Liang Zhang

Developer, Databricks

Liang Zhang is a Software Engineer in the Machine Learning team of Databricks. She has been working on building tools to accelerate and simplify the data conversion in training machine learning models at scale. Prior to joining Databricks, she obtained a master’s degree in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University.

Past sessions

In this talk, I would like to introduce an open-source tool built by our team that simplifies the data conversion from Apache Spark to deep learning frameworks.

Imagine you have a large dataset, say 20 GBs, and you want to use it to train a TensorFlow model. Before feeding the data to the model, you need to clean and preprocess your data using Spark. Now you have your dataset in a Spark DataFrame. When it comes to the training part, you may have the problem: How can I convert my Spark DataFrame to some format recognized by my TensorFlow model?

The existing data conversion process can be tedious. For example, to convert an Apache Spark DataFrame to a TensorFlow Dataset file format, you need to either save the Apache Spark DataFrame on a distributed filesystem in parquet format and load the converted data with third-party tools such as Petastorm, or save it directly in TFRecord files with spark-tensorflow-connector and load it back using TFRecordDataset. Both approaches take more than 20 lines of code to manage the intermediate data files, rely on different parsing syntax, and require extra attention for handling vector columns in the Spark DataFrames. In short, all these engineering frictions greatly reduced the data scientists’ productivity.

The Databricks Machine Learning team contributed a new Spark Dataset Converter API to Petastorm to simplify these tedious data conversion process steps. With the new API, it takes a few lines of code to convert a Spark DataFrame to a TensorFlow Dataset or a PyTorch DataLoader with default parameters.

In the talk, I will use an example to show how to use the Spark Dataset Converter to train a Tensorflow model and how simple it is to go from single-node training to distributed training on Databricks.

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Liang Zhang, Developer, Databricks