How MLOps Can Help Get AI Projects to Deployment

Content By Devops .com

Did you know that most AI projects never get fully deployed? In fact, a recent survey by NewVantage Partners revealed that only 15% of leading enterprises have gotten any AI into production at all. Unfortunately, many models get built and trained, but never make it to business scenarios where they can provide insights and value. This gap – deemed the production gap – leaves models unable to be used, wastes resources and stops AI ROI in its tracks. But it’s not the technology that is holding things back. In most cases, the barriers to businesses and organizations becoming data-driven can be reduced to three things: people, process and culture. So, the question is, how can we overcome these challenges and start getting real value from AI? To overcome this production gap and finally get ROI from their AI, enterprises must consider formalizing an MLOps strategy.

MLOps, or machine learning operations, refers to the culmination of people, processes, practices and underpinning technologies that automate the deployment, monitoring and management of machine learning models into production in a scalable, fully governed way. Laying an MLOps foundation allows data, development and production teams to work collaboratively and leverage automation to deploy, monitor, manage and govern machine learning services and initiatives within an organization. In short, MLOps can help enterprises see AI projects through to deployment at scale by addressing the three previously mentioned barriers: people, process and culture.

People

There’s a skill, motivation and incentive gap between teams developing machine learning models (data scientists), operators of those models (DevOps, software developers, IT, etc.), and the business leaders who look for the results of that work. By providing actionable visibility into the different steps of the machine learning model life cycle for these different roles, MLOps can increase collaboration across departments so that enterprises can streamline the process of getting models operational and finally meet strategic goals.

Process

Operations teams are geared towards ensuring overall quality of service, optimizing runtime environments on their cloud, resource management and role-based access, among many other tasks. Data science teams are often unaware of the considerations these dependencies require, and, hence, models they create do not take these tasks into consideration. Additionally, lack of a proper native governance structure as it pertains to machine learning models – with system, performance, life cycle, and user logs – stifles troubleshooting, as well as hinders legal and regulatory reporting. Organizations that don’t properly monitor their models end up introducing potential risk to their organizations. When production models don’t reflect the ever-changing patterns in data and user behavior, these factors may affect the accuracy and overall performance of the model. Machine learning-based applications are far more sensitive to production environments than typical software applications. Therefore, machine learning models need to be validated and updated over time to ensure that they’re performing properly and leveraging the most accurate and recent data. As part of implementing an MLOps strategy, by having the right monitoring processes in place to detect drift – and many other machine learning-specific metrics – enterprises can ensure their models are delivering the most accurate results, and that their projects are more likely to move forward.

Culture

Fear of failure (or worse) can delay organizations from collaborating to operationalize machine learning models, or prevent this entirely. Leadership needs to be clear about their commitment to the process and fully support teams in enduring the hardships involved. This is only compounded by the fact that machine learning applications typically tend to involve processes that might introduce material risk to the company. To stay on top of such transformations while still producing trustworthy value, enterprises must keep careful tabs on all model deployment processes and the updates they entail. Many operations professionals are not aware of the unique characteristics and sensitivities of machine learning. As their role is focused on managing mission-critical production environments, they are often solely concerned with the implications on their work that deploying machine learning into production might have. While these are justifiable concerns, in the final analysis, they serve as trivial reasons for significant delays in progress and deployment. The way to mitigate all these risks and get all teams aligned around these common goals is to implement a solid MLOps strategy that matches the goals and unique position of the organization and its various teams’ responsibilities.

MLOps: All Systems Go

MLOps allows organizations to alleviate the people, process and culture issues posed by machine learning. MLOps provides a strategy and a set of processes and best practices, a technological backbone, for managing and scaling machine learning-based services through automation. It also provides for seamless collaboration between the data science teams responsible for generating models with the teams that are accountable for running the services in production environments. This combination of process automation with role-based collaboration and governance capabilities helps pave the way toward strategic AI goals. Specifically, MLOps can help organizations move from anticipating the management and scaling of machine learning services into production and turn that into reality.

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