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Module: tf.data.experimental.service

API for using the tf.data service.

This module contains:

  1. tf.data server implementations for running the tf.data service.
  2. A distribute dataset transformation that moves a dataset's preprocessing to happen in the tf.data service.

The tf.data service offers a way to improve training speed when the host attached to a training device can't keep up with the data consumption of the model. For example, suppose a host can generate 100 examples/second, but the model can process 200 examples/second. Training speed could be doubled by using the tf.data service to generate 200 examples/second.

Before using the tf.data service

There are a few things to do before using the tf.data service to speed up training.

Understand processing_mode

The tf.data service uses a cluster of workers to prepare data for training your model. The processing_mode argument to tf.data.experimental.service.distribute describes how to leverage multiple workers to process the input dataset. Currently, there are two processing modes to choose from: "distributed_epoch" and "parallel_epochs".

"distributed_epoch" means that the dataset will be split across all tf.data service workers. The dispatcher produces "splits" for the dataset and sends them to workers for further processing. For example, if a dataset begins with a list of filenames, the dispatcher will iterate through the filenames and send the filenames to tf.data workers, which will perform the rest of the dataset transformations on those files. "distributed_epoch" is useful when your model needs to see each element of the dataset exactly once, or if it needs to see the data in a generally-sequential order. "distributed_epoch" only works for datasets with splittable sources, such as Dataset.from_tensor_slices, Dataset.list_files, or Dataset.range.

"parallel_epochs" means that the entire input dataset will be processed independently by each of the tf.data service workers. For this reason, it is important to shuffle data (e.g. filenames) non-deterministically, so that each worker will process the elements of the dataset in a different order. "parallel_epochs" can be used to distribute datasets that aren't splittable.

Measure potential impact

Before using the tf.data service, it is useful to first measure the potential performance improvement. To do this, add

dataset = dataset.take(1).cache().repeat()

at the end of your dataset, and see how it affects your model's step time. take(1).cache().repeat() will cache the first element of your dataset and produce it repeatedly. This should make the dataset very fast, so that the model becomes the bottleneck and you can identify the ideal model speed. With enough workers, the tf.data service should be able to achieve similar speed.

Running the tf.data service

tf.data servers should be brought up alongside your training jobs, and brought down when the jobs are finished. The tf.data service uses one DispatchServer and any number of WorkerServers. See https://github.com/tensorflow/ecosystem/tree/master/data_service for an example of using Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) to manage the tf.data service. The server implementation in tf_std_data_server.py is not GKE-specific, and can be used to run the tf.data service in other contexts.

Fault tolerance

By default, the tf.data dispatch server stores its state in-memory, making it a single point of failure during training. To avoid this, pass fault_tolerant_mode=True when creating your DispatchServer. Dispatcher fault tolerance requires work_dir to be configured and accessible from the dispatcher both before and after restart (e.g. a GCS path). With fault tolerant mode enabled, the dispatcher will journal its state to the work directory so that no state is lost when the dispatcher is restarted.

WorkerServers may be freely restarted, added, or removed during training. At startup, workers will register with the dispatcher and begin processing all outstanding jobs from the beginning.

Using the tf.data service from your training job

Once you have a tf.data service cluster running, take note of the dispatcher IP address and port. To connect to the service, you will use a string in the format "grpc://:".

# Create the dataset however you were before using the tf.data service.
dataset = your_dataset_factory()

service = "grpc://{}:{}".format(dispatcher_address, dispatcher_port)
# This will register the dataset with the tf.data service cluster so that
# tf.data workers can run the dataset to produce elements. The dataset returned
# from applying `distribute` will fetch elements produced by tf.data workers.
dataset = dataset.apply(tf.data.experimental.service.distribute(
    processing_mode="parallel_epochs", service=service))

Below is a toy example that you can run yourself.

dispatcher = tf.data.experimental.service.DispatchServer()
dispatcher_address = dispatcher.target.split("://")[1]
worker = tf.data.experimental.service.WorkerServer(
dataset = tf.data.Dataset.range(10)
dataset = dataset.apply(tf.data.experimental.service.distribute(
    processing_mode="parallel_epochs", service=dispatcher.target))
[0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]

See the documentation of tf.data.experimental.service.distribute for more details about using the distribute transformation.


class DispatchServer: An in-process tf.data service dispatch server.

class DispatcherConfig: Configuration class for tf.data service dispatchers.

class WorkerConfig: Configuration class for tf.data service dispatchers.

class WorkerServer: An in-process tf.data service worker server.


distribute(...): A transformation that moves dataset processing to the tf.data service.

from_dataset_id(...): Creates a dataset which reads data from the tf.data service.

register_dataset(...): Registers a dataset with the tf.data service.