Creating a GPU container image for scoring with Azure Machine Learning

In a previous post, I discussed how you can add an existing Kubernetes cluster to an Azure Machine Learning workspace. Adding an existing cluster is necessary when the workspace does not support auto creation of a cluster. That is the case when you want to use the Standard_NC6s_v3 virtual machine image. I also used a container for scoring pictures with the ResNet50v2 model from the ONNX Model Zoo. Now we will take a look at actually creating that container image with GPU support. Note that in many cases, inference with CPUs is more than sufficient but the GPU case is more interesting to look at!

To get started, you need an Azure subscription with an Azure Machine Learning workspace. Take a look here for instructions.

Once you have a workspace, there are a few steps to take. If you look at the diagram at the top of this post, we will perform the steps starting from Register and manage your model:

  • Register model: we will add the Resnet50v2 model from the ONNX Model Zoo; we are using this existing model instead of our own; ResNet50v2 can recognize pictures in 1000 categories
  • Create container image: from the model in the workspace, we create a container image with GPU support
  • Deploy container image: from the image in the workspace, we deploy the image to compute that supports GPUs

Machine Learning SDK

The Azure Machine Learning service has a Machine Learning SDK for Python. All the steps discussed above can be performed with code. You can find an example of the Python code to use in the following Jupyter notebook hosted on Azure Notebooks: https://gebaml-geba.notebooks.azure.com/j/notebooks/ONNXResnet.ipynb. Note that the Azure Notebooks service is still in preview and a bit rough around the edges. The Machine Learning SDK is available by default in Azure Notebooks.

At the beginning of the notebook, we import azureml.core which allows you to check the version of the SDK (among other things):

Registering the model

First, we download the model to the notebook project. In the notebook, the urllib module is used to download the compressed version of the ResNet50v2 model. The tarball is untarred in resnet50v2/resnet50v2.onnx. You should see the model as a complex function with, in this case, millions of parameters (weights). The input to the function are the pixels of your picture (their red, green and blue values). The output of the function is a category: cat, guitar, …

Now that we have the model, we need to add it to the workspace, which means we also have to authenticate. Create a file called config.json with the following contents:

{
"subscription_id": "your Azure subscription ID", "resource_group": "your Azure ML resource group",
"workspace_name": "your Azure ML workspace name"
}

With the Workspace class from azureml.core we authenticate to Azure and grab a reference to the workspace with the ws variable. The Workspace.from_config() function searches for the config.json file.

Now we can finally register the model in the workspace using Model.register:

The above is the same as adding a model using the Azure Portal. You might hit file upload limits in the portal so adding the model via code is the better approach. Your model is now registered in the workspace:

Creating a GPU container image from the model

Now that we have the model, we can create the container image. The model will be included in the image which will add about 100MB to its size. The container image in Azure Machine Learning is created from four settings/artifacts:

  • model: registered in the workspace
  • score file: a file score.py with an init() and run() function; helper functions can also be included
  • dependency file: used to indicate the Python modules that need to be installed in the image (see https://conda.io/docs/)
  • GPU support: set to True or False

You will find the score file in the notebook. It was copied from a Microsoft supplied sample. If you do not have some experience with Machine Learning and neural networks (in this case), it will be difficult to create this from scratch. The ResNet50v2 model expects a 4-dimensional tensor with the following dimensions:

  • 0: batch (1 when you send 1 image)
  • 1: channels (3 channels for red, green and blue; RGB)
  • 2: height (224 pixels)
  • 3: width (224 pixels)

For inference, you will actually send the above data in a JSON payload as the data field. The preprocess() function in score.py grabs the data field and converts it to a NumPy array. The data is then normalized by dividing each pixel by 255, subtracting the mean values (of each channel) and dividing by the standard deviation (of each channel) . The normalized data is then sent to the model which outputs an array with 1000 probabilities that sum to 1 (via a softmax function).

Why are there a thousand probabilities? The model was trained on a thousand different categories of images and for each of these categories, a probability is output. After inference we will need a list of these categories so we can find the one that matches with our uploaded image and that has the highest probability!

This particular score.py file uses the ONNX runtime for inference. To enable GPU support, make sure you include the onnxruntime-gpu package in your conda dependencies as shown below:

With score.py and myenv.yml, the container image with GPU support can be created. Note that we are specifying the score.py file, the conda file and the model. GPU support is enabled as well via enable_gpu=True.

The code above should result in the following image in your workspace (after several minutes of building):

In the background, this image is stored in the container registry that got created when you deployed the Azure Machine Learning workspace. You are now ready for the third step, deploying the image to compute that supports GPUs (for instance Kubernetes). That step, together with some code to actually recognize images, will be for another post. In that post, we will also compare CPU to GPU speed.

Conclusion

In this post, we looked at creating a scoring (inference) container image with GPU support. Instead of creating and using our own model, we used the ResNet50v2 model from the ONNX Model Zoo. The model file, together with a score.py file and conda dependency file was used to build a container image. Azure Machine Learning builds the container image for you and stores it in a container registry. Although Azure Machine Learning takes care of most of the infrastructure work, you still need to know how to write the scoring file. In this post, the scoring file uses the ONNX runtime but you can use other runtimes or frameworks such as TensorFlow or MXNET.