The Tech Files: Pushing Jupyter Notebooks to Production
Learn how one company embarked upon their data science journey to incorporate recommendation algorithms into their client-facing product.
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No one can deny how large the online support community for data science is. Today, it’s possible to teach yourself Python and other programming languages in a matter of weeks. And if you’re ever in doubt, there’s a StackOverflow thread or something similar waiting to give you the perfect piece of code to help you.
But when it came to pushing it to production, we found very little documentation online. Most data scientists seem to work on Python notebooks in a silo. They process large volumes of data and analyze it — but within the confines of Jupyter Notebooks. And most of the resources we’ve found while growing as data scientists revolve around Jupyter Notebooks.
I began by evaluating web applications in Python. The first big name was Django, followed by Flask. After studying a few comparisons, I went ahead with Flask. Since all we wanted was to expose an API to trigger our Python code, I felt Flask was the choice, as it’s light (i.e. the package size was relatively small). I found the closest match for a flask-starter app on GitHub and cloned it.
I then read the already-written code to understand how web apps are configured in Python [requirements.txt, .cfg, etc.]. Then, I wrote the first API and ran it on local. KA-BOOM.
I downloaded the Python version of the notebook from Jupyter and structured the code into modules. I then attached it to the API that I wrote earlier, passing input variables (in our case, it was just the job configured by an employer) as a route param done with the integration. Tested it on the local and it worked!
What was now at this point was the deployment. Okay — but how? All our other mircoservices are running in Docker containers. So, I decided to find a way to dockerize the Flask application. But what struck me was that given our requirements and volume, we didn’t need an application to run 24/7. Since this is our first version of a recommendation engine, it was a fairly simple algorithm that, when benchmarked was always under 30s. I felt this was the perfect use case for a serverless architecture.
I went into my AWS console and opened Lambda but had no idea where to begin. Lambda has a single handler function inside which all your code should run. Writing the code on the Lambda console wouldn’t work for us, as we had external dependencies. I came across Zappa to deploy Flask apps on AWS Lambda. The entire infrastructure management is auto-configured. After reading the readme file, I was amazed at its applications and capability.
Zappa needs a virtual environment to auto-package your dependencies, as any Python web app has requirements.txt with all your dependencies. Follow the instruction of Zappa and you might get stuck at configuring roles on AWS. Here's a tutorial on how to deploy Flask-ask skills to AWS Lambda with Zappa.
In my application, Zappa creates the API gateway and registers the Lambda function routes the log to CloudWatch. All of this setup is done automatically. You could listen to all events in AWS and trigger code execution based on events like s3 file upload, message queue, or cron job.
What We Learned
Moving Jupyter Notebooks to production is now a lot easier using Zappa. Once you are ready for the next step of updating to your code, all you have to do is to run
zappa update. Keep in mind that the cost spent on the productionizing is pretty low since Amazon provide one million requests per month for free.
Here is an example to get started with deploying data science models. We take the example of the veteran IRIS dataset. We shall experiment, build, and deploy the best model and also perform prediction on the new data points.
All you have to do is:
Create an interface to auto-convert your Jupyter Notebook to Python applications at scale.
Create a Jenkins pipeline to trigger deployment upon code commit.
Check out this tutorial on how to embed Jupyter Notebooks into your Python application.
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