Life is a game, take it seriously

Tool Tutorial: Google AI Platform for Hobbyist

In AI, App, deep learning, Machine Learning, Serious Stuffs on October 27, 2019 at 10:44 pm

by Li Yang Ku (Gooly)

In this post I am going to talk about the Google AI platform (previously called Google ML engine) and how to use it if deep learning is just your after work hobby. I will provide links to other tutorials and details at the end so that you can try it out, but the purpose of this post is to give you a big picture of how it works without having to read through all the marketing phrases targeting company decision makers.

Google AI platform is part of the Google cloud and provides computing power for training and deploying deep networks. So what’s the difference between this platform and any other cloud computing services such as AWS (Amazon Web Services)? Google AI platform is specialized for deep learning and is suppose to simplify the process. If you are using TensorFlow (also developed by Google) with a pretty standard neural network architecture, it should be a breeze to train and deploy your model for online applications. There is no need to set up servers, all you need is a few lines of gcloud commands and your model will be trained and deployed in the cloud. (You also get a $300 dollar first year credit for signing up on Google Cloud Platform, which is quite a lot for home projects.) Note that Google AI platform is not the only shop in town, take a look at Microsoft’s Azure AI if you like to shop around.

So how does it work? First of all, there are four ways to communicate with Google AI platform. You can do it 1) locally: where you have all the code on your computer and communications are made through commands directly, 2) on Google Colab: Colab is another Google project that is basically a Jupyter notebook on the cloud which you can share with others, 3) on the AI platform notebook: which is similar to Colab but have more direct access to the platform and more powerful machines, and 4) on any other cloud server or jupyter notebook like webservice such as FloydHub. The main difference between using Colab versus AI platform notebook is pricing. Colab is free (even with GPU access), but has limitations such as up to 12 hours of run time and shuts down after 90 minutes of idle time. It provides you with about 12GB RAM and 50GB disk space (although the disk is half full when started due to preinstalled packages). After disconnected, you can still reconnect with whatever you wrote in the notebook, but you will lost whatever is in the RAM and disk. For a home project, Colab is probably sufficient, the disk space is not a limitation since we can store training data in google storage. (Note that it is also possible to connect Google drive in Colab so that you don’t need to start from scratch every time.) On the other hand, AI platform notebook could be pricey if you want to keep it running (0.137 / hour and 99.89 / month for a non-gpu machine).

Before we move on, we also have to understand the differences between computation and storage on the Google AI platform. Unlike personal computers where disk space and computation are tightly integrated, they are separated on the cloud. There are machines that are responsible for computation and machines that are responsible for storage. Here, Google AI platform is responsible for the computation while the Google Cloud Storage takes care of the stored data and code. Therefore, before we start using the platform we will need to first create a storage space called bucket. This can be easily done through a one line command once you created a Google Cloud account.

If you are using Colab, you will also need to have the code for training your neural network downloaded to your Colab virtual machine. One common work flow would be to use software version control services such as Github for your code and just clone the files to Colab every time you start. It makes more sense to use Colab if you are collaborating with others or want to share how you train your model, otherwise doing everything locally might be simpler.

So the whole training process looks like this:

  1. Create a Google Cloud Project.
  2. Create a bucket where the Google AI platform can perform computations on.
  3. With a single command, upload your code to the bucket and request the AI platform to perform training.
  4. Can also perform hyper parameter tuning if needed.
  5. If you want the trained model locally, you can simply download it from the bucket through a user interface or command.

A trained model is not very useful if not used. Google AI platform provides an easy way to deploy your model as a service in the cloud. Before continuing, we should clarify some Google terminology. At Google AI platform, a “model” means an interface that solves certain tasks and a trained model is named  a “version” of this “model” (reference). In the following, quotation marks will be put around Google specific terminologies to avoid confusion.

The deployment and prediction process is then the following:

  1. Create a “model” at AI platform.
  2. Create a “version” of the “model” by providing the trained model stored in the bucket.
  3. Make predictions through one of the following approaches:
    • gcloud commands
    • Python interface
    • Java interface
    • REST API
      (the first three methods are just easier ways to generate a REST request)

And that’s all you need to grant your home made web application access to scalable deep learning prediction capability. You can run this whole process I described above through this official tutorial in Colab and more descriptions of this tutorial can be found here. I will be posting follow up posts on building specific applications on Google AI platform, so stay tuned if you are interested.

References:

  1. […] my previous post, I gave a short tutorial on how to use the Google AI platform for small garage projects. In this […]

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