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Motivation

 
As a data scientist, why should you care about optimizing your data science workflow? Let’s start with an example of a basic data science project.

Imagine you were working with an Iris dataset. You started with building functions to process your data.

After defining the functions, you execute them.

Your code ran fine, and you saw nothing wrong with the output, so you think the workflow is good enough. However, there can be many disadvantages with a linear workflow like above.



Image by Author

 

The disadvantages are:

  • If there is an error in the function get_classes , the output produced by the function encode_categorical_columns will be lost, and the workflow will need to start from the beginning. This can be frustrating if it takes a long time to execute the function encode_categorical_columns .


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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  • Since the functions encode_categorical_columns and get_classes are not dependent on each other, they can be executed at the same time to save time:


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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Running the functions this way can also prevent wasting unnecessary time on functions that don’t work. If there is an error in the function get_classes , the workflow will restart right away without waiting for the function encode_categorical_columns to finish.


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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Now, you might agree with me that it is important to optimize the workflow of different functions. However, it can be a lot of works to manually manage the workflow.

Is there a way that you can automatically optimize the workflow by adding only several lines of code? That is when Prefect comes in handy.

 

What is Prefect?

 
Prefect is an open-sourced framework to build workflows in Python. Prefect makes it easy to build, run, and monitor data pipelines at scale.

To install Prefect, type:

 

Build Your Workflow with Prefect

 
To learn how Prefect works, let’s encapsulate the workflow at the beginning of the article with Prefect.

 

First Step — Create Tasks

 
Task is a discrete action in a Prefect flow. Start with turning the functions defined above into tasks using the decorator prefect.task :

 

Second Step — Create a Flow

 
Flow represents the entire workflow by managing the dependencies between tasks. To create a flow, simply insert the code to run your functions inside the with Flow(...) context manager.

Note that none of these tasks are executed when running the code above. Prefect allows you to either run the flow right away or schedule for later.

Let’s try to execute the flow right away using flow.run():

Running the code above will give you the output similar to this:

To understand the workflow created by Prefect, let’s visualize the entire workflow.

Start with installing prefect[viz] :

pip install "prefect[viz]"

 

Then add the method visualize to the code:

And you should see the visualization of the data-engineer workflow like below!


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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Note that Prefect automatically manages the orders of execution among tasks so that the workflow is optimized. This is pretty cool for a few additional pieces of code!

 

Third step — Add Parameters

 
If you find yourself frequently experimenting with different values of one variable, it’s ideal to turn that variable into a Parameter.

You can consider a Parameter as a Task , except that it can receive user inputs whenever a flow is run. To turn a variable into a parameter, simply use task.Parameter .

The first argument of Parameter specifies the name of the parameter. default is an optional argument that specifies the default value of the parameter.

Running flow.visualize again will give us an output like below:


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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You can overwrite the default parameter for each run by:

  • adding the argument parameters to flow.run() :

Your JSON file should look similar to this:

You can also change parameters for each run using Prefect Cloud, which will be introduced in the next section.

 

Monitor Your Workflow

 
 

Overview

 
Prefect also allows you to monitor your workflow in Prefect Cloud. Follow this instruction to install relevant dependencies for Prefect Cloud.

After all of the dependencies are installed and set up, start with creating a project on Prefect by running:

$ prefect create project "Iris Project"

 

Next, start a local agent to deploy our flows locally on a single machine:

$ prefect agent local start

 

Then add:

…at the end of your file.

After running the file, you should see something similar to the below:

Click the URL in the output, and you will be redirected to an Overview page. The Overview page shows the version of your flow, when it is created, the flow’s run history, and its runs summary.


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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You can also view the summary of other runs, when they are executed, and their configurations.


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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It is pretty cool how these important pieces of information are automatically tracked by Perfect!

 

Run the Workflow with Default Parameters

 
Note that the workflow is registered to Prefect Cloud, but it is not executed yet. To execute the workflow with the default parameters, click Quick Run in the top right corner.


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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Click the run that is created. Now you will be able to see the activity for your new flow run in real-time!

Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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Run the Workflow with Custom Parameters

 
To run the workflow with custom parameters, click the Run tab, then change the parameters under Inputs.


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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When you are satisfied with the parameters, simply click the Run button to start the run.

 

View the Graph of the Workflow

 
Clicking Schematic will give you the graph of the entire workflow.


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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Other Features

 
Besides some basic features mentioned above, Prefect also provides some other cool features that will significantly increase the efficiency of your workflow.

 

Input Caching

 
Remember the problem we mentioned at the beginning of the article? Normally, if the function get_classes fails, the data created by the function encode_categorical_columns will be discarded and the entire workflow needs to start from the beginning.

However, with Prefect, the output of encode_categorical_columns is stored. Next time when the workflow is rerun, the output of encode_categorical_columns will be used by the next task without rerunning the task encode_categorical_columns .


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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This can result in a huge decrease in the time it takes to run the workflow.

 

Persist Output

 
Sometimes, you might want to export your task’s data to an external location. This can be done by inserting to the task function the code to save the data.

However, doing that will make it difficult to test the function.

Prefect makes it easy to save the output of a task for each run by:

  • setting the checkpoint to True
$ export PREFECT__FLOWS__CHECKPOINTING=true

 

  • and adding result = LocalResult(dir=...)) to the decorator @task .

Now the output of the task split_data will be saved to the directory data/processed ! The name will look something similar to this:

prefect-result-2021-11-06t15-37-29-605869-00-00

 

If you want to customize the name of your file, you can add the argument target to @task :

Prefect also provides other Result classes such as GCSResult and S3Result . You can check out API docs for results here.

 

Use Output of Another Flow for the Current Flow

 
If you are working with multiple flows, for example, data-engineer flow and data-science flow, you might want to use the output of the data-engineer flow for the data-science flow.


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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After saving the output of your data-engineer flow as a file, you can read that file using the read method:

 

Connect Dependent Flows

 
Imagine this scenario: You created two flows that depend on each other. The flow data-engineer needs to be executed before the flow data-science

Somebody who looked at your workflow didn’t understand the relationship between these two flows. As a result, they executed the flow data-science and the flow data-engineer at the same time and encountered an error!


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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To prevent this from happening, we should specify the relationship between flows. Luckily, Prefect makes it easier for us to do so.

Start with grabbing two different flows using StartFlowRun . Add wait=True to the argument so that the downstream flow is executed only after the upstream flow finishes executing.

Next, calling data_science_flow under the with Flow(...) context manager. Use upstream_tasks to specify the tasks/flows that will be executed before the data-science flow is executed.

Now the two flows are connected like below:


Orchestrate a Data Science Project in Python With Prefect
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Pretty cool!

 

Schedule Your Flow

 
Prefect also makes it seamless to execute a flow at a certain time or at a certain interval.

For example, to run a flow every 1 minute, you can initiate the class IntervalSchedule and add schedule to the with Flow(...) context manager:

Now your flow will be rerun every 1 minute!

Learn more about different ways to schedule your flow here.

 

Logging

 
You can log the print statements within a task by simply adding log_stdout=True to @task :

And you should see an output like below when executing the task:

[2021-11-06 11:41:16-0500] INFO - prefect.TaskRunner | Model accuracy on test set: 93.33

 

Conclusion

 
Congratulations! You have just learned how Prefect can optimize your data science workflow in a few lines of Python code. Small optimization in your code can result in a huge increase in efficiency in the long run.

Feel free to play and fork the source code of this article here.

 
I like to write about basic data science concepts and play with different data science tools. You could connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Star this repo if you want to check out the codes for all of the articles I have written. Follow me on Medium to stay informed with my latest data science articles like these:

 
 
Khuyen Tran is a prolific data science writer, and has written an impressive collection of useful data science topics along with code and articles. Khuyne is currently looking for a machine learning engineer role, a data scientist role, or a developer advocate role in Bay Area after May 2022, so please reach out if you are looking for someone with her set of skills.

Original. Reposted with permission.
 





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