much better for building anything novel (at least for the first time).

I prefer PyTorch too. For Tensorflow deployments, I have found Nix/NixOS work great. Arch is also good.

Could you provide a link or resources how to run pytorch models from c++?

https://pytorch.org/cppdocs/ This is a brief description of the API. It worked fine for us even for complex models.

What was the bug?

Late reply, but it was a bug using XLA GPUs to add concurrency to the training process. Maybe someone figured it out or fixed it, but I've moved on already.

You shouldn’t need XLA for multi GPU training. Have you tried training without it?

Regarding TensorFlow, you could use the docker images and run everything in containers instead. They tend to work pretty fine out of the box.

I looked into this but hadn't gotten to the point of using them when I made the switch. I may go back and try it out to see how it goes. Thanks for the encouragement.

Complexity of installing TensorFlow, even with the inclusion of custom compilation and hacking Bazel (to make it work under CUDA version that it doesn't officially support) is low, compared to releasing a model that works in production.

Because of that, it doesn't make much sense to judge a "differential programming language" like TensorFlow or PyTorch by the ease of installation. It'd be like saying "I prefer C# over C++" because it is easier to install.

I did say I had a fantastic model with Tensorflow. I gave up after a while because I didn't have time to hack on that stuff. I wouldn't mind learning to and trying it out, but the nature of the small company meant I needed to find a solution sooner. Now I have comparable results with Pytorch and it's easier to work with. That's a win/win in my book.

Your original comment stated that you've explicitly had difficulty in installation: "So I get building that environment and install the latest CUDA, cuDNN, nvidia driver and use tensorflow 2.0 aaaaaand it wouldn't work. I actually spent a long time hacking on it till on a forum I read that it was just a bug that hadn't been fixed yet.".

I don't want to say anything encouraging or discouraging about TensorFlow. Just that it doesn't make much sence to make a judgement based on installation experience. Installing TensorFlow or PyTorch is a very small percentage of man-hours, compared to releasing a DNN to production.

We use Pytorch extensively in our startup. We tackle a lot of new research problems as consultants/partners to help develop products or devise new algorithms/models to solve tasks for our customers. We have never regretted our choice to pick Pytorch. I found the article pretty spot on when comparing Tensorflow and Pytorch. The things that have appealed to me about Pytorch are:

1. Extremely easy to debug and work with. Being able to debug effortlessly in PyCharm makes life very easy.

2. The API is quite clean and nice and fits in really well with Python and nothing feels hacky. I've developed my own Keras-like framework for experimentation, training and evaluating models quickly and easily and the entire experience has been really enjoyable.

3. The nicest thing though is that as the article points out, a huge percentage of researchers have moved to Pytorch and this allows us to more easily look at other researcher's code and experiment with things easily and incorporate ideas and cutting-edge research into our own work. Even for things that are released in TensorFlow, if it is an important publication that gains attention and traction in the community, you will likely have implementations in Pytorch pop up soon enough.

I do think that TensorFlow still has an edge on the deployment at scale/mobile side of things as pointed out by the article. But Pytorch is a lot younger and they are making a lot of progress with every release in that space.

Last year I was tasked with looking into a NAS (Neural Architectures Search) paper and analyzing the algorithm. The paper came with a TensorFLow implementation. Trying to read that TF code was quite difficult. I searched around and found a PyTorch implementation - much easier to read and understand, and it ran about 50% faster as well (the latter was a bit surprising). I tend to think that TensorFlow lends itself to the creation of code that's difficult to reason about. That may be different now with the various flavors of TF (like TF Eager).

I'll add that it was much easier to install PyTorch with GPU support than it was to install TensorFlow with GPU support - at least that's how it was around November of last year. The PyTorch install was painless, whereas we ended up having to build TF from source to work with out setup. Could be different now as I haven't looked at TF since then.

> That may be different now with the various flavors of TF (like TF Eager)

Unfortunately, if anything I think it's the opposite. The constant creation and deprecation of TF flavors (tf-eager, tf-slim, tf-learn, keras, tf-estimator, tf.contrib [RIP]) has made reading tensorflow code online somewhat disastrous. Everybody, including the TF team, is using a different API and it's difficult to keep all of them straight. It seems that you're doomed to end up using some combination of many of the above in a way that makes sense to you and your team, adding another confusing model to the pile.

Agree overall, but tf.eager doesn't have much to do with the rest of the list.

tf.contrib is just a module where user-contributed code was stored, which included both low-level constructs and higher level APIs. tf.estimator is an abstraction that is mostly used for productionizing models. tf.slim/tf.learn were indeed redundant with keras (a library developped externally), but were necessary steps before keras became part of tensorflow.

What made me fall in love with PyTorch was also that the "neural network training process" is defined almost as it is in theory, in code in PyTorch

- loop through epochs

- loop through each batch

- run a forward pass for the batch ( model(batch) )

- calculate the loss for the batch ( criteria(y, yprim)

- compute the gradients/backprop ( loss.backward() )

- update the weights (optimizer.step())

This really enforced everything I learned and I think breaks down the problem. All this of course in addition to everything else already mentioned, and super convenient module/network building and definition.

Yes! Exactly.

I will add further to this point.

There will be bad model code in both PyTorch and TensorFlow. The difference is that, bad PyTorch code reads like bad Python code, and I've accumulated a lot of experience reasoning through bad Python code. Bad TensorFlow code can come from any one of of the history of paradigms that TF has gone through, and I don't even know if it's bad or just some funky new TF functionality I'm unfamiliar with.

> I don't even know if it's bad or just some funky new TF functionality I'm unfamiliar with.

Yes, Javascript features and frameworks have evolved quite fas... oh wait

Yes, installing Pytorch with Cuda support has been unbelievably simple. I've never had trouble with simply pip installing it in my venv.

Agreed, but projects like Cortex are narrowing the gap around deployment imo https://github.com/cortexlabs/cortex

For a moment there I thought you might be referring to https://github.com/thinktopic/cortex

Seems like an AWS specific thing?

What does your start up do?

Granted that PyTorch and TensorFlow both heavily use the same CUDA/cuDNN components under the hood (with TF also having a billion other non-deep learning-centric components included), I think one of the primary reasons that PyTorch is getting such heavy adoption is that it is a Python library first and foremost.

There're maybe all of two "surprises" I've encountered in all my time using it, if even (1. Gradients are accumulated in state, 2. nn.Module does funky things with attributes, so use something like nn.ModuleDict if you're going to be dynamically setting modules). Everything else works like a dream, and works almost exactly how you expected.

Model parameters? .parameters() gives you a dict-friendly generator of tensors. Model state? .state_dict() is a dictionary. Loading model state? load_state_dict(state_dict)... just loads a dictionary. Reusing modules across different modules? Just assign them! Determining what parameters to optimize? Just ... give the list of parameters to the optimizer.

You can use all your using Python development and debugging tools, and it feels 100% natural. I can fit it into other Python workflows without making the whole program centered around TensorFlow.

TensorFlow is undoubtedly powerful, and if you have the time/resources to put into a static-ish TensorFlow-centric workflow, it could pay off many times over. But it definitely feels like learning an entirely new language, with an entirely different debugging pattern. And furthermore, a language that is constantly changing patterns and best practices, other than super-standard Keras examples.

To put into context, even running the official TensorFlow models repository has deprecation warnings. Whereas torchvision works like seamlessly and reads like a reference for writing PyTorch model code.

There is just a developer-centric focus to PyTorch that makes it a joy to use.

Yup, you make some great points and I couldn't agree more. Very recently, I was looking into training an object-detector for a custom problem with not many training examples. One of the classes (hardest one to train from few examples) was "person".

I was able to create a custom detection network for a 3-class problem, load up the COCO pretrained weights for the network, strip out all the other weights at the "head" for all the other COCO classes except for the "person" class and then fine-tune the model on my custom 3-class dataset. The resulting model generalized exceptionally well on people as it was still able to retain a lot of its performance from the COCO pre-training. It was so easy to do all of this. Literally, maybe 10 lines of code, and so easy to figure out since I could introspect the state_dict and the weights file directly in my PyCharm interpreter while working out how to do this.

how did you strip out weighs for other classes? what does that even mean?

So this will depend a bit on the architecture (I was working with CenterNet). In my situation, the final feature maps for each class are all obtained by a series of network "heads" that perform a set of convolutions on the same set of slightly deeper set of featuremaps. Each convolutional "head" is responsible for object-detections for a single class. So in the case of COCO, if you have 80 classes, you have 80 such heads. In this situation, if I wanted to create a new CenterNet model that predicted (let's say) the following 3 classes: "person", "teapot" and "donkey", only the class "person" exists in COCO and I already have a wonderfully robust person detector if I can utilize the person detecting weights from the COCO model.

So what I can do is, that I can instantiate a CenterNet model of identical architecture, except with only 3 heads for the 3 classes instead of 80 heads for the 80 COCO classes. Now, when I try to load the COCO weights in, there will be a mismatch and typically you end up with the heads being left with their default initialization while the rest of the backbone gets the COCO weights... this is the traditional way you do transfer learning on related problems because you are still starting off with a much better set of weights for your entire network backbone than random weights, which will help with training on related tasks.

However, we can go a step further and load up the state_dict from the COCO weights file, figure out which set of weights are for the "person" head and assign them to let's say the 1st of your 3 heads in your new architecture. You can even go a step further... Since the "donkey" class is quite similar to the "horse" class in COCO, you could also transfer the weights for the "horse" head in the COCO weights to your 2nd head. So now you have a network with 2 of the 3 heads already set up to be robust person and horse detectors. These are much better poised to then be fine-tuned on your application specific data for examples of people and donkeys. You end up with a model that is much more robust on those 2 classes despite only having (let's say) a couple of hundred labeled images for your specific application.

Hope all of this made sense. It's just nice that in Pytorch, everything is pretty straightforward and weights are just dicts and it's super easy to introspect them and splice them, etc.

Very nice write up! I'd be very curious if you had any links/resources related to your solution, or that helped you come up with it.

Thanks. I don't really have anything to link to. It's just something I decided to attempt as it made sense to me to try it. Person detection is notoriously hard to get right on a small set of data, but when trained on something like COCO, modern person detectors really feel like magic because they are so amazingly good at detecting people even in the weirdest of poses. So I wanted to try and leverage the robustness of a COCO-trained person detector and then fine-tune it for my problem but still have other new classes in my network and this seemed like the way to go about it.

This is brilliant

We are considering to move to PyTorch, we really dislike how the Tensorflow 1.x -> 2.0 transition is handled. For years a lot of stuff has been added to tf.contrib, some things were only in tf.contrib and now that it's dropped in TF a lot of project (including ours) have to do quite large rewrites. Since the last few 1.x iterations, Tensorflow has been complaining that the older RNN layers are deprecated and that we have to move to Keras RNN layers, which they claim to be equivalent. However, when we tried a couple of months back, it made RNN-based training 45% slower. It is all fixable, but it takes time and a lot of testing of all the model variants to see if there are no regressions. It feels quite a bit worse than Python 2 -> 3.

I am a bit saddened by all of this, because I really liked how easy it is to define a graph in Tensorflow in Python, serialize it, and then use its minimalistic C API to use the graph in Go, Rust, or wherever you need it.

How is your experience with PyTorch and backwards API compatibility (I know that they only reached 1.0 fairly recently)?

There has basically only ever been one major API shift, which was the shift away from Variables. And, granted, that happened from 0.3->0.4, about a year after the initial release.

Other than that, I've had next to no issues, and the API has only gotten better over time, with more convenient ways to do things.

PyTorch has a much smaller footprint, and is happy to delegate code to separate libraries (e.g. torchvision), so you run into "all-or-nothing" dilemmas less frequently.

It's been pretty good with PyTorch. The API has been fairly stable and I've adopted code developed from 0.4.0 to 1.0.0+ with barely the need for any tweaks. Granted, it's a younger project so for now things are stable but maybe 3 years from now they may have some giant API refresh. But I find their API quite nice for the most part so I don't see them needing to switch everything up periodically.

Wait, pytorch is torch at its core, right? That is almost 10 years old and the last rewrite was version 7.

that’s what we did. We had a popular open source project using TF 1.x

For it’s successor we chose Pytorch instead of TF 2 and have been very happy with this decision

Could you please share your open source project?

Anecdotally, I've dumped TensorFlow in favor of PyTorch for almost all new work I'm doing at my organization (industry focused). Biggest gripes with TensorFlow are overly complex APIs, instability from release to release, constantly broken code in Google's repos, and poor documentation. Maybe TF 2.0 will be better, but for me, the PyTorch ship has already sailed, and I am sailing on it.

TF2 still seems pretty beta to us, honestly. There were things that were pretty easy to do in TF1 that are close to impossible as is in TF2.

I have worked as data scientist on a lot of finance domain problems - forecasting default, fraud, conversion probability ect.

Lightgbm library has consistently performed well. I've been interested in how many colleagues instantly jump to neural nets when in my experience this often doesn't beat lightgbm on medium sized datasets not related to text/images.

I think this is pretty common. For tabular data, lightgbm/xgboost/catboost usually give better results and require a lot less work (less pre-processing, for example) than neural nets.

One area where I wonder if neural nets would be a more useful option is using something like an LSTM to predict defaults based on a sequence of data? I've tried this a handful of times and doing a bit of feature engineering to aggregate data in a handful of fixed buckets has usually been better and easier, but I'm far from an expert in that area.

I know Jeremy Howard has shown decent results with fastai/pytorch for tabular data and I've seen some Kaggle teams do well with neural nets for tabular data. I've also had decent results with gbdt/nn ensembles. But I think in most situations where you just have tabular data, you'll get better results with less effort if you use lightgbm or the like.

More anecdata: we consistently outperform lightgbm, xgboost, random forests, linear models, etc. using neural networks even on smaller datasets. This applies whether we implemented the other algorithms ourselves or simply compared to someone else’s results with them. In my experience it really comes down to how many “tricks” you know for each algorithm and how well can you apply and combine these “tricks”. The difference is that neural networks have many more of these tricks and a broader coverage of research detailing the interactions between them.

I call them “tricks” but really they’re just design decisions based on what current research indicates about certain problems. This is largely where the “art” part of neural networks comes from that many people refer. The search space is simply too big to try everything and hope for the best. Therefore, how a problem is approached and how solutions are narrowed and applied really matter. Even simple things like which optimizer you use, how you leverage learning rate schedules, how the loss function is formulated, how weights are updated, feature engineering (often neglected in neural networks), and architectural priors make a big difference on both sample efficiency and overall performance. Most people, if they’re not just fine-tuning an existing model, simply load up a neural network framework, stack some layers together and throw data at it expecting better results than other approaches. But there’s a huge spectrum from that naive approach to architecting a custom model.

This is why neural networks are so powerful and why we tend to favor it (though not for every problem). It’s much easier to design a model from the ground up with neural networks than it is for e.g. xgboost because not only are the components more easily composable thanks to the available frameworks but there’s a ton more research on the specific interactions between those components.

That doesn’t mean than every problem is appropriate for neural networks. I completely agree with you that no matter what the problem is you should never jump to an approach just because its popular. Neural networks are a tool and for many problems you need to be comfortable with every one of those decision points to get the best results and even if you’re comfortable it can take time and that isn’t always appropriate for every problem. My other point is that I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions about a particular algorithm being better or worse than another. I’m not saying that was the intention with your comment but I know many people in the ML industry tend to take a similar position. It really depends on current experience with the applied algorithms, not just experience with ML in general.

This was a really interesting and insightful comment, thanks for sharing. I think the conclusion I shared in my sibling comment was probably a little too broad.

I particularly like this:

> In my experience it really comes down to how many “tricks” you know for each algorithm and how well can you apply and combine these “tricks”. The difference is that neural networks have many more of these tricks and a broader coverage of research detailing the interactions between them.

This is pretty true - the lack of knobs to turn on something like XGBoost or LightGBM both make it pretty easy to get good results and harder to fine tune results for your specific problem. Maybe this isn't the most correct way to look at it, but I've always sort of pictured it as curve where you are plotting effort vs results, and the one for LightGBM/XGBoost starts out higher but is more flat, and the NN one is steeper.

I guess reading your post makes me wonder where the two curves cross? Do you have good intuition for that, or do you feel so comfortable with neural networks that they are sort of your default? I peeked at the company you have listed in your bio, and it looks like you have pretty deep experience with neural networks and work with other people who have been in research roles in that area too, and I wonder how that changes your curve compared to the average ML practitioner? Certainly figuring out how to pick the best layer combinations, optimizer, loss functions, etc benefits hugely from intuition gained over years of experience.

I think your conclusions are accurate. For many problems LightGBM or xgboost can often yield decent results in short amounts of time and for many problems that’s sufficient. A lot of the work we do is about pushing the results as far as we can take them and the business case justifies the extra time it can take to get there. For those types of problems, today, we would probably choose a neural network because then we have a lot more knobs as you mentioned.

Just like the rest of ML, whether neural networks are the right choice still depends on the problem at hand and the team implementing the solution. It definitely impacts where the performance / time curves intersect. If we just need something decent fast, or we’re working with another team that doesn’t have the same background, we tend to focus on approaches with fewer moving pieces. If we need the best possible performance, have a qualified team to get there, and have the time to iterate on development then the curves would favor neural networks.

Do you have any advice on how to increase performance of NN? Id be interested to see some examples of NN doing better than lgbm benchmark on medium size tabular data. What black magic is needed to achieve this? Would be super valuable to my job:)

This tuning approach gets good results for Lightgbm. I'd recommend using TimeSeriesSplit.


I've seen colleagues do something like this, or random search over NN architecture (NUM layers, nodes per layer, learning rate, dropout rate), always falling short of results this archives, despite far longer time to code up an tune model.

It’s really very problem dependent. I allude to a few low-hanging things in my post above: e.g. feature engineering. Just because neural networks have an easier time learning non-linear feature transformations doesn’t mean its good to ignore feature engineering entirely.

Possibly more important is to focus on the process for how you derive and apply model changes. You get some model performance and then what? Rather than throwing something else at the model in a “guess-and-check” fashion, be methodical about what you try next. Have analysis and a hypothesis going in to each change that you make and why it’s worth spending time on and why it will help. Back that hypothesis by research, when possible, to save yourself some time verifying something that someone else has already done the legwork on. Then verify the hypothesis with empirical results and further analysis to understand the impact of the change. This sounds obvious (it’s just the scientific method) but in my experience ML practitioners and data scientists tend to forget or were never taught the “science” part. (I’m not accusing you of this; it just tends to be my experience.)

Random search, AutoML, hyperparameter searches, etc. are incredibly inefficient at model development so they’ll rarely land you in a better place unless a lot of upfront work has been put in. For us, they’re useful for two things: analysis and finalization. For analysis the search should be heavily constrained since you’re trying to understand something specific. For finalization of a model before going into production, a search on only the most sensitive parameters identified during development usually yields additional gains.

Any good references on the art part, or is it just an intuition you develop over time? In my experience, all the ML education will teach you a ton of theory and basics but none of the practical details you're referring to.

It takes time and a lot of hands-on experience. Many ML teams tend to work on one or just a few tightly coupled project for years. By contrast, we’ve worked on a lot of unique projects with real-world constraints so it gives us a different perspective. An important part has been developing a rigorous process; sort of a framework for applying the “art”. As you mention, this often isn’t covered in ML or data science education, which tends to focus on (important) fundamentals.

LightGBM occupies a sweet spot between speed and accuracy, and is a library I've grown to love. Nowadays, this is my primary choice for quick impactful results. NB: if your data has categorical features, you might easily beat xgboost in training time, since LightGBM explicitly supports them, and for xgboost you would need to use one hot encoding, increasing the size of the data that the library needs to work with.

The problem with these models is that you have to be careful that your are not modeling something that incorporates a trend.

And if you have any kind of seasonality you a dataset with a large enough timeframe. (At least more than a year.)

Nonetheless, LightGBM and xgboost are also commonly used in the insurance sector.

They are still somewhat problematic for conversion rates in a highly dynamic market though.

Our team has a similar experience using xgboost and catboost. Models perform great and beat (our) neural nets

We really enjoyed editing this piece. Just wanted to doubly highlight a few of Horace's (chillee on HN) resources linked at the bottom:

Code: https://github.com/Chillee/pytorch-vs-tensorflow

Ablation of claims: https://thegradient.pub/p/cef6dd26-f952-4265-a2bc-f8bfb9eb1e...

JS interactive charts: https://chillee.github.io/pytorch-vs-tensorflow/

Great piece, you might want to update the article with the mention of PyTorch Mobile that released today: https://pytorch.org/mobile/home/

Thanks! We're currently discussing this with Horace.

I think tensorflow dominates industry purely because of its capability of exporting the model into a coreml Android model or easy of moving it to production in a GCP environment or in whatever form. Pytorch might have to build a good production pipeline around it to catch up in this game.

With fastai module that's built on Pytorch learning and developing Deep Learning solutions have become a lot easier. So there's a real game on now

And simply TensorFlow was there earlier, so people implemented stuff in it. I think there's more inertia in industry, whereas researchers may more easily switch frameworks between two papers.

And Keras was there too which made a lot of people us Keras with TF. I doubt if TF would have risen to this popularity hadn't it been to Keras.

Exactly this. Keras made TF easy.

You can do the same with PyTorch, right? Just export the model as .onnx and import it with whatever inference engine you like.

This sounds like in theory and makes you curse in practice. Trained TF model -> deployment using TF Lite is the most robust pipeline currently as far as I know.

There are lots of improvements going into pytorch for mobile at the moment, but for the moment I'll wait and see how it turns out - I didn't have much fun with caffe2 when "train in pytorch and deploy with caffe2" was the storyline FB pushed (e.g. problems with binary size and slow depthwise convolutions) so not too eager to migrate back at the moment.

It's difficult because the graph is defined running Python code, which can basically do anything. As I understand it you have to actually run the model and sort of introspect it to work out what the ONNX graph should be.

Whereas the Tensorflow API actually creates a static graph that can be easily converted to ONNX.

Edit: They talk about this problem in the article:

> Although straightforward, tracing has its downsides. For example, it can’t capture control flow that didn’t execute. For example, it can’t capture the false block of a conditional if it executed the true block.

> Script mode takes a function/class, reinterprets the Python code and directly outputs the TorchScript IR. This allows it to support arbitrary code, however it essentially needs to reinterpret Python.

I've done this with OpenVino and it works well enough. There are some gotchas with Onnx, some layers break or have weird bugs (upsample in particular used to be a problem).

researchers are like Francois Chollet & many more even jeff dean and it is the greatness of the community that it's pretty open to optimization "Why do researchers love PyTorch? Simplicity. It’s similar to numpy, very pythonic, and integrates easily with the rest of the Python ecosystem. For example, you can simply throw in a pdb breakpoint anywhere into your PyTorch model and it’ll work. In TensorFlow, debugging the model requires an active session and ends up being much trickier. Great API. Most researchers prefer PyTorch’s API to TensorFlow’s API. This is partially because PyTorch is better designed and partially because TensorFlow has handicapped itself by switching APIs so many times (e.g. ‘layers’ -> ‘slim’ -> ‘estimators’ -> ‘tf.keras’). Performance. Despite the fact that PyTorch’s dynamic graphs give strictly less opportunity for optimization, there have been many anecdotal reports that PyTorch is as fast if not faster than TensorFlow. It's not clear if this is really true, but at the very least, TensorFlow hasn't gained a decisive advantage in this area."

common people do want to appreciate & adopt the things that seems fit to the knowledge sphere at present from the researchers. tensorflow approaches are better and respected each and everyone of the community as well in exchange enlightened us new ways of understanding of ml solutions. it have turned into a family “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” and given the assets alphabet have a common man can turn into researchers! e.g. >> https://learn.grasshopper.app take this for example "Learn to code anywhere. Grasshopper is available on iOS, Android, and all web browsers. Your progress syncs seamlessly between devices." << this is the status quo ! it's a gift of a lifetime for generations !

This feels like it was written by GPT2-Small.

I'm using Keras from last 3 years. Most of the time where I have to deal with core TF code is when I have to write some custom layers. I totally agree on a part where hacking together TF code seems nightmare (well, initially.. but not once you know what you're doing), where PyTorch more looks like blissful experience (I have not tried PyT yet, just speaking from reading all these comments). I'm genuinely curious about how one can use the trained PyTorch models in production? For example, I got 6 TF based translation models + 1 classification model running on single AWS instance with TensorFlow Serving with 1 GPU and 8 CPU cores. These 7 models are deployed to take advantage of all the resources of this instance and everything runs smoothly. Now considering I got these same models in PyTorch, what are my options to do the same?

What challenges are you worried about with transferring PyTorch to production? It’s been wonderful to work with, but I haven’t put a PyTorch model in high volume production yet, so I’m curious too.

1) My laziness to look for what’s available to do this. 2) Core belief to NOT use any product backed by FB.

But anyway, at this point I got so many things already running over TF + Keras that I don’t see any use case of reverting back the entire code base written over 3-4 years to other platform just because new grads from university are using some library more over other. I got everything I need, so why to suffer unnecessarily? I can just spend the same amount of time polishing existing things rather than spending time after something which has less probability to be at same level as existing things.

Yeah, I guess if TF works for you, stick with it. I started learning with Theano+Keras, then with TF, and finally PyTorch, and was much happier when I switched to PyTorch, FWIW. I think it’s worth trying if you haven’t.

It's only a matter of time until PyTorch will also dominate industry.

It's always like this.

Think how Ubuntu took over the server market because amateurs were preferring it instead of Redhat/CentOS. And when they became professionals or were in a position to decide, they also put Ubuntu on the server because this is what they knew best.

When did Ubuntu take over the server market?

I'm not sure that's a great example, given that AWS mostly runs on RHEL-based OSs and Debian is still preferred for Docker. Ubuntu did not "take over the server market".

RHEL is popular for solutions like running a datacenter mostly because it has a nice enterprise support story. It's what the E in that acronym is for, after all. Ubuntu, meanwhile, is quite popular among us mere mortals who have to fix our own boxen.

Debian is popular for Docker images exactly because many of the people trying Docker were already familiar with Ubuntu. Those users quickly ended up wanting smaller images, making Debian an obvious thing to try out since Ubuntu is basically Debian with bells on.

Ubuntu fought a sea of distros and came out as what's very nearly an industry standard, if not an official one. The 90s were a fricking mess by comparison. Slackware on floppies.

(And now I need "Slackware on floppies" dubbed over the "Jesus wept" scene from Hellraiser.)

> Ubuntu fought a sea of distros and came out as what's very nearly an industry standard, if not an official one.

I think you may be living in a bubble. I've been running devops for various shops for half a decade and I've only once used Ubuntu, because it was already being used by an acquisition.

I won't deny that Ubuntu is popular. It's certainly got the lions share of the desktop market. But there is no such consensus in the server market.

Come on guys. You're fighting anecdote with anecdote.

Here's some date I could dig up by a couple of minutes googling:

https://w3techs.com/technologies/details/os-linux/all/all https://w3techs.com/technologies/history_details/os-linux

Other sibling comments link to more.

https://blog.digitalocean.com/where-do-droplets-form/ I don't think this feels like a bubble.

But it was so much fun running Slackware servers and compiling our own minimal kernels

make menuconfig

Goshdarn, I totally forgot about make menuconfig! Good memories.

Can you provide any evidence to support that claim?

Here's a report that suggests the exact opposite:

"Don't let the revenue numbers lead you to thinking Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is more popular than Ubuntu. By The Cloud Market's Jan. 8, 2019 count of Amazon Web Services (AWS) instances, Ubuntu is used in 314,492 instances, more than any other operating system, while RHEL is used in 22,072 instances."


Disclosure: I work for Canonical, but as an engineer; I'm not in marketing or anything and that's not my job. But I do get the impression that Ubuntu is way ahead in general use in the cloud, and is also the generally used base for Docker images (I don't immediately see how to get that statistic out of Docker Hub). I didn't think this statement was controversial.

A more apt comparison would be Ubuntu vs CentOS (and amazon linux and all the other repackaged RHELs). Ubuntu definitely has more market share, but the OP implied that it was "just the way things are done now" which is not true.

The last data seems to be about 3 years old, and Ubuntu was about 1.5-2x the CentOS/amazon linux share. I suspect that's changing with the release of amazon linux 2, but there's no data to back that up.

Amazon itself primarily uses a RHEL based distro, which is what I meant originally.

I really enjoyed this write up. Thank you for putting it together. Even as a TF user, I feel it's a really fair assessment of TF vs PyTorch.

A quick observation that may not be 100% accurate but still worth mentioning: in some ways TF feels like it was written to solve large scale issues on day one. For example, when I started playing with the new TF 2.0 distribution strategies and dataset pipeline, I quickly got the sense that this thing was meant to move and ingest bucketloads of data across hundreds/thousands of vm instances. In a way, I suppose it's a reflection of Google culture where there's a strong emphasis on not doing things that don't scale to Google Scale.

As a result of this, I sort of feel that you should start with PyTorch and eventually graduate to TF if/when the scale requires it. This is sort of like starting with Rails/Django/Node, and migrating to a Go/JVM/[Insert Your Favorite Static Language Here] stack when the traffic load warrants it.

Whatever happened to Julia? Wasn't it supposed to incorporate all these incredible abstractions at the language level and run quickly on GPUs and everything in-between? Is it just lack of adoption or is has it something else?

If you mean Zygote.jl, it's a very ambitious project (like Swift for Tensorflow which has been under development for even longer I believe) with not many people working on it compared to Tensorflow and pytorch. And Pytorch for example only supports the method it decides to overload, while Zygote aims to support everything in the language (including stuff that isn't as obvious like state, IO, control flow in general). And then you have optimizations over the computation graph, memory management on GPU and many corner cases I can't imagine.

Though you can already use very clean Pytorch style libraries like Flux and Knet or the Tensorflow bindings to leverage the benefits of Julia for high performance numerical processing on the adjacent tasks such as data preprocessing.

"A Differentiable Programming System to Bridge Machine Learning and Scientific Computing"



From the abstract:

> We describe Zygote, a Differentiable Programming system that is able to take gradients of general program structures. We implement this system in the Julia programming language. Our system supports almost all language constructs (control flow, recursion, mutation, etc.) and compiles high-performance code without requiring any user intervention or refactoring to stage computations.

Just linking to this for those who haven't seen it.

Coming from using Tensorflow in industry, I recently played with Flux at home. Language level support for AD should be a game changer, but it's a hard transition mentally. You have to understand one language deeply rather than two languages shallowly. I found myself bogged down solving lispy puzzles involving functions composing other functions. In tf (and most AD frameworks) you churn out some ugly procedural code in an ergonomic language that generates some ugly pure functional code in a more limited language (the computational graph). Different cognitive overheads. Julia hasn't been 1.0 for very long; it may still take off.

I wanted to write something about Julia/Swift, but I had a bit of a hard time writing a cohesive narrative about them and ran out of time.

You can take a look at https://discourse.julialang.org/t/where-does-julia-provide-t... for some of my questions.

Essentially, the biggest advantage imo is that Julia offers a single cohesive language, where compilers can do anything at the language level. I don't think this will allow for a single killer application - almost anything Julia can do ca n be simulated by some combination of Python/C++.

However, what might be true is that using a single language allows for much faster development and iteration than a combination of Python/C++. I think the way that'll manifest is in more and more high quality libraries coming out for Julia that are higher quality than the Python ones.

Maybe wait 5 years, and we'll see what happens :)

I've been using Julia's Flux, it's great for when you have some arbitrary model you want to run gradient descent on that isn't just a bunch of matrix ops, as the framework overhead is way less than TF or PyTorch due to Julia being 100x faster than pure Python.

Julia is a fantastic language. If I did original research I would use it, but I'm in industry and focus on productionalizing things.

For me, it would be the lack of GNN support in Flux[1]. I really root for Julia and Flux, and I hope it will take off soon.

[1] https://github.com/FluxML/Flux.jl/issues/625

Julia works with CUDA on Windows without the need for Visual Studio since Julia is LLVM based.

In my experience in computer vision research it doesn’t matter what you use, yes, immediate mode is slightly more convenient, but research time is influenced much more by your computing power, dataset acqusition/labeling/relabeling power and, last but not the least, by code quality and easy and efficient collaboration - thats why you need tools like DVC/Argoproj. We did get amazing results using Caffe v1 back in the day.

I agree. I haven’t encountered a strong preference in academic computer vision or machine learning. Keras and PyTorch, dominate, of course, but I wouldn’t be shocked if everyone started using something new in the future.

Anyone has any opinions on TF2.0? They've released it recently, and it seems like it should be much closer to PyTorch now, but I don't know enough to evaluate it properly.


Jeremy Howard [0] has some takes here [1], mostly negative if I recall correctly.

[0] https://www.fast.ai/about/ [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6XcP4JOHmk&t=4152s

Wouldn't the CEO of Fast AI, a library using PyTorch, be slightly biased?

They're also championing TensorFlow in Swift, though.

They used tensorflow in their courses previously but later switched to pytorch.

TF2.0 (and in particular their recommended tf.keras) is simply a clone of the Pytorch API in most respects. There is no reason to use it vs just using Pytorch, especially as Pytorch now support easy model exporting for running in production.

Uhm I would think that the tf.keras API is a clone of Keras (I mean, Keras was made by a Google Engineer!!)... which came before Pytorch

tf.keras contains a deprecated API that was the original keras as well as a new API that basically is a clone of Pytorch. You can tell the difference because only the new API works nicely with eager mode.

And the torch API has been around for a looooonnng time, as Pytorch is a re-implementation of Torch, which was written in Lua: http://torch.ch/

What I really liked about this article is near the end, where it identifies two things:

* Automatic differentiation of higher-order differentiation being important, and how there's clearly room to disrupt there

* Increasing hardware diversity seems to mean that both frameworks will run into a brick wall as-is

Exciting space. It'll be fascinating to see how dramatically, or not, things change in the coming years.

Like others here, at work we switched over from TensorFlow to PyTorch when 1.0 was released, both for R&D and production. Our productivity and happiness with PyTorch are noticeably, significantly better.

Back when we were using TensorFlow, whenever we wanted to try something new, sooner or later we would find ourselves wrestling with its computational graph abstraction, which is non-intuitive, especially for models with more complex control flow.

That said, we are keeping an eye on Swift + MLIR + TensorFlow. We think it could unseat PyTorch for R&D and eventually, production, due to (a) the promise of automatic creation of high-performance GPU/TPU kernels without hassle, (b) Swift's easy learning curve, and (c) Swift's fast performance and type safety. Jeremy Howard has a good post about this: https://www.fast.ai/2019/03/06/fastai-swift/

I've read a reasonable amount about this and listened to a bit of the podcasts they've done.

It feels a bit too early to tell. I don't believe many researchers will switch to Swift though.

Yeah, I'm not convinced at all. It's the same reason why Julia hasn't replaced Python for scientific computing either. There is wayyy too much infrastructure in Python for datascience / machine-learning to just up and switch to Swift. I get that he's excited about a new challenge, but I don't think it's going to be great for the Python library when Jeremey switches over to Swift.

As it is the API for FastAI is constantly changing and has hardly ever felt particularly stable. I don't see it ending up becoming this complete, stable, polished framework if they keep switching focus. I don't care one way or the other as I don't personally use it because it is way too complex to extend it to do anything simple if you just have your own networks and Dataset class that you want to plug into their infrastructure. Being familiar with Pytorch and Python, I've always found it much easier to just work with those 2 rather than trying to bend the fastai library to do things that don't fit perfectly into the applications they designed for.

I remember using early Torch (in Lua! As someone who knew only Matlab!) in 2015-ish; and then using Keras (which is supposed to be an abstraction layer over NN frameworks) and finding it much more verbose and complicated to use without recurring to code snippets.

Perhaps it’s the nature of the game that changed with many new kinds of architectures and so on. But maybe Keras is already overengineered for someone who just wants to make thumbnail sized GAN stuff at home.

Jax, for those that haven't heard of it, is the thing y'all want.

With the release of pytorch mobile, people building products will want to use stuff from the Pytorch universe, while researchers who just want to prototype an idea and want a numpy like accelerated interface will look at jax.

I talk about Jax in the article. It's very cool, especially if you need higher order derivatives. However, it's not meant to be a full neural network library, and unless Google invests significantly into it, it won't take off significantly imo.

why would you use Jax over pytorch? even if it has technical merits it lacks an ecosystem of readily available models to study and tweak.

At some point you stop caring about being able to import a set of imagnet pretrained weights and start caring about extreme flexibility. Think about implement ting, say "Scene Representation Networks" https://arxiv.org/abs/1906.01618 in each of the three frameworks. Tf is a pig, pytorch is slow, and Jax is going to crush the problem.

The lack of say, keras.applications is a shame, but it won't last, and if you have a GPU or 8 the power of optimized (p/v)map definitely makes up for it.

I mean, the authors implemented it in pytorch: https://github.com/vsitzmann/scene-representation-networks

Do you have any particular evidence that PyTorch is slow here?

This is very interesting and telling:

> Great API. Most researchers prefer PyTorch’s API to TensorFlow’s API. This is partially because PyTorch is better designed and partially because TensorFlow has handicapped itself by switching APIs so many times (e.g. ‘layers’ -> ‘slim’ -> ‘estimators’ -> ‘tf.keras’).

Arguably, one of the biggest issues Google had with Angular was the switch from 1.x to 2.x. You'd have thought they learned about how not to make major changes on OSS projects.

Facebook on React for instance do an amazing job here, they use prefixes to anything they don't want to support like "UNSTABLE_" and show warnings forever when they actually plan to make something small obsolete.

I tried to learn from both, so in some of my bigger personal OSS projects (amount of work involved) like npm's "server". I purposefully made some APIs a bit more limited than I could to have more flexibility later on if I didn't like the direction. Of course at a different level, I am a single dev doing OSS on my free time after all.

But I understand in a project of the size of e.g. Tensorflow it's not an individual dev learning, it's more about the company learning how to do things better.

Pytorch Mobile release today - https://pytorch.org/mobile/home/

Has anyone used MXNet? I've been meaning to check it out because it appears to have solid Clojure support.

And Amazon is still trying to desperately get people to adopt MXNet.

MXNet is actually pretty good. It got to the "mixing eager and graph mode" semantics before either PyTorch or TensorFlow did. On top of that, it's also blazing fast (usually the fastest of the frameworks).

Admittedly, I've never used MXNet so it might have more issues that I'm not aware of. Judging from the benchmarks I've seen, however, MXNet got a lot of things right.

Unluckily, I just don't think it added enough on top of PyTorch or TensorFlow for people to consider switching. People switched from TensorFlow to PyTorch because eager mode was just so much easier to use.

My former employer pulled in a few AWS data scientists to consult with us on a few projects and based on my interactions it seemed like they were under some directive to strongly discourage anything that wasn't a built-in AWS plug-and-play sagemaker algorithm. It was not a positive experience because of course most of them are half baked.

MxNet is fantastic though. It's usually faster than tensorflow, has a pytorch like "eager" API that doesn't suck, and can still use symbolic graphs. Amazing documentation too (for the Gluon API).

...because in research, the person doing the programming gets to choose, whereas in industry, their boss does. (ducks)

More like people who have long since left the company get to choose.

Also to consider is that tools made for research are not necessarily good for incorporating into products...

We have been using mostly Dlib[0]. There was the need to develop solutions that can be statically compiled and produce dependency-free dlls and dlib delivered remarkbly on that aspect.

I haven't had success doing so using frameworks such as Torch and TF, even if their toolkit is better to develop new solutions.

Also we get to write code in C++, which can be a big positive when developing machine learning SDKs. I personally still do most of the prototyping in Python though.

I'll be checking the link on the post that mentions that pytorch allows models to be converted to c++, looks promising actually.

[0] http://dlib.net/

That first graph is super-confusing. The Y axis says "Percentage of unique mentions" but it only goes up to 0.7%? Was it meant to be "Fraction of unique mentions".

And then the title is "PyTorch vs Tensorflow", but it never says whether the Y axis is unique mentions of PyTorch or Tensorflow? From the context I guess PyTorch, but come on!

The Y axis should be "Fraction mentioning PyTorch", and the title should be "Papers that only mention PyTorch or Tensorflow" (assuming I have understood this correctly).

Shame it was labelled so badly because it's an amazing graph otherwise!

Oh shit, you're right.

I fixed these properly at some point, but I made some last minute modifications to the text size and such.

These interactive figures are probably a bit better overall too: https://chillee.github.io/pytorch-vs-tensorflow/

I'll change that ASAP. Thanks for the heads up!

EDIT: Fixed! Lemme know if that addressed your issues.

You can just shorten it to "Python dominates research", "C++ dominates industry".

Pytorch has a C++ API now.

If I were to start a theoretical computer vision company today, which would I be better off using?

My very biased opinion: you start with PyTorch because it's easy to develop and debug, and there's no point in having the fastest tools for a model that you can't train properly.

Once your model is running, and if/when you start hitting performance bottlenecks, then you consider migrating your model to TensorFlow.

Yup, this echoes the philosophy at e.g. Tesla. Development speed matters more than performance at first.

But isn't TF eager mode just as easy to develop and debug, and the migration of TF eager mode to TF static mode is then probably simpler?

TF eager mode has been a stable/supported thing for 10 days, since the release of 2.0. Before then it was available as opt-in behavior that once enabled meant all bets were off for if things would work or explode. So I think it's too early to answer your question. Maybe 2.0 bridges the gap to PyTorch in development speed. But maybe the momentum has already shifted to PyTorch.

do you plan on having a research team?

How do you want to deploy your model?

One thing the AI/data scene gets the best of is data on their own industry. Reminds me of how Ruby used to have the best designed websites for their various tools.

I don't even believe the thesis about one dominating the other in a specific domain. I dont think top mentions in conferences in a good measure of usage.

Why not?

Ok, admittedly, there are a couple reasons. The fact that most papers don't mention the framework they use is a big one. So if users of one framework disproportionately mentioned that framework in their paper, it would be overrepresented.

I did cover this concern though, in the Appendix. Check out the "Biased Sample" section.(https://thegradient.pub/p/cef6dd26-f952-4265-a2bc-f8bfb9eb1e...)

Basically, some conferences have encouraged researchers to submit code. Instead of checking the papers, I checked their code instead. The results are pretty much the same. So I think that mentions in top conferences probably correlates well with uses in code.

While PyTorch is awesome, one thing it suffers from in my opinion is no "one way" to do things - I've found it difficult to take someones model and training code and tweak it so it fits in your code, compared to Chainer that has nice abstractions for a trainer, updaters, models, etc.

PyTorch is easy to use and modify, but Chainer, and by extension cupy (a separate awesome project!) are really, really easy to work with.

For the majority of production use cases (which tend to get all the AI/ML hype), TensorFlow/Keras is more than powerful enough and accessible enough. If you need to dive down to custom layers/optimizers, PyTorch has value there, but for people looking to get their start in AI/ML, the meme that "TensorFlow sucks" is highly misleading.

I thought the article was a good read and compared the two frameworks with only small hints of personal bias, but one point about industry changing to use pytorch because of researchers already knowing it seems like wishful thinking. Unless PyTorch addresses its mobile and serving issues it is simply not a great choice for many production situations. This article actually influenced me to stick with TF instead of learning PyTorch due to my industry needs.

Additionally I think tensorflow opt in by default for eager execution is fine maybe good even. Many models are relatively simple and I doubt the gains for rewriting them to utilize the execution graph will be worth it when with the keras frontend you can just dump the h5py model and run it from there which many companies already do.

Rewriting will only be an issue for sufficiently complex models and at that point I imagine competent ML professionals will have baked the time for that into the estimate of the engineering costs.

I doubt this and feel the conclusion might be just the opposite, that TF 2 will be the top choice for most developers. Just started learning TF2 and feel it's indeed a great upgrade. Still new to this, and I need TF2 for products instead of research, the tensorflow lite and tensorflow.js seems very useful, plus tensorboard looks promising as well.

Google Trends data [0] shows TensorFlow being much more popular for now, though the gap seems to be narrowing slowly.

[0] https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=2017-01-11%202...

its been my observation that most researchers/DS prefer PyTorch because it lets them hack in python and most production software engineers will prefer models be written TF because of effortless portability and performance of TF Graphs.

I work on a team that does the latter and lately DS have been handing off PyTorch models that we cant scale or make performant because Torchscript doesnt really work with any realistic code complexity and authors include all sorts of random python libraries. So we can't load models in C++ or get them under 50ms.

So the framework divide very much feels like dynamic vs statically typed languages. People that dont have real production demands love dynamic languages for the productivity.

Is anyone here using Gorgonia?

I’m working in a Go code base and I’m thinking of using it instead of creating a separate service in Python.


Isn't it a bit cumbersome working in Go for this kind of stuff? Not judging, just asking.

Me. I've been deploying ML models using Gorgonia since before it was called Gorgonia :)

I definitely prefer using it to deploy services than PyTorch, MXNet or TF

Thank you very much for writing this up. I have been using TensorFlow since it was first released and even though I am now retired I have been looking at my own open source models with an idea of converting to TF 2.

Since I am just keeping up with deep learning in particular and AI in general for my own interests, I will likely switch over to PyTorch because there is no risk involved and learning something new is fun. This is a big change since I have years of TF experience and perhaps four or five evenings spent with PyTorch.

A funny reason I am stuck with Tensorflow: I would love to use PyTorch, but for the moment only Tensorflow has support for complex numbers.

pytorch bug tracker: https://github.com/pytorch/pytorch/issues/755

I think its matter of time. New things gets adopted first in research. I think pytorch will take over tensorflow. I was also a tensorflow user and when i switched to pytorch i never looked back. I was also participating in a kaggle competition and top 20 models are all implemented in pytorch.

This was for Computer Vision and NLP conferences, but would the same be true if AutoML were thrown into the mix? I care mostly about efficiency and optimization, and the author wasn't able to distinguish that Pytorch is any better or worse save the two anecdotes.

The selection of frameworks here doesn’t quite match the title. Then again, research wise I’m sure those two frameworks make up 99% or more of papers.

I much prefer PyTorch, effectively all graph frameworks are there. Very nice to see TPU support with 1.3 as well.

I have heard that Keras has made using Tensorflow much easier. Isn't that the case ?

For a long time cafe was the most popular framework for researchers. Most people don’t even know of that now.

My point is researchers using a framework (matlab) does not mean it’s used heavily in industries or even all industries.

To be fair I think Matlab is still heavily used in industry, which I view as a direct result of being so dominant among students and researchers. Maybe not for machine learning, but for controls engineering, signal processing, stuff like that it feels unavoidable.

Personally I think all these deep learning frameworks just haven't had as much time to mature, I have a feeling once they do that the one that dominates academia will eventually dominate industry.

Going from doing ML research to data ingestion and analysis to web frameworks to API design, blogging and static site generation is very powerful. The trend seems to be that python will dominate all of these .

Maybe in the scaly Python-bubble.

What great timing for Pytorch Mobile to just be announced


TensorFlow & PyTorch, Angular & React,

Or even Karma & Jest,

Facebook seems to be late to market, but learns from Google's mistakes, to create simpler and more elegant tools.

Shame. I've been using Gorgonia for years now. Progress in the library is slow but it is superior in deployment when compared to TF or PyTorch.

I wonder how the HN crowd feels about H2O.ai

Similar to the R vs python debate?

Can someone provide a tldr on the differences? I know enough to implement models in tensorflow (via keras) and have a decent understanding of parameter tweaking, but really don't understand the fundamental difference between these two libraries. Thanks!

Keras still is the very best in terms of expressive models and end to end workflows. It leans heavily on the design idea that you should deliberately design for end to end use cases and all intermediate abstractions should be building blocks that serve precisely that purpose. This is discussed in [0] which IMO is something that deserves to be more widely talked about in software engineering. Lots of other disciplines of software engineering _say_ you should design this way, but in my experience it’s very rare no matter what discipline you’re in. Take TensorFlow itself. It’s a huge mess with no clear abstractions useful for end to end solutions. Just a hodge podge of disparate APIs and way too many underlying engineering concepts were elevated to abstractions for engineer (instead of user) convenience.

Constraining design by end to end use cases is a remarkably robust and useful process.

PyTorch is way better at having clean engineering abstractions than TensorFlow, but still falls short when things like “forward” or maintaining your own training loop and gradient metadata are necessary concepts for a practitioner’s end to end workflow.

[0]: https://blog.keras.io/user-experience-design-for-apis.html

In terms of model expressiveness, I made a functional NN building API for PyTorch (just like keras'), which offers the optimal balance of flexibility and expressiveness: https://github.com/blue-season/pywarm

What about unique mentions of keras and/or tensorflow? I'm wondering if papers mention keras only and don't mention tensorflow at all.

I talk about this in the "ablation" section/appendix.



Well, you could read the article :^)

As a summary, though:

PyTorch has become dominant in research because of its API (both its stability + having eager mode).

TF has become dominant in industry because A. it came out several years before PyTorch and industry is slow to move, B. It supported a lot of production use cases (mobile, serving, removing Python overhead) that PyTorch didn't for a long time.

If only articles were as concise as your summary is I would enjoy reading them but as long as they are many pages long I have no time to read beyond the titles, abstracts, conclusions and comments.

BTW I've also read (here on HN) PyTorch learns much faster than TensorFlow does.

Then it wouldn't be an article, it would be a summary :)

well, for one pytorch added the python overhead over an otherwise very clean lua jit

PyTorch wraps THNN, not Torch. Moreover, even if this was true, it wouldn't matter at all. Practically 0% of the overhead is related to Python in the first place, all of the time is dominated by the underlying C implementation.

100% anecdotal --

The Keras interface for tensorflow makes it easy & fast to make "good enough" models. That is often a driving factor

I've personally found pytorch easier to use than Keras. It's undoubtably easier to use than Tensorflow, of course.

research: the API.

industry: tensorRT.

Why engineers like Tensorflow:

- More code to check-in (Looks more productive)

- More infrastructure, e.g. checkpoints, exporters etc. (Looks like they're doing more work)

- Fancy visualizations (Allows them to look impressive while presenting loss plots)

- Easier to reuse things others have implemented and still get credit for it (TF model zoo, research repo etc.)

Why researchers like pytorch:

- Way easier to hack together their novel idea

- Looks scrappier (which somehow makes the individual look like a better researcher instead of an ordinary programmer)

- Lots of other researchers release code in pytorch so if you're working off of their idea, you use pytorch to avoid re-producing their results.

Open to debate on these ideas, let me know if you have a counterpoint or any other reasons to add

Why engineers like Tensorflow:

With those bullet points, looks like you didn't talk to actual engineers, but rather middle-layer management people.

Unfortunately, you're way off the mark here. Its actually more of the opposite. Perhaps we have a different set of experiences, but your assumption here is not the cause of our difference in opinions.

a micrsoft guy !

> “More code to check-in (Looks more productive)”

Not even bad engineers try to pretend like this is true.

Are you saying tensorflow doesn't have more code to check in or that even bad engineers don't pretend that checking in more code looks productive?

Not even bad engineers pretend like more code == more productive. Emphatically so.

Well, the worst engineers don't push any code so maybe it looks like they don't think writing more code is productive.

However its been my experience that the average engineer believes this. They often aim to push some amount of code (meaningful or not) every few days or so.

The best engineers I know write a lot of code overall but are more interested in ensuring they build the right thing and are ok with not pushing code for a while if they need more time.

Bad engineers have pretended like more code is more productive. Certain programmer-types will grasp at any straws to maintain their ego.

Researcher's codes are historically not very clean and re-usable. It may work fine if you want to hack together something to get data for a paper, but if you want to run a real production service, and don't want to drown in tech debt in a year; and that often means more code, as you imply above. I don't think it's unnecessarily verbose, it's just that it's more structured and scalable.

The discussion was about pytorch vs tensorflow but your argument seems to be about productionizing research code (which is framework agnostic).

Yes there is a lot of code to be written/optimizations to be done to make things production worthy. However I know a lot of tensorflow research projects that handle data batching in such a terrible way that would take weeks to re-write for production.

As for verboseness of pytorch vs tensorflow, I think either could get more verbose under different circumstances. However for simpler tasks, I think tensorflow is more verbose in general (not accounting for the new release which seems to mimic pytorch/keras a little more). For larger production tasks, its a toss-up depending on whether you need to add new components.

If by some miracle a comp sci researcher does publish something relevant to industry most people would rather wait for some other poor soul to deconstruct their work and make usable code or a library out of it.

Speak for yourself mate.

Why I use tensorflow:

- keras

- I used tensorflow yesterday

What's your experience comparing keras to pytorch?

one thing : google cloud is first !

PyTorch is simpler, easer to use, consumes less memory and allows for dynamic dynamic computational graphs (dynamic operations during the forward pass).

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