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An Introduction to Machine Learning Operations (MLOps)

Joydip Kanjilal
Published: June 5, 2022

Machine Learning Overview

Machine Learning operations, commonly known as MLOps, or DevOps for machine learning, is a practice for streamlining and integrating the workflows involved in building, testing, and deploying machine learning models. This machine learning tutorial for developers and project managers presents an overview of MLOps including its benefits and downsides.

Before continuing on, you may want to read our tutorial: Understanding Machine Learning.

What is MLOps?

MLOps, or DevOps for machine learning, is the practice of combining software development (Dev) and operations (Ops) to streamline the process of building, testing, and deploying machine learning models.

MLOps can help organizations improve the quality of their machine learning models by providing a more reliable and automated way to develop, test, deploy, and manage them. In addition, MLOps can help organizations automate the process of training and tuning machine learning models, which can save time and resources.

The goal of MLOps is to help organizations move faster and be more agile in the face of rapidly changing data and business requirements. By automating and orchestrating the workflows involved in ML development, MLOps can help reduce the cycle time from idea to production, and make it easier to track experiments and keep models up-to-date.

In addition, MLOps can help improve the quality of machine learning models by making it easier to monitor model performance and identify issues early on. By integrating ML into the overall DevOps process, organizations can also benefit in more ways than one.

Implementing MLOps can be challenging, but the benefits are clear. Organizations that adopt MLOps can improve the quality of their machine learning models, save time and resources, and gain a competitive edge. MLOps can help you automate and streamline the process of building and maintaining machine learning models.

We have a great tutorial that serves as an Introduction to DevOps and DevSecOps if you want to learn more about the DevOps methodology.

What are the Core Principles of MLOps?

The core principles of MLOps are:

  • Continuous integration and delivery: Changes to the code base are automatically built and tested, and deployed to production on a regular basis.
  • Infrastructure as code: The infrastructure that runs the machine learning models is treated as code, which can be versioned, audited, and automated.
  • Monitoring and logging: The performance of machine learning models is monitored in production, and logs are collected to help with debugging and performance tuning.

What are MLOPs Pipelines?

MLOPs pipelines are a crucial part of the MLOps process. They help to automate the entire machine learning workflow, from data pre-processing and model training to deployment and monitoring. By doing so, they free up valuable time and resources that can be used to focus on other areas of the business. In addition, MLOPs pipelines help to ensure that models are always up-to-date and compliant with company policies.

What are the Benefits of MLOps?

There are many benefits to using MLOps, but some of the most notable ones include:

  • Improved project quality: By automating processes and establishing clear standards, businesses can reduce the number of errors in their machine learning projects.
  • Faster time to the market: By deploying models at a faster rate and with reduced time spent for model testing, you can deliver the software faster.
  • Increased speed: Businesses can take advantage of automation to cut the amount of time needed for manual tasks.
  • Reduced costs: Furthermore, automation reduces the need for repetitive manual labor, which can result in significant cost savings for businesses.

MLOps: The Challenges and Solutions

As machine learning models become more complex and data-intensive, the challenges of MLOps become more apparent. Traditional software development practices are not well suited to managing the complexities of building, training, and deploying machine learning models.

One of the biggest challenges of MLOps is dealing with data. The data we collect continuously changes, and it can be difficult to keep up with all the changes. In addition, data can be stored in different formats, which can make it difficult to use for machine learning models.

Another challenge is dealing with different types of machine learning models. Finally, there is the challenge of deployment. After training, a machine learning model must be deployed in a production environment. This may be difficult since many various sorts of environments must typically be supported.

It is difficult to scale your team quickly enough. In a field like machine learning, companies may find it difficult to find people who have the right skills to meet their demands. And because many MLOps engineers have little experience in data science or software development (or both), building out a robust team takes time and patience—two things that might not be available if deadlines are looming.

The tools are not there yet. Even if you do build up an internal team ready to take on all those responsibilities, they will still need access to state-of-the-art tools and technology in order to get things done properly—but even now there are few options in this space beyond open-source technologies like TensorFlow and Keras.

Fortunately, there are ways to deal with these issues. Version control technologies, such as Git, are commonly used to manage data. You can take advantage of the available tools available to manage various machine learning models.

To be efficient at adapting a solid MLOps approach, you will want to be certain to use some of the best MLOps tools. Our sister site, IT Business Edge, has a great roundup of the Best MLOps Tools and Platforms.

What are Best Practices for MLOps

The increased use of machine learning (ML) models in software development has necessitated the need for a new branch of DevOps known as MLOps. MLOps is a set of best practices that aim to streamline the process of developing, training, and deploying ML models.

There are many different ways to approach MLOps, but some common practices include automating data preprocessing and model training, using containerization to package dependencies, and using cloud services for scalability. The adoption of these practices can help teams move faster and improve the quality of their machine learning models.

Some of the best practices for MLOps include the ones listed in the next section.

Automate Data Preprocessing and Model Training

One of the most time-consuming aspects of ML development is data preprocessing and model training. When performed manually, each of these processes may be time-consuming and error-prone. You can save a lot of time and effort by automating these activities. Several tools and frameworks are available for automating data preparation and model training, such as Apache Airflow, Prefect, and Kubeflow.

Use Containerization to Package Dependencies

Another best practice in MLOps is to use containers to package dependencies. This approach can be very helpful when team members are working on different parts of the same project but need to use different versions of the dependencies.

Containers allow each team member to work with an isolated environment that has its own set of dependencies. This isolation makes it easy to share code between team members and also makes it easier to deploy applications to different environments.

Use Cloud Services for Scalability

Another common best practice in MLOps is to use cloud services for scalability. Cloud services offer a great way to scale up or down depending on the needs of the project. They also make it easy to share resources between team members and to deploy applications to different environments.

Some popular cloud services that can be used for MLOps include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Implement Continuous Integration and Delivery

Continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) are two key DevOps ideas that may also be used for MLOps. You can take advantage of CI/CD to automate development, testing, and deployment of your applications.

By implementing CI/CD, teams can save a lot of time and effort when developing machine learning models. Many different tools and frameworks can be used for CI/CD, but some popular options include Jenkins, CircleCI, and Travis CI.

Final Thoughts on MLOps

MLOps is a new field of operations that is emerging to support the growth of ML and AI. It is a way of thinking about DevOps, Data Engineering, and Data Science that combines these disciplines into one team focused on building and maintaining ML models.

MLOps is a process of applying DevOps principles to machine learning projects in order to streamline and automate the entire workflow, from data preparation to model training to deployment. MLOps can help reduce the cycle time of machine learning projects and improve the overall quality of the models that are produced.

Additionally, MLOps can help teams to better collaborate on machine learning projects and make it easier to track progress and experiment with different approaches. If you’re working on machine learning projects, then MLOps is definitely something you should consider adopting.

Read more project management and software development methodology tutorials and tool reviews.