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HomeBlogData ScienceTensorFlow vs PyTorch: Deep Learning Frameworks [2024]

TensorFlow vs PyTorch: Deep Learning Frameworks [2024]

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26th Dec, 2023
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    TensorFlow vs PyTorch: Deep Learning Frameworks [2024]

    As technology is evolving rapidly today, both Predictive Analytics and Machine Learning are imbibed in most business operations and have proved to be quite integral. Deep learning is a machine learning type based on artificial neural networks (ANN). For many applications, shallow machine learning models and traditional data analysis approaches fail to reach the performance of deep learning models. Sharpen your skills with these online Data Science courses and learn to tackle complex Data Science problems.  

    Some of the common deep learning architectures include Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs), Long Short Term Memory (LSTM), Gated Recurrent Unit (GRU), Deep Belief Networks (DBN) and Deep Stacking Networks (DSN). This has been applied to Computer Vision (CV), audio and speech recognition and Natural Language Processing (NLP) use cases. 

    Deep learning (DL) frameworks offer developers, researchers, and data scientists the building blocks for designing, training, and validating deep neural networks through a high-level programming interface. These frameworks provide superior performance and better management of dependencies. Today, we have numerous frameworks at our disposal that allow us to develop compact and robust tools that can offer a better abstraction and simplify difficult programming challenges.   

    What is PyTorch? 

    From the definition as per the official websitePyTorch is an open-source machine learning framework that accelerates the path from research prototyping to production deployment. It is a development tool that removes cognitive overhead involved in building, training and deploying neural networks.  

    The PyTorch framework runs on Python and is based on the Torch library (Lua-based deep learning framework). Adam Paszke, Sam Gross, Soumith Chintala, and Gregory Chanan authored PyTorch, and Meta AI primarily develops it. Given the PyTorch framework’s architectural style, one can tell the entire deep modeling process is far more transparent and straightforward when compared with Torch. 

    What is TensorFlow? 

    As per the definition from the official websiteTensorFlow is an end-to-end open-source platform for machine learning. It has a comprehensive, flexible ecosystem of tools, libraries and community resources that lets researchers push the state-of-the-art in ML and developers easily build and deploy ML-powered applications. TensorFlow is by far one of the most popular deep learning frameworks. It is developed by Google Brain and supports languages like Python, C++ and R.  

    TensorFlow uses dataflow graphs to process data. Nodes in the graph represent mathematical operations, while the graph edges represent the multidimensional data arrays (tensors) that flow between them. As you build these neural networks, you can look at how the data flows through the neural network.   

    PyTorch vs TensorFlow: Head-to-Head Comparison 

    Is PyTorch better than TensorFlow? Let us see the point of differences between the two.  

    ParametersTensorFlowPyTorch
    Programming LanguageWritten in Python, C++ and CUDAWritten in Python, C++, CUDA and is based on Torch (written in Lua)
    DeveloperGoogleFacebook (now Meta AI)
    GraphsEarlier TensorFlow 1.0 was based on the static graph. TensorFlow 2.0 with Keras integrated also supports dynamic graphs using eager executionDynamic
    API LevelHigh and LowLow
    InstallationComplex GPU installationSimple GPU installation
    DebuggingDifficult to conduct debugging and requires the TensorFlow debugger toolEasy to debug as it uses dynamic computational process.
    ArchitectureTensorFlow is difficult to use/implement but with Keras, it becomes bit easier.Complex and difficult to read and understand.
    Learning CurveSteep and bit difficult to learnEasy to learn.
    Distributed TrainingTo allow distributed training, you must code manually and optimize every operation run on a specific device.By relying on native support for asynchronous execution through Python it gains optimal performance in the area of data parallelism  
    APIs for Deployment/Serving FrameworkTensorFlow serving.TorchServe
    Key DifferentiatorEasy-to-develop modelsHighly “Pythonic” and focuses on usability with careful performance considerations.
    Eco SystemWidely used at the production level in IndustryPyTorch is more popular in the research community.  
    ToolsTensorFlow Serving, TensorFlow Extended, TF Lite, TensorFlow.js, TensorFlow Cloud, Model Garden, MediaPipe and CoralTorchVision, TorchText, TorchAudio, PyTorch-XLA, PyTorch Hub, SpeechBrain, TorchX, TorchElastic and PyTorch Lightning
    Application/UtilizationLarge-scale deploymentResearch-oriented and rapid prototype development
    PopularityThis library has garnered a lot of popularity among Deep Learning practitioners, developer community and is one of the widely used librariesIt has been gaining popularity in recent years and interest in PyTorch is growing rapidly.  It has become the go-to tool for deep learning projects that rely on optimizing custom expressions, whether it’s academia projects or industries.
    ProjectsDeepSpeech, Magenta, StellarGraphCycleGAN, FastAI, Netron

    Difference Between TensorFlow and PyTorch 

    TensorFlow and PyTorch are inarguably the two most popular Deep Learning frameworks today. Though both are open-source libraries, it might not be easy to figure out the difference between them. Both frameworks are extensively used by data scientists, ML engineers, researchers and developers in commercial code and academic research.    

    Both frameworks work on the fundamental data type called a tensor. A tensor is a multidimensional array, as shown in the below picture. 

    Source: tensorflow.org 

    There has always been a contentious debate over which framework is superior, with each camp having its share of ardent supporters. The debate landscape is ever evolving as PyTorch and TensorFlow have developed quickly over their relatively short lifetimes. It is important to note that since incomplete or outdated information is abundant, the conversation about which framework reigns premier is much more nuanced as of 2024 - let’s explore these differences in detail.  

    Just to show you a broad picture of growth in usage and demand of TensorFlow and PyTorch deep learning frameworks, Google's worldwide trend graph for the search keywords TensorFlow vs. PyTorch across the last 5 years is as below: 

    When we look at the data from Papers with Code, whose mission is to create a free and open resource with Machine Learning papers, code, datasets, methods and evaluation tables, we can observe the steady growth of papers utilizing PyTorch. Out of the 4021 repositories created this June 2022 quarter, 61% of them are implemented in PyTorch, with just 6% implemented in TensorFlow. 

    PyTorch vs TensorFlow: Performance Comparison 

    Even though both PyTorch and TensorFlow provide similar fast performance when it comes to speed, both frameworks have advantages and disadvantages in specific scenarios.   

    The performance of Python is faster for PyTorch. Despite that, due to TensorFlow’s greater support for symbolic manipulation that allows users to perform higher-level operations, programming models can be less flexible in PyTorch as compared to TensorFlow. 

    In general, for most cases, because of its ability to take advantage of any GPU(s) connected to your system, TensorFlow should ideally provide better performance than PyTorch. Training deep learning models using Autograd that require significantly less memory is one of the exceptions where PyTorch performs better than TensorFlow in terms of training times.   

    The following benchmark shows that TensorFlow exhibits better training performance on CNN models, while PyTorch is better on BERT and RNN models (except for GNMT). Looking at the difference % column, it is noticeable that the performance between TensorFlow and PyTorch is very close. 

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    PyTorch vs TensorFlow: Training Time and Memory Usage 

    For PyTorch and TensorFlow, time taken for training and memory usage vary based on the dataset used for training, device type and neural network architecture.    

    We can observe from the diagram below that the training time for PyTorch is significantly higher than TensorFlow on the CPU.

    Sou 

    Source

    From the below diagram, we can see that for CNN architecture training time for PyTorch is significantly higher than TensorFlow on GPU. But, for LSTM architecture, except for “Many things” dataset, training time for PyTorch is significantly lower than TensorFlow on GPU.

    As we can see from the following diagram, memory consumption is slightly higher for PyTorch on CPU compared to that of TensorFlow. 

    And as we can see from the following diagram, memory consumption is significantly higher for TensorFlow on GPU compared to that of PyTorch.
     

    PyTorch vs TensorFlow: Accuracy 

    For a good number of models, the best possible accuracy attained during training can be the same for PyTorch and TensorFlow for a given model. But hyperparameters used could be different between these frameworks including parameters such as number of epochs, training time, etc. From the below diagram, we can see that the validation accuracy of the models in both frameworks averaged about 78% after 20 epochs. 

    In Spite of all sorts of hyperparameter tuning, the best possible accuracy achieved could differ between PyTorch and TensorFlow, and one might beat another one in accuracy - for a given dataset (CIFAR, MNIST, etc.), device (CPU, GPU, TPU etc.), type of neural network (CNN, RNN, LSTM, etc.), type of CNN (Faster R-CNN, Efficientnet, etc.). These differences arise due to various reasons including optimization methods, backend libraries used, computation methods used, etc.

    From the below diagram, we can see that for MNIST, both TensorFlow and PyTorch achieve an accuracy of ~98%. While for CIFAR-10, TensorFlow achieved an accuracy of ~80%, but PyTorch could get ~72% only. For CIFAR-100, PyTorch archives ~48% but TensorFlow could score ~42% only, whereas Keras gets ~54%. 

    For the below diagram, we can observe that PyTorch experiences a significant performance jump after the 30th epochs to reach a peak accuracy of 51.4% at the 48th epochs, while TensorFlow achieves peak accuracy of 63% at the 40th epochs.  

    PyTorch vs TensorFlowDebugging 

    As PyTorch uses a standard python debugger, the user does not need to learn another debugger. Since PyTorch uses immediate execution (i.e., eager mode), it is said to be easier to use than TensorFlow when it comes to debugging. Hence in the case of PyTorch, you can use Python debugging tools such as PDB, ipdb, and PyCharm debugger.  

    For TensorFlow, there are two ways to go about debugging: you must request the variables from the session or learn the TF debugger. Either way, TensorFlow requires you to execute your code before you can debug it explicitly. You must write code for the nodes in your graph to be able to run your program in debug mode. To find the problems related to memory allocation or errors at runtime that require more advanced debugging features such as stack traces and watches, you’ll have to use TF debugger). 

    PyTorch vs TensorFlow: Mechanism: Graph Definition 

    As TensorFlow works on a static graph concept, the user must first define the computation graph and then run the machine learning model. So basically, TensorFlow has its graphs pre-constructed at the beginning of training. Next, the graph must go through compilation, executing computations against these graphs.   

    PyTorch gives an edge with its dynamic computational graph construction, which means the graph is constructed as the operations are executed. The main advantage of this approach is that - graphs can be less complex than those in other frameworks since graphs are built on demand (i.e., graphs are built by interpreting the line of code corresponding to that particular aspect of the graph). Since data doesn't need to be passed around to intermediate nodes when it's not required, complexity can be reduced here. 

    Advantages and Disadvantages of TensorFlow 

    Advantages 

    1. Data VisualizationTensorFlow provides a tool called TensorBoard that helps with the graphical visualization of data. By reducing the effort of looking at the whole code, the tool facilitates easy node debugging and effectively helps with an easy resolution of the neural network. The tool lets you see and observe multiple aspects of the machine learning model, such as the model graph and loss curve. 
    2. Compatibility: TensorFlow is compatible with many programming languages. It provides a stable Python API and APIs without a backward compatibility guarantee for languages such as Javascript, C++, and Java. It provides third-party language binding packages for C#, Haskell, Julia, MATLAB, R, Scala, Rust, OCaml, and Crystal.  
    3. Scalability: The scalability offered by TensorFlow is high as it was built to be production-ready and can easily handle large datasets.  
    4. Architectural Support: The TensorFlow architecture uses an application-specific AI accelerator called TPU (Tensor Processing Unit), which offers faster computation than that of GPUs and CPUs. Deep learning models built on top of TPUs can be easily deployed over clouds, and they work faster than the other two.  
    5. Model Building: Using intuitive high-level APIs such as Keras, the TensorFlow library allows us to build and train machine learning models with quick model iteration and easy debugging.   
    6. Deployment: Since its inception, it has been the go-to framework for deployment-oriented applications. TensorFlow, equipped with the arsenal of associated tools, makes the end-to-end Deep Learning process easy and efficient. For deployment specifically, robust tools such as TensorFlow Serving and TensorFlow Lite allow you to painlessly deploy on clouds, servers, mobile, and IoT devices.  
    7. ML Production anywhere: We can train and deploy the models in the cloud, on-premises, in the browser, or on a device, irrespective of the language the user makes use of.  
    8. Open Source: Any user can employ the TensorFlow module whenever and wherever required, as it is free of cost to anyone who wants to work with it or utilize it.  
    9. Integration and EcoSystem: TensorFlow can easily integrate with Google’s services if you use Google Cloud. For example, saving a TF Lite model onto its Firestore account and delivering the model to a mobile application. Another example is the ability to use TFLite for local AI in conjunction with Google’s Coral devices, a must-have for many industries.  

    Disadvantages 

    1. Backward Compatibility: The life of researchers is difficult with TensorFlow as there are backward compatibility issues between old research in TensorFlow 1 and new research in TensorFlow 2.  
    2. Training Loops: In TensorFlow, the procedure to create training loops is slightly complex and not very intuitive.  
    3. Frequent Updates: As TensorFlow gets updates very often, it becomes overhead for a user to maintain the project as it involves uninstallation and reinstallation from time to time so that it can bind and be blended with its latest updates.  
    4. Symbolic Loops: TensorFlow lags at providing symbolic loops for indefinite sequences. Its support for definite sequences makes it a useful resource.   
    5. Inconsistency: TensorFlow’s contents include some homonyms as names, making it difficult for users to remember to use them. Since the same name gets used for various purposes, it can get confusing more often.  
    6. Computation Speed: Benchmark tests show that TensorFlow lags in computation speed compared to its competitors. Also, it has less usability in comparison to other frameworks.  

    Advantages and Disadvantages of PyTorch 

    Advantages 

    1. Pythonic in Nature: Most of the code deployed in PyTorch is pythonic, which means the procedural coding is similar to most of the elements of Python. PyTorch smoothly integrates with the python data science stack. PyTorch functionalities can easily be implemented with other libraries such as Numpy, Scipy, and Cython.  
    2. Ease of Use and Flexibility: PyTorch is very simple and provides easy-to-use APIs. PyTorch is constructed in a way that is intuitive to understand and easy to develop machine learning projects.  
    3. Easier to Learn: PyTorch is relatively easier to learn than other deep learning frameworks, as its syntax is similar to conventional programming languages like Python.  
    4. Dynamic Computation Graph: PyTorch supports Dynamic Graphs. This feature is especially useful for changing the network behavior programmatically at runtime. When you cannot pre-determine the allocation of memory or other details for the particular computation, dynamically created graphs are most useful.  
    5. Documentation: PyTorch’s documentation is very organized and helpful for beginners, and it is kept up to date with the PyTorch releases. PyTorch has one of the best documentations that is helpful to get a hold of a majority of the essential concepts. They have a detailed description where one can understand most of the core topics such as torch.Tensor, torch.autograd, Tensor Attributes, Tensor Views, and so much more. 
    6. Model Availability: Since PyTorch currently dominates the research landscape and the community has widely adopted it, most publications/available models use PyTorch.  
    7. Community Support: PyTorch has a very active community and forums (discuss.PyTorch.org). Apart from the default documentation, the entire community highly supports PyTorch and related projects. Working, sharing, and developing PyTorch projects is easier while working on a research project. 

    Disadvantages 

    1. Visualization Techniques: PyTorch does not have as great an option for visualization, and developers can connect externally to TensorBoard or use one of the existing Python data visualization tools.  
    2. Model Serving in Production: For PyTorch serving, even though we have TorchServe, which is easy to use and flexible, it does not have the same compactness as its TensorFlow counterpart. In terms of serving in production, PyTorch has a long way to go before it can compete with the superior deployment tool. While this will change in the future, other frameworks have been more widely used for real production work.  
    3. Not as extensive as TensorFlow: The development of actual applications might involve converting the PyTorch code or model into another framework, as PyTorch is not an end-to-end machine learning development tool. 

    Which is Better PyTorch or TensorFlow? 

    The debate on which one is better in PyTorch vs. TensorFlow does not have a single correct answer. It is more sensible to say that one framework is superior or preferable to another with respect to a specific use case.  

    Even though both are state-of-the-art deep learning frameworks, there are some key distinctions to consider between TensorFlow and PyTorch. PyTorch supports dynamic computation graphs and is easier to use in general. TensorFlow is more mature with a larger number of libraries, but it may require additional time to learn and understand the concepts.  

    It's important to decide what you're trying to accomplish in your deep learning projects before choosing a specific deep learning framework. If the objective is to have a fast-learning framework that doesn't require as much work, then mostly PyTorch is suited for that scenario. If the intent is to have a production-ready framework that can support heavy calculations, then maybe TensorFlow is the ideal choice. 

    1. For a Researcher 

    PyTorch is the de facto research framework; hence most SOTA (state-of-the-art) models are available on PyTorch. So, if you are a researcher, you are certainly using PyTorch; for now, you should continue using it. PyTorch is equipped with features essential for research-oriented developers looking for a quick start on their projects. These features include great GPU capabilities, an easy-to-use API, scalability, and excellent debugging tools.

    There are a few known exceptions to this rule, the most important one being that those in RL (Reinforcement Learning) should consider using TensorFlow. The reason is that TensorFlow has a native agent's library for RL, and also DeepMind’s RL research framework Acme is also implemented in TensorFlow.

    2. For an Industry Professional 

    If your work involves Deep Learning engineering in an industry setting, maybe you’re using TensorFlow and should probably continue with it for now. For those who want to productionize models, TensorFlow’s robust deployment framework and end-to-end TensorFlow Extended platform are invaluable. However, due to its higher level of abstraction, it takes longer to learn how to code with TensorFlow. Hence more knowledge about computer science and engineering is required for TensorFlow.  

    If you have a good reason, such as a need to access SOTA models that are only available in PyTorch, with the recent release of TorchServe, you can consider using PyTorch. But in this case, in order to deploy a converted PyTorch model within TensorFlow’s deployment workflows, you may have to employ ONNX.  

    Suppose you’re working on building applications for IoT (Internet of Things) devices or embedded systems that utilize machine learning or deep learning. In that case, you should be using TensorFlow, given the TFLite + Coral pipeline. If you are working on building mobile applications, you can prefer to use PyTorch, given the recent release of PyTorch Live, unless you require video or audio input; in that case, you should be using TensorFlow.   

    3. For a Beginner 

    Wondering PyTorch vs TensorFlow for beginners, which one to choose? If you’re a beginner interested in learning Deep Learning and want to get started quickly, you can use Keras (that’s part of TensorFlow) or FastAI (a third-party high-level API for PyTorch). Using their high-level components, you can easily get started with understanding the basics of Deep Learning. When you are prepared to deep dive and want to start understanding the nuts and bolts of Deep Learning in detail, based on the above-discussed points, you can choose PyTorch or TensorFlow. To learn/improve data science skills with Python, join this KnowledgeHut’s Data Science with Python certification program. 

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    Conclusion

    As both PyTorch and TensorFlow have their merits, declaring one framework as a clear winner is always a tough choice. Picking TensorFlow or PyTorch will come down to one’s skill and needs. Overall, both frameworks offer great speed and come equipped with strong Python APIs. As one can see, the PyTorch vs. TensorFlow debate is nuanced as their landscape is constantly changing.  

    As of 2024, both TensorFlow and PyTorch are very mature and stable frameworks, and there is a significant and visible overlap with their core Deep Learning features. Today, the practical considerations of each framework supersede their technical differences. These considerations include time to deploy, model availability, associated ecosystems, etc.  

    Both frameworks have good documentation, active communities, and many learning resources, so you’re not making a mistake choosing either framework. While TensorFlow remains the go-to industry framework, and after its explosive adoption by the research community, PyTorch has become the go-to research framework, there are certainly use cases for each in both domains. 

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1Is PyTorch Faster than TensorFlow?

    Both are comparable for small and medium-sized datasets. PyTorch is faster than TensorFlow as it allows quicker prototyping than TensorFlow.

    2What is PyTorch Used for?

    PyTorch, an open-source deep learning framework, is used in computer vision and natural language processing tasks.

    3Should I Learn PyTorch or TensorFlow First?

    It depends. Learning Keras is a better choice for deep learning beginners due to its high-level API. However, if you already have some basic understanding of deep learning and have worked with Keras before, you can choose either of the two frameworks based on your project requirements. TensorFlow is good at deploying models in production to build AI products, while PyTorch is preferred in academia for research tasks. Thus, both TensorFlow and PyTorch are good frameworks to learn.

    4Is TensorFlow Easier than PyTorch?

    With the use of PyTorch, a lot of the complexities can be avoided, which are required for Neural Networks and Deep Learning technologies. You need much more experience to achieve the same functionality in TensorFlow. Many people generally opt for Keras over TensorFlow as an additional layer.

    5Is PyTorch worth Learning?

    Yes, learning PyTorch is an excellent decision to improve one's deep learning skills. PyTorch is quite popular in the research community. It is also a part of the Python package ecosystem and hence, fully compatible with other popular Python libraries such as SciPy and NumPy.

    Profile

    Venkatesh Wadawadagi

    Author

    Venkatesh Wadawadagi is a Principal Data Scientist, Practice Leader, Speaker, Author and Trainer with 10+ years of hands-on domain and technology experience in R&D and product development; specialising in Visual-AI, Embedded-AI, Engineering & Analytics, and Multimedia Subsystems. At Sahaj Software he architects and leads the teams to develop purpose-built AI and data-led solutions, main areas of focus being Computer Vision and Deep Learning.

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