Customer story

How Zencity Uses MissingLink to Run 20X More Experiments at 30% Lower Cloud Costs

How Zencity Accelerated Training from 5 to 100 Experiments Per Project

Background

Zencity’s Deep Learning Mission

Zencity develops algorithms to help cities understand citizens better and be proactive about improving their quality of life. The product enables cities to make data-driven decisions with respect to their residents by mining data about what people feel about their city and their surroundings from social media platforms and a myriad of other sources.

 

They provide a dashboard that lets city managers see what citizens are talking about with regard to the city and its services. The platform is used by over 60 cities, from small cities with a population under 15,000 to large cities like Houston and San Antonio.

The data science team uses deep learning to build algorithms that analyze millions of social media interactions per month per city, including both text and images. Many of the algorithms leverage transfer learning, using existing sentiment analysis models and extending them to understand whether a citizen is satisfied with city services or not.

Zencity has over 60 cities and 90 categories that were trained using LDA. Multiple that to understand how many models we needed.

Dr. Ori Cohen, Lead Data Scientist

The Challenge

Lacking an Infrastructure for Large-Scale Deep Learning

Zencity has a team of three data scientists, which for a long time had been spending 30% of its time on automation and DevOps tasks. They developed three Python libraries to help them manage deep learning experiments on the cloud:

  • A library to upload and download artifacts to and from the cloud
  • A library that manages hierarchical configuration data on cloud machines
  • A library to save datasets and experiment artifacts to an Azure blob

 

Ido Ivri, CTO and co-founder of Zencity, and Dr. Ori Cohen, head of the data science team, faced a major challenge: they lacked an infrastructure which would allow them to run deep learning at scale.

 

While Zencity attempted to automate the process of uploading and managing data and configuration, they still had to run experiments manually:

  • Experiments were executed by hand, with a loop to run the same experiment on multiple city datasets
  • Experiments required “babysitting”—each time an experiment ended or failed, a data scientist had to manually run another experiment
  • Expensive GPU machines experienced idle time, wasting resources
  • When a production model needed to run on some or all cities, it would run sequentially on one machine, which would take 20-30 hours

 

It was clear to Ido and Ori that they needed to find the right tools that would help them automate and manage DevOps tasks. Their current infrastructure provided only partial automation, and required a heavy investment in development and ongoing maintenance. A true deep learning automation platform would help their team to focus on data science work instead of DevOps.

 

In addition, parallelization across more machines was a crucial capability which would Zencity to run more experiments, achieve results faster and improve time to market for new models.

About 30% of data scientist time was invested in building infrastructure— which isn’t an optimal use of their time.

Ido Ivri, CTO

The Solution

Zencity Turns to MissingLink

Why did Ido and Ori decided to stop maintaining their home-grown deep learning infrastructure and instead, turn to MissingLink?

 

  1. Provides a ready-made AI infrastructure which would save data scientist time wasted on DevOps tasks
  2. Enables easily parallelization of experiments across multiple machines, while improving resource utilization
  3. Provides solid privacy and security which is essential when working with city governments
  4. Supports Microsoft Azure, enabling easy integration with Zencity clients who are also running on Azure

Zencity Uses MissingLink to Scale Up Experiments by 20X and Eliminate Manual DevOps Tasks

MissingLink allows Zencity data scientists to add experiments to a queue of jobs, and run those jobs transparently on a cluster of machines in the Microsoft Azure cloud. This enabled scaling training from 5to 100 experiments per project.

MissingLink supercharged our training, helping us accelerate from 5 to 100 experiments per project.

Ido Ivri, CTO

MissingLink also lets Ori’s team easily manage experiments. The team runs many different neural network architectures and hyperparameter variations, and in the past there was no central record of experiment results.

 

Using MissingLink Experiment Management, the team can see exactly which experiments ran, on which dataset, and which was the most successful. They can see experiments run by the entire team on one dashboard, and can also filter and search for specific experiments, and drill down to see detailed metrics.

MissingLink is trying to solve one of the biggest problems in the industry. Data scientists can focus on what they do best instead of doing DevOps.

Dr. Ori Cohen, Lead Data Scientist

Why MissingLink Puts City Governments at Ease

MissingLink was designed with data privacy and security in mind. Zencity deals with sensitive personal data taken from social networks, they anonymize data to remove personally identifiable information, and still have to ensure data remains private.

 

MissingLink ensures the data stays with Zencity and is never accessed or transferred by any third party, including the MissingLink platform. MissingLink doesn’t have direct access to the deep learning datasets—it only runs the experiments, with data always staying within Zencity’s cloud account.

Data privacy is where MissingLink shines, because they don’t touch our data. They only run the experiments.

Ido Ivri, CTO

Another reason Ido and Ori chose MissingLink is its integration with the Microsoft Azure cloud.  City governments make heavy use of Azure cloud apps like Office, Outlook, PowerBI and Dynamics 365, and Zencity integrates with these tools.

 

MissingLink lets Zencity manage clusters of Azure machines, define jobs and automatically run them on the machines. Data scientists can deploy successful experiments with the click of a button.

 

MissingLink provides two other benefits on Azure:

  • Automation—saving time by running multiple experiments in the cloud seamlessly, with no manual labor by data scientists.
  • Resource optimization—experiments run on GPU machines which are expensive, and MissingLink utilizes all machines to the max, and shuts them down cleanly when experiments end.
Being able to automatically run more experiments or shut down the virtual machine saves us a lot of money.

Ido Ivri, CTO

The Results

Delivering on the Promise of Data-Driven Decisions for Cities

In only a few months, MissingLink helped Ido and Ori from Zencity achieve these results:

 

  • Accelerating training from 5 to 100 experiments per project
  • Freeing up 30% of data science team’s bandwidth spent on DevOps
  • Saving 30% of costs when running experiments on Azure

Final Thoughts

Zencity is trying to make the world better, helping cities uncover insights that improve citizen life. MissingLink has helped Ido and Ori supercharge the deep learning process, dramatically improve time to market of new models and product features, and slash costs.

 

These results show that managing deep learning DevOps manually is simply not a viable option, and that automation and scalability are key capabilities that any AI company should adopt to meet customer expectations.

“MissingLink enables us to supercharge the learning process and deliver our promise of data driven decision making to cities everywhere.

Ido Ivri, CTO

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Train Deep Learning Models 20X Faster

Let us show you how you can:

  • Run experiments across hundreds of machines
  • Easily collaborate with your team on experiments
  • Reproduce experiments with one click
  • Save time and immediately understand what works and what doesn’t

MissingLink is the most comprehensive deep learning platform to manage experiments, data, and resources more frequently, at scale and with greater confidence.

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