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Using Apache Spark for large-scale language model training | Engineering Blog | Facebook Code

Processing large-scale data is at the heart of what the data infrastructure group does at Facebook. Over the years we have seen tremendous growth in our analytics needs, and to satisfy those needs we either have to design and build a new system or adopt an existing open source solution and improve it so it works at our scale.

For some of our batch-processing use cases we decided to use Apache Spark, a fast-growing open source data processing platform with the ability to scale with a large amount of data and support for custom user applications.

A few months ago, we shared one such use case that leveraged Spark’s declarative (SQL) support. In this post, we will describe how we used the imperative side of Spark to redesign a large-scale, complex (100+ stage) pipeline that was originally written in HQL over Hive. In particular, we will describe how to control data distribution, avoid data skew, and implement application-specific optimizations to build performant and reliable data pipelines. This new Spark-based pipeline is modular, readable, and more maintainable compared with the previous set of HQL queries. In addition to the qualitative improvements, we also observed reductions in both resource usage and data landing time.

Use case : N-gram language model training

Natural language processing is a field of artificial intelligence concerned with the interactions between computers and human languages. Computers can be trained to model a language, and these models are used to detect and correct spelling errors. The N-gram language model is the most widely used language modeling approach. An N-gram is usually written as an N-word phrase, with the first N-1 words as the history, and the last word predicted as a probability based on the N-1 previous words. For example, “Can you please come here” contains 5 words and is a 5-gram. Its history is “Can you please come.” Based on that history, an N-gram language model can compute a conditional probability of the word “here.

Large-scale, higher-order N-gram language models (e.g., N=5) have proven very effective in many applications, such as automatic speech recognition and machine translation. At Facebook, for example, this is used to automatically generate captions for videos uploaded to pages, and detecting pages with potentially low quality place names (eg. “Home sweet home,” “Apt #00, Fake lane, Foo City”).

Language models trained with large datasets have better accuracy compared with ones trained with smaller datasets. The possibility of covering ample instances of infrequent words (or N-grams) increases with a larger dataset. For training with larger dataset, distributed computing frameworks (e.g. MapReduce) are generally used for better scalability and parallelizing model training.

Source: Using Apache Spark for large-scale language model training | Engineering Blog | Facebook Code

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