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Thampi: Serverless Machine Learning Model Serving System(AWS Lambda).

NOTE: This post is an edited post of the original here


Thampi takes care of the DevOps work for machine learning prediction systems.


Data scientists(most of us, actually) want to focus on training their models. We just want the banana but find an entire gorilla holding on to it. DevOps. Our models are useless unless they are deployed to production. Building prediction servers is hard and often fledgling data science teams(mostly fledgling data science person) have to grapple with so many difficult questions.

  • Cloud or On Premise?
  • How to use Docker?
  • How do I create a web server?
  • What about scaling and server failures?
  • I use Mac but we have to create the server in Linux?
  • Security updates, OS patches etc.
  • Kubernetes? Ahhh… just shoot me.


Thampi is an attempt to take care of the DevOps work required for prediction systems. With Thampi, you have:

  • Minimal Devops. With a single command, create a web server that scales, is fault tolerant and zero maintenance(courtesy AWS Lambda and Zappa).
  • Focus on your model. Work in Python to train your model. Then wrap your model in a class which inherits from thampi.Model and Thampi takes care of the rest.
  • Pip and restricted Conda support.
  • Work on any platform*. Work on Mac(technically possible on other platforms but untested) and still deploy to AWS Lambda(which is Linux). As you know, if one’s working on Mac, one can’t just upload the machine learning libraries(e.g. scikit-learn) to a Linux server. That’s because most machine learning libraries, for performance reasons, are written in C and these C extensions are compiled to OS specific binaries.
  • Thampi alleviates this by using Docker underneath so that you can work on a Mac(or Windows?). When serving the model, it recreates your machine learning project in the docker image(which is Linux) and compiles all the C libraries(e.g. scikit-learn) for you to Linux binaries, which is then uploaded to AWS Lambda.


Let’s use the Iris dataset provided within scikit-learn. Let’s create a new project myproject. We’ll use scikit-learn as an example but you could use any framework.


mkdir myproject && cd myproject
virtualenv -p python3 venv
source ./venv/bin/activate
pip install thampi
pip install scikit-learn
pip install numpy
pip install scipy
pip freeze > requirements.txt

Or … Setup(Conda)

Note: This is one way of creating a conda environment. Please use the conventional way if you are comfortable in that style.

mkdir myproject && cd myproject
# Create a  conda environment inside the directory myproject
conda create --prefix=venv python=3.6.7
pip install thampi
pip install scikit-learn
pip install numpy
pip install scipy

IMPORTANT: thampi only supports conda requirements files crafted by hand. So, let’s manually create a requirements file with the above dependencies as shown below and save it as requirements.txt. The versions will change but you get the idea.

name: thampi-tutorial
  - thampi=0.1.0
  - numpy=1.15.*
  - scikit-learn=0.20.0
  - scipy=1.1.0


  • Run thampi init and you should see something similar to the terminal output below.
  • For the s3 bucket, you can choose to have one bucket for all your thampi applications. Each project(model) is at a different prefix so as long as the projects have unique names, they won’t overwrite each other. If you aren’t confident of that, you could just give a different bucket for each thampi project.
  • Choose pip or conda according to your preference.
thampi init

Welcome to Thampi!
Enter Model Name. If your model name is 'mymodel', the predict endpoint will be
What do you want to call your model: mymodel
AWS Lambda and API Gateway are only available in certain regions. Let's check to make sure you have a profile set up in one that will work.
We found the following profiles: analytics, and default. Which would you like us to use? (default 'default'): default
Your Zappa deployments will need to be uploaded to a private S3 bucket.
If you don't have a bucket yet, we'll create one for you too.
What do you want to call your bucket? (default 'thampi-2i1zp4ura'): thampi-store
Enter package manager:['conda', 'pip'](default: pip):pip
A file zappa_settings.json has been created. If you made a mistake, delete it and run `thampi init` again
  • It has created a file called zappa_settings.json. This file is used by the Zappa framework. You’ll note that some defaults have been filled up which are suitable for machine learning projects. A notable setting is keep_warm which prevents AWS Lambda from evicting the instance due to lack of use, by pinging the lambda(e.g. every 4 minutes). This is useful in the case when you have very large models. However, you could take it out if you feel that your model is small enough. For more details on how you can customize zappa_settings.json, check out zappa docs
  • Within zappa_settings.json, thampi adds a key thampi. All thampi specific settings will go here. Note: zappa has no idea of thampi. It’s just a convenient place to store the thampi relevant configuration.


Inside myproject, copy the following code into the file

import numpy as np
from sklearn import datasets
from typing import Dict
import thampi
from sklearn.neighbors import KNeighborsClassifier
class ThampiWrapper(thampi.Model):
    def __init__(self, sklearn_model):
        self.sklearn_model = sklearn_model
    def predict(self, args: Dict, context) -> Dict:
        original_input = [args.get('input')]
        result = self.sklearn_model.predict(np.array(original_input))
        return dict(result=int(list(result)[0]))
def train_model():
    iris = datasets.load_iris()
    iris_X =
    iris_y =
    indices = np.random.permutation(len(iris_X))
    iris_X_train = iris_X[indices[:-10]]
    iris_y_train = iris_y[indices[:-10]]
    knn = KNeighborsClassifier(), iris_y_train)
    return ThampiWrapper(knn)
if __name__ == '__main__':
    model = train_model(), 'iris-sklearn', './models')
  • The above code first trains the sklearn model as knn. To make the thampi web framework send the request data to the model, we wrap knn in ThampiWrapper, a class which implements the thampi.Model interface. The data sent to the serving endpoint will be passed by thampi to the predict method as args. Likewise, one can wrap models of other libraries as well. Ignore the context argument in the predict method for now. The context object sends in the Flask application object(and others in the future) which is probably not required for most of the use cases for now.

And then at the terminal run


This will create the model and save it locally using In thampi, like mlflow, the model artifacts are stored in a directory(i.e. iris-sklearn). Storing it in the models directory is just arbitrary convention.

Serving the model

Now it’s time to upload the model to AWS Lambda. All you have to provide is the requirements.txt file along with the above trained ./models/iris-sklearn directory.

thampi serve staging --model_dir=./models/iris-sklearn --dependency_file=./requirements.txt

The serve command will use zappa internally to create or update a server endpoint. To see the endpoint, do

thampi info staging

You’ll see something similar to:

{'url': ''}

Let’s hit the endpoint in the next section.


You can do a curl like below where you replace a_url with the url that you receive from thampi info staging

curl -d '{"data": {"input": [5.9, 3.2, 4.8, 1.8]}}' -H "Content-Type: application/json" -X POST a_url

data is a keyword here. Anything passed to data will be sent along to your model. The dictionary with the key input depends on your application. It could have been something else like features instead of input for e.g. If you remember from the ThampiWrapper code above, since we use input, our code reads the data as args.get('input')


  "properties": {
    "instance_id": "9dbc56dd-936d-4dff-953c-8c22267ebe84",
    "served_time_utc": "2018-09-06T22:03:09.247038",
    "thampi_data_version": "0.1",
    "trained_time_utc": "2018-09-06T22:03:04.886644"
  "result": {
    "result": 2

For convenience, you can also do:

thampi predict staging --data='{"input": [5.9, 3.2, 4.8, 1.8]}'

where data is of json format.

The properties dictionary is meta-data associated with the model. Most of them are populated using the save command. If you want to add custom data (e.g name for your model and version, you can add it within tags)


Like most AWS Lambda solutions, thampi has restrictions which hopefully most use cases fall within.

  • Conda support is only for dependency files crafted by hand
  • Max 500MB disk space. Ensure that your project with it’s libraries is below this size.
  • Max 900 MB model size. This number was derived from a few live tests. We circumvent the 500 MB disk space limit by loading the model directly from S3 to memory. thampi tries to reduce repeated calls to S3 by using zappa’s feature of pinging the lambda instance every 4 mins or so(configurable). In that way, the model will stay on the lambda instance(unless it’s a first time load or if AWS Lambda does decide to evict the instance for other reasons)

Based on feedback, an option could be added to package the model with the code but you’ll then have to have a very small model size. It depends on what framework you use but generally you may have 100–250 MB space for your model as machine learning libraries take up a lot of space. Also look at the section on Design


AWS Sagemaker

AWS SageMaker has the following advantages(not exhaustive):

  • If you have SLAs, then Sagemaker may be a good choice. As they are on demand instances, you won’t have the cold start delays.
  • GPU Inference available
  • Can serve models bigger than 1 GB(upon filling a form)
  • You can choose more powerful machines than what AWS Lambda can offer you.

Sagemaker has the following costs(correct me if I am wrong):

If you have to deploy a model which is not supported by Sagemaker(e.g. lightfm), then you have to:

  • create your own docker image(manage your own OS updates e.g. security)
  • implement a web server which has to implement a few endpoints
  • manage auto scaling,
  • provide handlers to SIGTERM and SIGKILL events
  • manage some environment variables.

For more details, look here.

thampi(via AWS Lambda) abstracts all this away from you.


Algorithmia is a commercial alternative to Thampi. I’m not sure though how easy it is to deploy models on libraries not supported by Algorithmia(e.g. lightfm). Note: I haven’t spend too much researching Algorithmia.


Hopefully, thampi satisfies a pain point for you. You can install it, Try the tutorial and let us know!