The best machine learning and deep learning libraries

Why TensorFlow, Spark MLlib, Scikit-learn, PyTorch, MXNet, and Keras shine for building and training machine learning and deep learning models

At a Glance

If you’re starting a new machine learning or deep learning project, you may be confused about which framework to choose. As we’ll discuss, there are several good options for both kinds of projects.

There is a difference between a machine learning framework and a deep learning framework. Essentially, a machine learning framework covers a variety of learning methods for classification, regression, clustering, anomaly detection, and data preparation, and may or may not include neural network methods.

A deep learning or deep neural network framework covers a variety of neural network topologies with many hidden layers. Keras, MXNet, PyTorch, and TensorFlow are deep learning frameworks. Scikit-learn and Spark MLlib are machine learning frameworks. (Click any of the previous links to read my stand-alone review of the product.)

In general, deep neural network computations run much faster on a GPU (specifically an Nvidia CUDA general-purpose GPU), TPU, or FPGA, rather than on a CPU. In general, simpler machine learning methods don’t benefit from a GPU.

While you can train deep neural networks on one or more CPUs, the training tends to be slow, and by slow I’m not talking about seconds or minutes. The more neurons and layers that need to be trained, and the more data available for training, the longer it takes. When the Google Brain team trained its language translation models for the new version of Google Translate in 2016, they ran their training sessions for a week at a time, on multiple GPUs. Without GPUs, each model training experiment would have taken months.

Since then, the Intel Math Kernel Library (MKL) has made it possible to train some neural networks on CPUs in a reasonable amount of time. Meanwhile GPUs, TPUs, and FPGAs have gotten even faster.

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