LLMs and the Emerging ML Tech Stack

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Authors: Harrison Chase and Brian Raymond

The pace of development within the Large Language Model (LLM) space has exploded over the past several months and some of the interesting storylines has been the rapid shift toward a latest tech stack to support a completely latest engagement pattern with these language models. On this blog post, we are going to explore the changes which might be happening within the LLM tech stack and what it means for developers.

Until recently, NLP developers have relied on a tech stack optimized for NLP tasks like text classification, Named Entity Recognition, Named Entity Disambiguation. This tech stack generally consists of an information preprocessing pipeline, a machine learning pipeline, and various databases to store embeddings and structured data. This architecture worked well to generate vast amounts of triples, word embeddings, sentence embeddings, sequence-to-sequence outputs, language model probabilities, attention weights, and more. Developers typically would store these structured outputs in ElasticSearch, Postgres, or Neo4j databases, which they’d utilize as a knowledge graph that users (or services) could query.

This architecture worked well for producing highly reliable structured data that could possibly be deployed inside enterprise systems to automate key processes (e.g. classify documents, find entities and the relations amongst entities, etc.). Nevertheless, they struggled to achieve widespread adoption because they were slow to get up (required large amounts of labeled data and quite a little bit of model wonderful tuning); expensive to run (often these architectures would have greater than three dozen models in a pipeline/system); and the ingestion and model pipelines were brittle to latest document layouts and data types.

Because the fall of 2022, a latest tech stack has begun to emerge that’s designed to take advantage of the complete potential of LLMs. In contrast to the previous tech stack, this one is geared toward enabling text generation — the duty that modern LLMs are most notably good at in comparison with earlier machine learning models. This latest stack consists of 4 pillars: an information preprocessing pipeline, embeddings endpoint + vector store, LLM endpoints, and an LLM programming framework. There are several large differences between the older tech stack and the brand new one. First: the brand new tech stack isn’t as reliant on knowledge graphs that store structured data (e.g. triples) because LLMs equivalent to ChatGPT, Claude, and Flan T-5 have much more information encoded into them than earlier models equivalent to GPT 2. Second: the newer tech stack uses an off-the-shelf LLM endpoint because the model, slightly than a custom built ML pipeline (a minimum of to start). Which means developers today are spending far less time training specialized information extraction models (e.g. Named Entity Recognition, Relation Extraction, and Sentiment) and may spin up solutions in a fraction of the time (and price).

: The primary pillar of the brand new tech stack is essentially unchanged from the older stack: the info preprocessing pipeline. This step includes connectors to ingest data wherever it might reside (e.g. S3 bucket or a CRM), an information transformation layer, and downstream connectors (e.g. to a vector database). Often the most dear information to feed into an LLM can also be essentially the most difficult to work with (PDFs, PPTXs, HTML, etc.) but in addition documents through which the text is well accessible (.DOCX, for instance) contain information that users don’t want sent to the inference end point (e.g. advertisements, legal boilerplate, etc.).

Historically this step was hand built specific for every application by data scientists. Depending on the forms of data involved, they may use off-the-shelf OCR models and dozens to a whole bunch of custom regular expressions to remodel and clean natural language data for processing in a downstream machine learning pipeline. At Unstructured we’re developing open source tools to speed up this preprocessing step, utilizing a spread of computer vision document segmentation models, in addition to NLP models, Python scripts, and regular expressions to robotically extract, clean, and transform critical document elements (e.g. headlines, body text, headers/footers, lists, and more). We’re currently working on the following generation of tooling to make it easy for developers to point large and highly heterogeneous corpus of files containing natural language data (e.g. an S3 bucket containing 1000’s of PDFs, PPTXs, chat logs, scraped HTML, etc.) at a single API endpoint and receive clean JSON ready for an embedding endpoint and storage in a vector database.

The usage of an embeddings endpoint and vector store represents a major evolution in how data is stored and accessed. Previously embeddings were largely used for area of interest tasks equivalent to document clustering. Nevertheless, in the brand new architecture, storing documents and their embeddings in a vector database enables critical engagement patterns by the LLM endpoint (more on that below). One among the first benefits of this architecture is the flexibility to store raw embeddings directly, slightly than converting them to a structured format. Which means the info might be stored in its natural format, allowing for faster processing times and more efficient data retrieval. Moreover, this approach could make it easier to work with large datasets, as it may well reduce the quantity of information that should be processed during training and inference.

Generating and storing document embeddings, together with JSON versions of the documents themselves, creates a simple mechanism for the LLM to interface with the vector store. This is especially useful for applications where real-time processing is required, equivalent to chatbots. By minimizing the time required for data retrieval, the system can respond more quickly and supply a greater user experience. One other advantage of using the embeddings (and document index) and vector store is that it may well make it easier to implement techniques equivalent to transfer learning, to enable more efficient wonderful tuning and higher performance.

: The third pillar of the brand new tech stack is the LLM endpoint. That is the endpoint that receives input data and produces LLM output. The LLM endpoint is chargeable for managing the model’s resources, including memory and compute, and for providing a scalable and fault-tolerant interface for serving LLM output to downstream applications.

Although most LLM providers offer several several types of endpoints, we use this to seek advice from the text-generation endpoints. As covered above, that is the brand new technological unlock that’s powering quite a lot of the emergent applications (in comparison with more traditional ML pipelines). It’s a little bit of a simplification, however the interface these LLM endpoints expose is a text field as an input and a text field as an output.

: The ultimate pillar of the brand new tech stack is an LLM programming framework. These frameworks provide a set of tools and abstractions for constructing applications with language models. At LangChain, this is strictly the framework we’re working on constructing. These frameworks are rapidly evolving, which might make them tough to define. Still, we’re converging on a set of abstractions, which we go into detail below.

A big function of those frameworks is orchestrating all the assorted components. In the fashionable stack to this point, the forms of components we’ve seen emerging are: LLM providers (covered in section above), Embedding models, vectorstores, document loaders, other external tools (google search, etc). In LangChain, we seek advice from ways of mixing these components as chains. For instance, now we have chains for doing QA over a vector store, chains for interacting with SQL databases, etc.

All of those chains involve calling the language model sooner or later. When calling the language model, the first challenge comes from constructing the prompt to pass to the language model. These prompts are sometimes a mix of knowledge taken from other components plus a base prompt template. LangChain provides a bunch of default prompt templates for getting began with these chains, but we’re also focused on constructing out the LangChainHub — a spot for users to share these prompts.

Immediately, everyone is essentially using vectorstores as the first solution to index data such that LLMs can interact with it. Nevertheless, that is just the primary pass at defining how these interactions should work. An area of energetic exploration is the extent to which knowledge graphs, coupled with document indexes and their embeddings, can further enhance the standard of inferences from LLMs. Moreover, for the foreseeable future most enterprises will proceed to require prime quality structured data (typically in a graph database) to fuse with existing datasets and business intelligence solutions. Which means for the medium-term, enterprise adopters may very well depend on each vector in addition to graph databases to power existing applications and workflows.

Immediately, LLM programming frameworks like LangChain are getting used to mix your individual data with a pretrained LLM. One other solution to do that is to finetune the LLM in your data. Finetuning has some pros and cons. On the plus side, it reduces the necessity for quite a lot of this orchestration. On the downside, nonetheless, it’s more costly and time consuming to get right, and requires doing it periodically to maintain up up to now. It’s going to be interesting to see how these tradeoffs evolve over time.

Even when the first usage pattern stays keeping your data in an external database, slightly than finetuning on it, there are other ways to mix it with LLMs slightly than the present approaches (which all involve passing it into the prompt). Most enjoyable are approaches like RETRO, which fetch embeddings for documents but then attend directly over those embeddings slightly than passing the text in as prompts. While these models have mostly been utilized in research settings, it is going to be interesting to see in the event that they make it mainstream and the way this affects LLM programming frameworks.

The shift towards this latest LLM tech stack is an exciting development that may enable developers to construct and deploy more powerful NLP applications. The brand new stack is more efficient, scalable, and easier to make use of than the old stack, and it unlocks the complete potential of LLMs. We are able to expect to see more innovations on this space in the approaching months and years as developers proceed to seek out latest ways to harness the facility of LLMs.

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